Despite What You Might Have Heard, Oil Pipelines are Incompatible with Laudato Si’

By Jason Miller, FAN Director of Campaigns and Development

Jason Miller

I read with dismay Fr. Matthew Schneider’s recent piece in Crux, where he considers the question of whether using oil pipelines in the United States is morally licit. In the course of his piece, Fr. Schneider commits a “Black or White” logical fallacy by assuming that the only options are either oil pipelines or using trucks to transport oil across the country.  Although he uses the Pope’s words to back up his claim, the reality is that the Pope opposes this false dichotomy, and in fact challenges all of us to commit to ‘Caring for Our Common Home.’

In addressing the intent of Laudato Si, Fr. Schneider brings up an age-old tension: who exactly is the Pope speaking to when he comments on an issue of the day? In his encyclical, Pope Francis specifically mentions that he is addressing not only the entire Church, but “all people of goodwill.” In Laudato Si, Pope Francis is addressing the entire world. Rather than acknowledge the fact that Laudato Si is intended for a worldwide audience, Fr. Schneider uses the Pope’s statements to paint a very U.S.- centric view of fossil fuel use that ignores the effects that the hyper-industrialization of the first world has inflicted on the Global South.

When the Pope speaks of renewable energy being a work in progress, he’s acknowledging that in many parts of the world, the technology is not yet advanced enough to make renewable energy widely available. However, here in the United States the price of solar energy is dropping, and it is a growth industry that is already outpacing several fossil fuels. While oil pipelines may have at one time been necessary infrastructure, there is no reason why new oil pipelines should be built in the United States today. Fr. Schneider cites the importance of oil transport to our economy; however, the Keystone XL pipeline will transport the oil straight out of the country for use in overseas markets, and the project only creates 35 permanent jobs. In other words, there is no domestic benefit from the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Dakota Access Pipeline, the other pipeline mentioned by Fr. Schneider by name, would greatly impact the water supply of Native peoples, who have been systematically oppressed by the United States government since our nation began. The Dakota Access pipeline would be yet another injustice against a group of people that have suffered greatly for centuries. As the ‘water protectors’ like to remind us–people cannot drink oil. The creation of these pipelines lines the pockets of oil companies and puts the health and wellbeing of people at risk.

In 2015, I had the honor of joining Franciscans from all over the world–six different continents–for the COP negotiations in Paris. It was a true celebration of the worldwide Franciscan family and the many branches of the Franciscan family tree. One of the friars that was part of the delegation was from South India where they were experiencing massive flooding at the very time we were in Paris. The flooding was the worst that they had seen in 100 years and Fr. Nithiya could do little to help his people halfway around the world. In this instant, I realized that that example is exactly what Pope Francis in Laudato Si was telling those of us in the industrialized north: climate change isn’t just something we have to worry about for future generations but that it is affecting people in the here and now–both in America and around the world. Having heard the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, we have a great responsibility to shrink our massive carbon footprint.

As the world’s leading energy and carbon consumer, the United States has a major responsibility, one that the Pope acknowledges in Laudato Si. Climate change is not a far-off problem for our children or grandchildren, but rather, a grave issue for here and now, and one that is affecting our sisters and brothers across the world and even in some areas of the United States. We have an obligation to the rest of the world to lead the way when it comes to being good stewards of our earth. The creation of new pipelines does just the opposite—and robs the United States of any moral authority it may have when it comes to protecting our environment. The real choice that we must make in the United States to save our common home is not between oil pipelines and oil transporting trucks. Rather, the choice we face is between being the moral, responsible leader of the free world, claiming moral responsibility for our use of carbon and how that impacts the global south, or doing nothing as we watch our mother earth grow hotter and our brothers and sisters suffer.

Jason L. Miller is the Director of Campaigns and Development for the Franciscan Action Network, a steering committee people of the People’s Climate March on April 29th in Washington, D.C.

