Catholics on Climate Change

13 September 08 | Posted in Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

The Catholic Committee on Appalachia is distributing a 10-minute DVD for religious education classes, “Climate Change: Our Faith Response.”

A statement issued by the committee says the DVD presents “the irrefutable science behind global warming, how it will affect the poor and humanity’s moral responsibility to act.”

The committee is composed of the bishops, members of religious communities and lay leadership in the 27 Catholic dioceses in the Appalachian region.

“We hope (the DVD) raises awareness about creation as a precious gift from God and how climate change will particularly affect the poor and vulnerable,” said Fr. John Rausch, the committee’s director. rausch_tour.jpg

“Unless we change our wasteful lifestyles, we’ll reject God’s gift and the poor will be the first to suffer,” he said.

Sister Paula Gonzalez

1 September 08 | Posted in Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

Sister Paula Gonzalez, SC, Ph.D., is nicknamed the “solar nun.” paula.JPG

Sister Paula, 78, earned her doctorate in biology at the Catholic University in Washington, DC and was a biology professor at the College of Mt. St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio for 21 years. She entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 1954.

After learning about solar energy more than 20 years ago, Gonzalez designed and did much of the work in converting a former chicken coop to an apartment she shares with another nun. “Casa del Sol,” is a 1500 foot super-insulated, passive solar house built with recycled materials. She also renovated a building on campus that is heated in the winter entirely by solar and geothermal energy.

The first Earth Day in 1970 inspired Sister Paula to think seriously about energy and environmental issues and about how to incorporate them into her biology classes at Mt. St. Joseph. Later, when a proposed nuclear plant received strong opposition, she realized that resistance alone can not solve energy problems – or any problem for that matter. It is also vital to develop creative, life-sustaining alternatives. She firmly believes: “We have to reach the moral cores of people, as well as their brains.”

The American Solar Energy Society’s Ohio Chapter, Green Energy Ohio, gave Sister Paula their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Salvadoran Bishops: The Dangers of Mining

21 August 08 | Posted in Events, Global Catholic, Stewardship

The Catholic bishops in El Salvador put forth their stance on mining in the country a little more than a year ago in the declaration: Let’s Take Care of Everyone’s Home. It is a strong, clear statement about the dangers of precious metals mining.  The burgeoning gold and silver mines are primarily operated by Canadian companies and subject only to light regulation.

“Our small country is the place where God the Creator called us to life. This is the portion of the world that he has trusted us to take care of and use according to his will: ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.’ (Gen 1:28). But this blessed Earth that we love so dearly, suffers an increasing and insensitive deterioration. We all have a responsibility to conserve and defend it because the environment is ‘the house of all’: it is ours and that of future generations.”

“From this perspective of faith we wish to share with you our pastoral vision on a problem that deeply worries us: the possibility that mining of precious metals is authorized, to pen cast mining or subterranean mining, mainly in the northern part of our country.”

“The experience in brother and neighboring countries, that have permitted gold and silver mining, is truly sad and lamentable. The bishops of those nations have raised their voice. We also wish to pronounce ourselves against (mining) before it is too late.”

SHARE Foundation recently sponsored a trip to the U.S.  for Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador. Addressing a group in Kansas City, he said the mines have the potential to destroy El Salvador’s ecological system. bishop-rosa.jpg

“You know our country is very small,” he said. “Twenty-thousand kilometers (12,400 miles) square. Very crowded, 6 million people, or 300 people on each kilometer square. The mines are situated in the north of the country and the drinking water comes from the north. If the water is poisoned, everyone would be.”

The argument that such mining operations help the Salvadoran economy and provide jobs is fallacious, he said. “How much money remains in the country?” Bishop Chavez asked. “Two percent. There is no proportion between the profits and the damages.”

Catholics Thinking Outside the Bottle

22 July 08 | Posted in Food, Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

Sr. Janet Corcoran, vice president of mission service at Marian Medical Center in Santa Clara, CA, is just one of the Catholic voices spreading the gospel that bottled water, however convenient, is environmentally, economically and politically wrong. “It’s a matter of getting people to think more consciously about what they are doing,” she said. Her column, “Environmental Tips from a Green Franciscan Sister” is published in a hospital publication.

Concerns about bottled water are bubbling up in Catholic organizations, adding clout to a growing number of municipalities and secular organizations concerned about the issue–with women religious strongly in the lead.

Numerous women’s religious communities are banning bottled water at their motherhouses, retreat houses and conference centers, and some are substituting refillable water bottles for the throw-away kind at sponsored events.

Bottled water has become a lighting rod for several environmental-social justice issues surrounding water. bottledwater.jpg

There is a negative environmental impact of discarded plastic bottles. I see plenty of those on the beach–used and left by fishermen (both native born and Spanish-speaking immigrants) to wash out into the ocean. There is the oil used to make plastic bottles.  And lastly, the prize of the ownership and access to good water, especially for developing countries. Like energy resources–oil, gas, coal–water is now being privatized by corporations.

The United Nations  estimates that more than 1 billion people currently lack access to safe drinking water and that by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s population will not have access to drinking water.

Some Catholic groups have borrowed information and ideas from Think Outside the Bottle, a major non-religious player in the anti-bottled water movement.

The organization has launched a web-based campaign that provides information and support. In addition to inviting individuals to sign a pledge to boycott bottled water, the program urges people to send postcards to corporations challenging corporate control of water, to attend stockholders’ meetings and mount other forms of pressure on corporate executives.

I guess what this means for me is to stop buying Poland Spring at Staples or the supermarket, and fill the empties with tap water.

I love Poland Spring. It’s easy to tote to the gym or have in the car. Water in refillable plastic bottles tastes vile.  This is going to be a tough one.

The Tragedy of Prince Nuada

19 July 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Stewardship

A new movie starring my favorite comic character, Hellboy, is currently playing in theaters across the U.S.  Hellboy and the Golden Army, directed by Guillermo Del Toro,  has the same kind of fantastic monsters as Pan’s LabyrinthThere is also the same clash of realities – Christian and pagan.hellboy26.jpg

How can I not love Hellboy,? He’s such a contradiction – a demon who wears a wrist rosary. Kind, brave, implusive, born a demon but raised a man, he is loyal to his friends and his mission. He make messes and gets in fights, but picks himself up and keeps at it.

In Golden Army, Hellboy comes up against Prince Nuada, an elf prince who wants to destroy mankind for making such a mess of the earth and laying waste to the environment.  One of the creatures Nuada summons as a tool of destruction is an Elemental. This green force of nature terrorizes and tries to destroy a neighborhood, but after a terrible inner struggle, Hellboy finally kills it. As it dies, its blood and body blanket the streets and buildings with beautiful flowers and vegetation. Instead of cowering, the people and their other-worldly protectors walk among the flowers, enchanted. gdt-hellboy-diary-elemental.jpg

Hellboy finally succeeds in overcoming Prince Nuada, but at the cost of realizing his own mission also relies on death and destruction. He walks away from it, deciding to live for the joy of living, not following orders to destroy things that are different. prince_nuada.jpg

The film is an entertaining fable of good and evil. But it also can be seen as a darker allegory of the struggle between Christianity and paganism, a spirituality rooted in nature. Nature has some fearsome ways to retaliate, if humanity hurts it too much or tries to dominate at its expense. 

Christianity has a lot to learn about life, nature and natural law from paganism. Chiefly, don’t try to kill things you don’t understand or are afraid of. Much to our surprise, there may be flowers in the blood and body.