John Paul II Trail

Guest post by Tom Collingwood, PhD:

Download here : jpiihandbook

This New Years is the 21st anniversary of John Paul II’s 1990 World Peace
Day Message where he called upon all of us to be stewards of creation. John
Paul II was considered by some as the “ecological” Pope and he spoke
extensively on the environment in that he recognized the link between God,
nature and human responsibility for creation. One of his many relevant
quotes is:

“The first stage of divine Revelation is the marvelous “book of nature”;
which when read can lead to knowledge of God the Creator. Nature, therefore
becomes a Gospel that speaks to us of God.”

Holy Father John Paul II visited the St.Malo Retreat Center in Allenspark,
CO in 1993 where he took a short hike up a trail to be refreshed from all
the activities from his presiding over the World Youth Day in Denver. In
memory of his visit and his commitment to the stewardship of nature, Creatio
established the John Paul II Trail retracing where he walked with seven
station markers for the various stops that John Paul II made to observe and
meditate while on his hike. Each station has a nature message, a quote by
John Paul II and a question for personal reflection or meditation about our
role as creation stewards.

While the St. Malo trail is configured to the specific terrain of that area,
the messages and reflection concepts at each station about nature and our
role in it are universal. As such, developing a John Paul II Trail for
parish or school grounds can be an innovative way to profess and instruct on
the Church’s teaching on the stewardship of God’s creation. Creatio has
developed a John Paul II Trail Handbook that can assist in designing a John
Paul II Trail and can be downloaded here.

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Cancun conclusions

Here is a link to an article by Roger Pielke Jr. on the Cancun climate conference. For him its the same old, same old… and I think he’s right on this one. While I agree in the diagnosis of the situation I would differ slightly on the proposed solutions. Certainly technology has a role to play in climate action, but is it THE solution? Roger has spoken more before about adaptation and helping those who are most in need, but mentions nothing here.  Adaptation is a major direction of action that has been embraced even in Cancun. Below some highlights:

  • The reason for Japan’s stance is not difficult to fathom. Following the historic election of August, 2009, the new  government, in what was undoubtedly a moment of populist exuberance, promised to increase Japan’s emissions reduction commitment from a 15 percent reduction by 2020 (from 2005 levels) to 37 percent.  Such a reduction, which would likely turn into Japan’s international commitment under a Kyoto 2, is simply not practically achievable.  Professor Tetsuo Yuhara of the University of Tokyo estimated that among the actions required to meet the target would be 600,000 new solar installations each year, 15 new nuclear power plants, electric vehicles comprising 90 percent of all new purchases, and a carbon price of $80 per tonne (1tonne = 1.1 tons, US).  With one of the most carbon-efficient major economies on the planet, an emissions reduction of 37 percent by 2020 are not remotely possible in Japan, under even very modest economic growth. Continue reading

Regaining the Sacred, Overcoming Rationalism: in Nature

Fr. Cantalamessa has just released a new speech on rationalism as a challenge for out times. On speaking about the misuse of reason and its consequences, one of the most striking is the loss of the sense of the sacred. One important way of regaining this sense in the modern world is through the contemplation of creation. Read the full text here. Below some of the highlights:

  • At times the Bible is accused of having “desacrilized” the world for having chased away nymphs and divinities from mountains, seas and forests and for having made of them simple creatures at the service of man. This is true, but it is precisely by stripping them of this false pretext of being themselves divinities, that Scripture restored them to their genuine nature of “signs” of the divine. It is the idolatry of creatures that the Bible combats, not their sacredness.
  • The same wonderful discoveries of science and technology, rather than leading to disenchantment, can become occasions of wonder and experience of the divine. The final moment of the discovery of the human genome was described by the same Francis Collins who headed the team that led to this discovery, “an experience of scientific exaltation and at the same time of religious adoration.” Among the wonders of creation, nothing is more wonderful than man and, in man, his intelligence created by God.