Published in: on April 27, 2017 at 10:28 am  Comments (1)  

Walking to Our Emmaus

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini

This reflection was originally posted in our April 24th newsletter

Walking.pathOne of the things I really enjoy is walking. Some of my deepest insights have come to me while walking. Walking clears my head and allows me to see more clearly what the next step could be. The same is true when I walk with someone. It can lead to sharing things we are not able to say when face to face. Walking on the road to Emmaus can lead to “conversing about all the things that had occurred.”

I see this Sunday’s readings not only as the disciples’ chance to say what really is going on with Jesus, who he really is, but also an invitation to talk about what is happening within each of us.

In the reading from the book of Acts (2:14, 22-23), Peter tells his audience what was in his heart about Jesus and how important He was to him. He does the same in his letter first letter, telling his readers to “conduct yourself with reverence” because we are made for things much bigger than we can imagine and the resurrection of Jesus confirms it.

By approaching and walking with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, Jesus gave them the chance to say what was in their hearts, to vent their frustration and fear: “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” They only needed to be asked “what sort of things?” to open the floodgates, so to speak, and pour out their heart to a stranger, trying to make sense as they spoke of what happened to Jesus the Nazarene.

I would like to have a walk with Jesus this spring. So many things have happened, and there are so many questions about what is going on in our country and the world that it would only take the question, “What is going on, what are you troubled about as you walk?” for me to blurt out, “Are you the only one who does not know what is happening? What has happened in the past few months and how many people are struggling, me included, trying to make sense of it all?” I for sure could speak much longer than the length of the journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Why are we in this particular moment of history, and what is my role in it? How willing am I to believe that I am born anew in the blood of the Lamb each day?

Every day I take my walk with Jesus in prayer to confirm myself in the resolution that being a disciple is not a done deal. It is walking every moment in the awareness of being part of the journey of the world and that I have my little step to make. It is believing that I need to say who Jesus is for me, sometimes with more readiness. It is believing that I /we need a community that listens. One where we feed each other with hope and courage as well as being fed with the Bread and Wine of life. Being a disciple is having my heart burning within me, especially when I speak on behalf of refugees, immigrants, and trafficked persons; when I speak of gun violence, climate justice, and an economy that puts revenue at the top instead of people. Jesus walks with us this Easter season to remind us that the journey is long, but that on life’s journey we are not alone. We walk together, we have people to talk to, we can take time and invite others to “stay with us for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over,” so to refresh ourselves and recommit our lives to go out and spread the news that the Lord is truly risen. Alleluia!

Sr. Maria Orlandini
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on April 25, 2017 at 11:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Believing Is Seeing

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, Carolyn Townes

This reflection was originally posted in our April 17th newsletter

PEacefulOn every Second Sunday of Easter, we read John’s Gospel account of the disciples locked away in fear and Jesus appearing to them. Knowing their fear and trepidation, Jesus twice gives them his peace. Then, knowing their doubt, he shows them his crucifixion wounds. Yes, it is really the risen Lord and they do not need to be afraid. As he promised before his death, he breathed on them the power of the Holy Spirit.

What is interesting to note is Thomas is not with them during that first evening encounter. Thomas was not there to be greeted by the Lord’s peace. And he was not there to receive the breath of the Holy Spirit; thus the power to forgive sins. When the disciples finally saw Thomas, they told him they had seen the Lord. Thomas did what any one of us would have done – he disbelieved until he could see for himself. Until he could experience the risen Jesus for himself, he would not believe.

