Saturday 17 November 2012

Green Catholicism: The potholes and road blocks on the road ahead

By Brother Dan Leckman, S.J.
A few weeks ago, fellow blogger Santiago had a great entry that talked about the ecological crisis our world is facing. One of the points he made was there is a great difficulty we face as Catholics, even as human beings, to move forward on this issue. To develop this idea, he quoted Pope Benedict, “While we are willing to address our ecological situation, we do not know how.” Yes, it’s true that there are many out there who are in the darkness on how to proceed.

As Santi pointed out, “Our awareness of the complexity of the issue, and also the ambiguity of available information may deter some to become more fully involved.” However, there is an even greater number of people who “do know how” to proceed with regard to this crisis. There are many wonderful creative answers to this crisis that should inspire others into action. Despite this, many Catholics and Christians remain reluctant.

Back in 2007, as part of my studies in Community Development at Concordia University, I tried to investigate why this was the case. My research paper was largely based on conversations I had both on and offline with Catholics on this issue. I recognize that it is sometimes difficult to know how to proceed. Nonetheless, I feel that now and then even the smallest gestures, rooted in our love for Christ and for God’s magnificent creation could make all the difference. As I researched, I felt that as an eco-Catholic, my response to the nay-sayers would have to be rooted in love, and understanding. In this paper, I both explored their rationale for not caring about the ecological crisis, and offered a response to them.

The most educational aspect of my numerous talks with Catholics about this issue has dealt with how so many of them knew that something needed to be done, but they themselves were almost reluctant to act upon their concern for the environment. One of the reasons for that is that they feel alienated by the movement. Many believe the environmentalist movement simply does not mix with religion. Some of the other reasons I reflected upon were not necessarily “Catholic” reasons. The most striking response I encountered was, “There are more important aspects to our Faith than caring for the environment.”

This is probably one of the more realistic comments made. I don’t deny that we need to be steadfast and focus on preserving the things that make us Catholic. It’s a valid argument in an age where many of the faithful feel that their values are under attack by an increasingly secular society. People of the faith, especially Church leaders, have all argued this point. Fortunately, some people are capable of seeing the big picture. Blessed Pope John Paul II was one these people. In his document The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility, he states, “We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well being of future generations.”

John Paul II is a constant reminder to the catholic faithful that caring for the environment is not some light issue that we can place on the back burner; it is our collective responsibility that we must address every day of our lives. It is, in other words, an integral part of our faith. Part of my motivation for writing this blog was sharing with all of you my initial response to this eco crisis: With the help of a few McGill friends at the time, we started a Facebook page entitled CatholicGreen Think Tank (not immensely creative, I know!). The purpose of it was for us to read documents together, and to discuss the ecology as a community, to find answers to the crisis that were distinctly Catholic. The page didn’t quite take off the way I would have liked for various reasons, but recently someone tried to revive it, and I’m trying to encourage anyone interested in an a good Eco-Catholic forum to join us. It’s not much, but it’s a step towards healthy discernment on this important issue.

1 comment:


    Many catholics are leery of proabort environmentalism from the UN etc