Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Climate Change

12-18-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Different news agencies have recently reported that the Vatican has issued new guidelines for the formation of future priests. Not exactly earth shattering news except that the guidelines include incorporating the teaching of Pope Francis in his encyclical letter “Care for our Common Home” (Laudato Si). Again no big news here as seminary curricula includes studying lots of Papal Encyclical letters. But somehow the news took all this to mean that the Pope is requiring new priests to preach about global warming/climate change. That doesn't seem to be the case but we will have to wait and see. It would seem odd to raise the issue to the level of doctrine especially after the Church jumped on the anti-Galileo train and suffered the longest lasting black eye in history. Still this could be messy and divisive for new priests. For the more mature among us well it can be hard to teach an old dog new tricks hence the Pope’s call for ‘ecological conversion’.

Pope Francis in issuing “Laudato Si” was very clever. The issue of global warming/climate change is not going away anytime soon. It has become too much of a cudgel that can be used to further all sorts of political agendas. Part of that agenda is extremely anti-human and first world elitist. The positions range from having to have government approval to have a child, finding ways to reduce the population of the earth by tens of millions to handing control of the economy over to a select group of technocrats. What Pope Francis tried to do in the encyclical is to steer the discussion away from anti-human solutions and solutions that would be harsh on the poorer countries of the world. In the process he made friends with many people who would love to shred Church doctrine and who now may be less hostile to Church teaching. I think it was his way to get those who have rejected the Church’s teaching out of hand to reconsider its logic. In other words he is trying to find a way to talk with those who rapidly oppose Church teaching and actively seek to undermine it. And remember a lot of these people have a lot of power and influence and if they have their way they could impose laws like China’s one child policy or the Netherlands Euthanasia laws on the rest of us.

Still the problem that a lot of people have, myself included is that the issue of human caused climate change and the science surrounding it has become highly politicized. The science itself is based on a lot of probability and computer models that may or may not be accurate. If you seek to understand it better you can be accused of heresy and labeled a climate-denier and cast into one of the circles of hell.

And then when you do try to be a more conscientious consumer you get stuck between a rock and a hard place. Over the years we have tried to reduce our energy consumption by installing LED lighting, new HVAC units that use less energy and emit less pollutants into the air and as a result have reduced our overall energy consumption. As a result of our efforts and the efforts of many other households a year or so ago we were told that our electric rates would have to increase. The reason: we all did such a good job of reducing our usage that the Power Company wasn't making any money so a rate increase was needed. This year despite all our efforts at energy efficiency our electric bill was higher than ever. So while one group is patting you on the back for taking efforts to be a better energy steward another group is picking your pocket.

That being said we should still strive to be good stewards of the creation. After all that was the first command of the Bible: “that humans have dominion over the entire creation”. However that first requires we have mastery over ourselves and our impulses to indulge too often, waste too much and forget too often how our actions impact the planet for good or ill.

I grew up with Smokey the Bear and the Indian Chief with the tear running down his cheek as he watched people throw trash out their car window. I got the message and most of us did. We can all commit to being good stewards of the resources entrusted to us and more conscientious about our consumption and more thoughtful in our purchasing. I watch many of you share your food with the hungry via St. Vincent de Paul and put your used clothing and shoes in the recycle bin in the parking lot which says to me that you try to incorporate environmental stewardship into your spirituality. Keep doing it.

Next week we have our own liturgical climate change as we move from the Advent season to the Christmas season. Don’t forget to be a good steward of your Parish environment through your support and service. The good news is that this year Christmas falls on Sunday so you get two-for-one! However it will cost you: we rely on both the regular Sunday collection and the Christmas collection. So please be generous.

Fr. John B.