We all struggle through times of fear and doubt. When we are faced with significant changes in life, there is a certain amount of both these emotions; fear of what will happen and doubt that all will be well. In those moments of fear and doubt, we too have a difficult time believing. Is God really there? Does God hear my prayers? Yet, just as Jesus gave his peace to the fearful disciples on that first evening, he also gives his peace to us when we are afraid. And just as Jesus showed Thomas his wounds so that he may believe, he also shows us the way so that we may believe. But unlike Thomas, we must believe without seeing. As Jesus said “blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Peace, like love, can be a vague concept, especially in the American English language and culture. We have watered down the concept so that it does not have the same impact as in Jesus’ time. In that first century culture, extending peace to someone was profound and truly meant something. Today, it is consigned to symbols on placards and wishy washy handshakes. What if we were to revert back to that true meaning of peace? The peace that Jesus speaks of and extends. The peace that could calm troubled waters. How would you respond differently if that were the peace you received or gave? May the Risen Lord grant you his peace.

Carolyn D. Townes, OFS
National Animator, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
U.S. Secular Franciscan Order
FAN Board Member

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 8:53 am  Leave a Comment  

“How Can I Keep from Singing?”

Reflection for Easter Sunday by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey

This reflection was originally posted in our April 10th newsletter

SingingThe title of the old Baptist hymn, one of my favorites, is framed as a question but is really a statement. “Above earth’s lamentations,” our Christian faith rests on the Resurrection of Jesus, and the promise of our resurrection, so we cannot keep from singing our Alleluia song. We sing not out of naiveté or denial of personal, national and global calamities, but out of faith in the enduring love of God confirmed in the life, suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus. We Christians must be people of hope, singing our Alleluia song, even as we are keenly aware of sin, evil and suffering in the world. St. Augustine reminds us, “We are Easter people and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.’ Let us sing ‘Alleluia’ here and now in this life, even though we are oppressed by various worries, so that we may sing it one day in the world to come, when we are set free from all anxiety.”

As the Easter Vigil and Easter morning gospels are read, our hearts are lifted at the opening phrase, “On the first day of the week…,” because we know the story that will unfold. We feel Mary Magdalene’s initial dismay and confusion at seeing the empty tomb, then follow her “and the other Mary” as they run, “fearful yet overjoyed,” to announce the amazing good news to the disciples. In Matthew’s account, they are met on the way by Jesus who assures them, “Do not be afraid” to go tell his brothers what they have witnessed.

Whatever burdens we carry this Easter, may we not be afraid to leave tombs of fear, doubt, discouragement or lamentation, and join in singing Easter’s Alleluia. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!”(Ps. 18) ALLELUIA!

Sr. Marie Lucey
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on April 11, 2017 at 10:23 am  Comments (1)  

Ignoring Realities when the World is in Crisis

By FAN Intern, Chiara Klein

Chiara Klein

If we want to claim that we practice true compassion and awareness, we are called to bring injustice, violence, destruction, inequity, and suffering into the light. The irrefutable existence of climate change creates scenarios in which all of these layers are part of daily life for billions around the world. Refusing to put this reality into words does not make it disappear. Yet, this avoidance and obfuscation is apparently the chosen tactic of the Trump administration, evidenced by the latest development within the Department of Energy’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy (ICCE).

The staff of this office has allegedly been told not to use the words “climate change,” “emissions reductions,” or “Paris agreement” in any written communications or briefings. Not coincidentally, but somewhat ironically, ICCE is the only office at the DOE with the word climate in its name. DOE spokesperson Lindsey Geisler has denied these claims, and several State Department officials in other offices have said that there have not been formal instructions to avoid certain words but that there has been a conscious shift in language prompted by hints from transition staff, according to reporting by Politico. Whether acknowledged or not, this is censorship.

Censoring language around climate change reflects a disturbing refusal to acknowledge dangerous truths about the backwards steps that this administration is taking. It is no secret that President Trump has absolutely no regard for the state of our environment: the word ban came on the same day that President Trump signed an executive order to review and possibly begin to dismantle several powerful Obama-era regulations that would have significantly cut carbon emissions and protected clean water sources. He has made blatant attempts to render climate change and environmental degradation invisible because it doesn’t fit into his agenda. Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters around the world are dying of starvation and drought, or else struggling to put food on the table and battling health issues stemming from air pollution and water contamination. Many have found themselves climate refugees, having been forced to evacuate their homes and land due to changes in their local environment that have rendered it unlivable, such as massive flooding.