Peace and Freedom

A few days ago the 2011 World Day of Peace message was published, as we remember the same message last year, focused on the environment as a path of peace. This years theme is religious freedom as a way of fostering peace. Recently in a post I showed the relationship between environment and modern forms and expression of religion and their relationship. While this year’s message isn’t directly related to the environment, as the Pope writes, religious freedom is the litmus test of all freedoms and the guarantee of morality. If the environmental crisis is a moral crisis, then religious freedom proves to be an important element in order to overcome this crisis and bring peace to creation. Below some highlights:

  • Contemplating the sublime reality of human nature, we can experience the same amazement felt by the Psalmist. Our nature appears as openness to the Mystery, a capacity to ask deep questions about ourselves and the origin of the universe, and a profound echo of the supreme Love of God, the beginning and end of all things, of every person and people
  • freedom is at the origin of moral freedom. Openness to truth and perfect goodness, openness to God, is rooted in human nature; it confers full dignity on each individual and is the guarantee of full mutual respect between persons. Religious freedom should be understood, then, not merely as immunity from coercion, but even more fundamentally as an ability to order one’s own choices in accordance with truth Continue reading

What happened in Cancun?

This is video shows the key moment in Cancun where a climate ‘agreement’ was reached. Many news outlets hailed the meeting as a big success, and indeed there was an agreement, but how significant is it? Not so much. John Broder has a good piece in the NYT that summarizes what actually went on, below some of the key points:

  • The package known as the Cancún Agreements gives the more than 190 countries participating in the conference another year to decide whether to extend the frayed Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement that requires most wealthy nations to trim their emissions while providing assistance to developing countries to pursue a cleaner energy future.
  • The agreement is not a legally binding treaty, but the success of these talks allows the process to seek a more robust accord at next year’s climate conference in Durban, South Africa.
  • The agreement sets up a new fund to help poor countries adapt to climate changes, creates new mechanisms for transfer of clean energy technology, provides compensation for the preservation of tropical forests and strengthens the emissions reductions pledges that came out of the last United Nations climate change meeting in Copenhagen last year.
  • “The Cancún agreement should be applauded not because it solves everything, but because it chooses not to: it focuses on those areas where the U.N. process has the most potential to be useful, and avoids other areas where the U.N. process is a dead end. The outcome does not change the fact that most of the important work of cutting emissions will be driven outside the U.N. process.”

Modest indeed! but more than Copenhagen. Andy Revkin has his own analysis and thoughts here, going into greater detail. One important aspect I will highlight is the shift of focus into adaptation, which within the logic of climate change, comes much closer to how the Church sees environmental issues: If you want to help the environment, help people, especially those who are most in need. Adaptation, more than mitigation and geo-engineering,  is the most direct way to do  exactly that.

Neo-paganism, Modern Polytheism and the Environment

Vatican insider Sandro Magister has an excellent summary and commentary of the latest comments of Pope Benedict XVI with regards to modern tendencies towards religious polytheism and neo-paganism. We must remember that Benedict XVI closely tied modern environmental ideas with neo-pagan and pseudo religious tendencies of our age in his historic speech on the environment for the World Day of Peace of 2010, which for some represent his notoriety as ‘green Pope’. In this article Magister shows the latest thinking of the Holy Father. Here one passage from his homily, highlighting how the Pope sees climate change:

We see this today, with the climatic problems, how the foundations of the earth are threatened, but they are threatened by our behavior. The outer foundations are shaken because the inner foundations are shaken, the moral and religious foundations, the faith that leads to the right way of life. And we know that the faith is the foundation, and, without a doubt, the foundations of the earth cannot be shaken if the faith, the true wisdom, stands firm.

Vatican WikiLeaks concerns ‘Green Pope’

CNA has a fresh article on the first Vatican WikiLeaks cable. It reveals the perception of the relevance of the environment with regard to the Pope’s magisterium. It made for some diplomatic ‘strategizing’ and highlights the importance of the environment within the Church and for the world.

As a comment, it seems interesting to me how the US government seems to misunderstand the Pope’s position. The fact that the Pope spoke about the environment and even the real facts that he has an ‘environmental message’ do not mean he is necessarily leaning towards the US stance on climate change or the ideological and philosophical veins embraced by many environmentalists, governments and activists. Whenever the Pope talks about the environment, he connects it to human dignity, and to God. Anyone who says otherwise, does not fully understand the Pope’s position and reason to position, with respect to the environment.