Climate change is creating a world of instability and suffering, and our government is quite literally looking the other way. This has passed the point of unacceptable politics: this is morally unconscionable. I have to hope that we still have time to be on the right side of history.

Published in: on April 5, 2017 at 8:47 am  Comments (2)  

Thy Kingdom Come

Reflection for Palm Sunday by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our April 3rd newsletter

JourneyThis Sunday we celebrate Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. Our services reenact the last week of Jesus’ earthly life and celebrate the eternal Christ on Easter Sunday. We sometimes think of this week as a play with separate acts. It is almost like the week was scripted and Jesus is just another character playing his role. A story was created of a vengeful God who demands a blood sacrifice to atone for something somebody did thousands upon thousands of years earlier. The crucifixion is sometimes viewed as a requirement to appease this angry God and the Resurrection as the happy ending of the story where Jesus goes to heaven so we can join him there later.

I often reflect on the question that two of our church’s greatest theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure, often debated: “If original sin never happened would it have been necessary for Jesus to come?” One of the saints argued that Jesus came to heal us from our sin, and if there was no sin there would have been no reason for Jesus. The other saint argued that the crucifixion was not the main event but rather it was the Incarnation, the moment when God became human, that changed everything. The Incarnation didn’t happen so God could open the gates to some faraway place. It is not the end of the story, as John’s Gospel tells us, “God so loved the world that he sent his only son” (Jn. 3:16).  It is the next chapter in God’s first book, the book of creation. The incarnation is the beginning of the new creation, in which we all share in the power of the Spirit.

At the celebration of Palm Sunday we will reenact Jesus’ triumphant march into Jerusalem.  I have often read that Jesus had to come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey in order to fulfill the scripture. Most of the time we miss the historical significance of Jesus entering Jerusalem. It was the beginning of Passover and, at the same time, a period of unrest and upheaval. There was a lot of dissatisfaction with both the leaders of the government and the Jewish religious leaders. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate led his Roman soldiers into the city to quell this unrest. He marched in to show his military strength. He would use this military strength to quash any thoughts of rebellion. At the same time the religious leaders were also feeling threatened. This young upstart was challenging their authority and, in their eyes, leading people away from the tradition of Moses. It was in this setting that Jesus entered Jerusalem with his followers, riding a donkey, which at the time was considered a symbol of peace. Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem so he could check off another box on a “to do” list or to complete a prophecy. He was challenging the authority of both the religious and government leaders. His actions were acts of nonviolent resistance.

As we relive the most sacred moments of this holiest of weeks, let’s remember that we are called by our Baptism to be priests and prophets. We are called to be a reflection of God.  St. John of the Cross taught us that human desire is unlimited. The heart of a human being is not satisfied with less than infinite. This infinite is clearly God.  Our deepest human desire is a desire for God. When we turn away from God, we no longer consider God’s creation and all that it encompasses as sacred. As a result, our unlimited human desire for God expresses itself in materialism and consumerism. We have lost our spiritual connection to God, and therefore experience the consequence of humanity with no God. We have traded away our call to be priests and prophets for a dogmatic contract where the most important thing is whether or not we’ve passed the moral exam.

As Christians, the prayer we pray most often is The Lord’s Prayer. In it, we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” What do we think Heaven is like? Do we think God would find it acceptable for children to be starving in Heaven while others live in big houses and waste food? If not, then why do we think God would find it okay on Earth? If Jesus came to continue the creation and start Heaven on Earth then shouldn’t we join together as truly the “Body of Christ”, as one connected to God and all of God’s creation, and start building the kingdom of Heaven on Earth?

Peace and All Good
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on April 4, 2017 at 9:13 am  Comments (1)  

Come Out, Arise!

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent by FAN board President, Sr. Margaret Magee

This reflection was originally posted in our March 27th newsletter

AriseOur readings on this Fifth Sunday of Lent are clearly calling us to arise from darkness, death, and all that is dead and deadening in our minds, in our hearts and in our lives. To do this we must slow down, live reflective and deeply contemplative lives open to forgiveness, mercy and healing.

Living reflectively and contemplatively, especially for Franciscans, is not a turning away from the world. Rather, our life and our spirituality draws us to live in right-relationship in the world and for the world. We are called to see, act and move in Christ, as St. Paul reminded the Romans, “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through the Spirit dwelling in you.”

Interestingly in light of our readings, a quote of Karl Rahner, Jesuit priest and theologian, came to mind. Rahner wrote, “The theological problem today is to find the art of drawing religion out of people, not pumping it into them. The art is to help people become what they are.” For me Rahner is saying we must live the Crucified Redemptive Love that has already been gifted and given to us in baptism. We must be attentive to God’s Divine Presence, the Holy Spirit, continually dwelling in our humanity and in all of creation.

I believe, as Rahner stated, when we keep ‘pumping religion in’ our focus is simply on the rules, laws, and doctrines. The light and the life of Christ, given in baptism, remains buried deep within us. The Light of Christ is not meant to be entombed and hidden, it must be expressed through our engagement in compassion, mercy and justice making the Kingdom of God visible today.

So questions arise – are we Lazarus, bound and sitting within darkened tombs of our own creation? Are these tombs of fear or indifference? Do we allow indifference to deaden and deafen us from the needs and the cries of others? Does fear drive us to possess more than we really need? Does indifference silence us from questioning and challenging those in positions of power within our church and our government?

Even if we are like Lazarus, lifeless, bound and sitting in the darkness within a tomb, the gospel impels us to believe that Christ is outside calling us into the light of freedom, compassion and new life. It is Christ who will draw us out. We cannot do this by ourselves. Are we willing to listen for the voice of the Crucified Christ who weeps for the suffering and the many deaths that we have brought upon our own humanity and creation itself?

God calls to us, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them…” Let us believe in our hearts and through our Christic actions proclaim God’s freeing and life-giving love!

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board President

Published in: on March 28, 2017 at 9:01 am  Leave a Comment  

“I have come into the world so that the blind will see.”

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent by Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our March 20th newsletter

BlindThe ongoing call of Lent is an urgent call to repent and to make a conscious and free choice to turn away from sin, which leads to death, and to embrace the Gospel, which leads to Life. This week’s Gospel passage is about the man born blind. This passage forms together with those of the third and fifth Sundays of Lent, to form a triduum that points to the baptismal themes of water (the women at the well), light (the healing of the man born blind), and life (the raising of Lazarus).

These powerful readings remind us all what Life as a believer is all about.

We see here the drama of a decision to accept or reject the call of Christ. The man born blind receives his physical sight early in the story; the rest of the passage traces the birth of his spiritual sight. Just like how his vision healed, he first calls Jesus a man, than a prophet, then the one who is “from God” and finally, as “Lord.” He comes to see who Jesus is because he is willing to believe.

This attitude of willingness stands in stark contrast to the hardness of the hearts of the Pharisees. Even as witnesses of the same physical healing, they try to explain away the evidence as they question the man and his family. They portrayed Jesus as a sinner, and finally they ejected the healed man from their midst.

This drama and confrontation is repeated too often in our “advanced” society which struggles with belief over ideology, with labeling over accepting, with welcoming over fearing.

Years ago P.T. Barnum heard about a person who was going to cross over Niagara Falls on a tightrope. So he traveled there to see for himself. There was a huge crowd watching and the aerial artist, holding a lone pole to help him balance, walked across the falls to the cheers of the crowd. P.T. Barnum ran over to talk to the artist. In the midst of the conversation, P.T. raved about the artist and how he had to have him perform for his traveling show. The artist said to him “Do you believe that I can do this again?” P.T. said, “Of course I believe, otherwise why would I want to hire you?” The artist said, “Great, then get on my back and we’ll go across.”