I commented on the Vatican message to Copenhagen COP 15 here. It certainly seems interesting that the US Embassy found a Vatican insider, Dr. Conversi, who allegedly was willing to lobby a political position pro US. If that is the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be clear consequences and statements, since this is not the Church’s position, as the US Embassy itself recognizes.

‘Christmas is the most radical antithesis to the vision of scientism’

Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the preacher of the Pontifical Household, which means he is the only one who preaches to the Pope. This is his message for Advent, which proves to be intriguing, as he will deal with 3 core issues, which are the central problems for our times: scientism, secularism and rationalism. The talk was titled: “The Christian Answer to Atheist Scientism”, and is an interesting connection between Christmas, Christianity and the current problems of our times. There are several insights on creation, I will highlight a few below. I’d say reading the entire text is a must, here.

  • On evolution: : “I do not fear the theory [of Darwin] […] It does not seem to me to follow that creation is denied because the Creator, millions of years ago, gave laws to matter. He first created matter and then he created laws for it –laws which should construct it into its present wonderful beauty, and accurate adjustment and harmony of parts gradually.
  • Continue reading

Agriculture, GMO’s and the Church

Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address on the importance of agriculture, specifically within the context of the world economic crisis and its relationship to the ‘scandal of hunger’, poverty and the ‘ecological emergency’. Recognizing the unsustainable use of resources he spoke of the need for a new approach to consumption and a different approach to agriculture, which indeed many young people are taking:

  • lifestyles marked by unsustainable consumption — which have damaging effects for the environment and the poor — still continue
  • Everyone should educate themselves in more wise and responsible consumption; promote personal responsibility, along with the social dimension of rural activities, which are based on perennial values, such as hospitality, solidarity, and the sharing of the toil of labor
  • More than a few young people have already chosen this path; also many professionals are returning to dedicate themselves to the agricultural enterprise, feeling that they are responding not only to a personal and family need, but also to a “sign of the times,” to a concrete sensibility for the “common good

This is timely with the recent discussion at the Vatican with regards to the use of GMO’s (geneticall modified organisms). A document issued under the Pontifical Academy of Science essentially gave its blessing to the use of GMO’s. The Vatican later came out in an official statement and said it did not officially endorse this position, but it didn’t offer a critique either. You can see the article here. The discussion on the beenfits and risks of GMO’s is quite extensive and complex, I took a whole course on this once. A good summary is found here and generally here.

This is a complex discussion. While the Church is and will always be opposed to the genetic modification of human beings, which have a parituclar dignity made in the image and likeness of God, this opposition is not necessarily found in plants. Plants certainly are considered valuable in themselves, fruit of God’s creation, so they must be cared for and respected. But there is no obstacle in itself that rules out GMO’s, rather the evaluation will come on whether there are positive and negative consequences for human beings, the entrie ecosysstem and the plants themselves. In this sense, the words to the Vatican Librarian, give some guidelines:

  • From its origins it conserves the unmistakable, truly “catholic,” universal openness to everything that humanity has produced in the course of the centuries that is beautiful, good, noble, worthy (cf. Philippians 4:8); the breadth of mind with which in time it gathered the loftiest fruits of human thought and culture, from antiquity to the Medieval age, from the modern era to the 20th century. Nothing of all that is truly human is foreign to the Church, which because of this has always sought, gathered, conserved, with a continuity that few equal, the best results of men of rising above the purely material toward the search, aware or unaware, of the Truth.
  • This opening to the human does not regard only the past but also looks to the present. In the Vatican Library, all researchers of the truth have always been received with attention and care, without confessional or ideological discrimination; required of them only is the good faith of serious research, unselfish and qualified. In this research the Church and my predecessors have always wished to recognize and value a motive, often, unwittingly, religious, because every partial truth participates in the Supreme Truth of God and every profound and rigorous research, to ascertain it is a path to reach it
This opening to the human does not regard only the past but also looks to the present. In the Vatican Library, all researchers of the truth have always been received with attention and care, without confessional or ideological discrimination; required of them only is the good faith of serious research, unselfish and qualified. In this research the Church and my predecessors have always wished to recognize and value a motive, often, unwittingly, religious, because every partial truth participates in the Supreme Truth of God and every profound and rigorous research, to ascertain it is a path to reach it