That is the difference between belief and Faith. We are challenged this Lent to stop saying we believe and just climb on with our Faith. We need to remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees at the end of today’s Gospel: “If you were blind, you would have no sin, but now you are saying, ‘We see’, so your sins remains.”

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.
FAN Board Treasurer

Published in: on March 21, 2017 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Trump’s Second Travel Ban Still Violates American Principles

By George Cassidy Payne


President Trump and his advisers either purposely or accidentally fail to realize that this country is bound together by the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These principles apply to all people. To be American means that a person is shaped, guided, represented and protected by certain inalienable laws. It has nothing to do with geography, language, race, or religious beliefs.

For more than two centuries the hope has been that America can live up to its promise and be a land of openness, trust, and love of diversity. Regardless of age, gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and political ideology, the promise has been that we can be one nation because we are one species. In fact, whenever we have tried to realize this promise our IMG_20140924_143514326[1]nation has paved the way for groundbreaking achievements in the arts and sciences. (The names of Alexander Graham Bell and Albert Einstein come readily to mind.)

It is the immigrant and refugee who has been our greatest legacy. If for no other justifiable reason, the world admires us because we are a nation of immigrants and refugees. From the first people to trek across the Bering Strait to the next migrant who crosses the Mexican-Texas border, America is America because they are here.

On this subject, I really appreciate the way James Madison spoke when he said: “America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts.”

IMG_3381[1]Even more profound for me are the words of Cesar Chavez. The Catholic social justice activist said: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

With the words of these two remarkable Americans in mind, President Trump’s second attempt at a travel ban against Muslims is just as cynical and unconstitutional as the failed version a month ago. Not only does it betray the economic and political interests of the United States as an international power, it dishonors the rich legacy of immigrants and refugees who have given their blood, sweat and tears to make this country what it is today. If I may speak on behalf of the dead, the statesman Madison and the activist Chavez would have been appalled by Trump’s irrational and illegal ban.

George Cassidy Payne
Humanities Instructor at SUNY FLCC
Founder, Gandhi Earth Keepers International


Published in: on March 15, 2017 at 9:45 am  Comments (2)  

Shorter is Not Always Better

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent, by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey

This reflection was originally posted in our March 13th newsletter

Water Jug
In a long Sunday Gospel, segments within brackets can often be omitted. Why is this?  Because they are less important? Because of an assumed short attention span of the congregation? For whatever reason, the longer narrative of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in this week’s Gospel is seen as the richer conversation. The primary lesson of the passage is that Jesus provides living water, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Because of his teaching, the Samaritans of the town say, “We know that this is truly the savior of the world.” And we are invited to drink deep of this living water.

There is, however, a compelling sub-story that is missed in the shorter version. First, when the disciples returned from their food shopping in town, they “were amazed that he was talking with a woman.” Jesus breaks two taboos: not only conversing with a woman he did not know, but conversing with a Samaritan, and Jews and Samaritans did not mix company. Second, the woman was so excited by her conversation with Jesus she “left her water jar” to rush into town to share her news; not an insignificant detail because the water jar was a needed possession which was left out of the shorter version, and became unimportant. Jesus, in turn, is energized by this dialogue. Both the Samaritan woman and Jesus stepped out of their comfort zones and took a risk for mutual engagement.

Finally, why omit the short phrase that many of the townspeople began to believe in Jesus “because of the word of the woman…?” The word of women is still marginalized today, not only in government and workplaces, but also in our Church. The work of women is essential and valued, but our voices are not. Women are not even permitted to read the Gospel during Mass or preach from the pulpit.

This Lent, may we be attuned to marginalized voices: immigrants facing deportation, refugees refused entry, citizens experiencing poverty, racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, LGBT discrimination – and, especially in our Church, women.

Sr. Marie Lucey
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on March 14, 2017 at 9:54 am  Comments (2)