Following Up On FAN’s ‘Spirituality + Science’ Webinar

Br. Keith Warner, OFM

Br. Keith Warner, OFM

FAN received the following questions during the webinar on “Spirituality + Science = Care for Creation.” (View the Archived Webinar and Presentation.) Presenter Br. Keith Warner, OFM responds:

[Question 1:] So is “the Franciscan concept of universal kinship” still adequate, or would recovering an integral Catholic Cosmology require some further refinement? (Reference is found in the SFO Rule, Chapter 2, Paragraph 18 where respect for all creatures, animate and inanimate is presented) (Kent Ferris, SFO; FAN Action Commissioner, SFO NAFRA JPIC Commission)

[Question 2:] Dear Keith, This is a WONDERFUL presentation. Thank you! I just read an article on Climate Wire entitled “Researchers warn of climate change impact on mental well-being.” How can Franciscans respond? Love and knowledge? (Betsy Reifsnider; FAN Member)

[Response] Kent, I think the concept of universal kinship was helpful, and may still be helpful. But I think we need to push on that concept, push it forward. I think it is a better concept than the dominant operative concept of sacharine birdbaths. But kinship sounds rather abstract. Do you have kinship in your family life? In your neighborhood or parish? It still sounds abstract.

I think Betsy’s comment about mental health and climate change is quite poignant. Can you send me the reference? Recall discussions 20 years ago about nuclear winter and public mental health. Climate disruption may be worse. Here’s why: nuclear winter is clearly identifiable. We came close, but we did not suffer from it. Millions would have died, and the future of life on earth would have been compromised. But it would have been undeniable. Climate disruption is different. It is affecting millions, but via death by a thousand cuts, not a big bang. Unlike nuclear winter, it is inevitable that there will be a severely disrupted climate. The question is, how bad? Really bad? Or catastrophically bad? or apocalyptically bad? (e.g., the end of water supply for 2 billion people in South Asia)

These are profoundly disturbing questions for the human spirit to reckon with. The concept of universal kinship ain’t gonna help us here. We have to take seriously the changes to our planetary life support system being brought about by chosen human ignorance and indifference. This is the chief challenge to our ecological vocation as human beings. To continue to ignore it will corrode the integrity of our consciences, our very selves. This indicates the importance of our own inner work. This is perhaps the next step, after we have recognized that we would like to foster an integral cosmology, we are challenged by God’s Spirit to look within ourselves, and live with that pain. I wish there were a simple solution, but there is not. That is not the true character of our modern existence. Yet within our Franciscan tradition there is wisdom that can help us accommodate pain and suffering with compassion

At the risk of being self-referential, I tried to take on these questions in “Living the Gospel on a Climate Disrupted Planet” and “Franciscan Environmental Ethics”, which you can find on my webpage. I try to point out the value of an ethic of care, which is more like a calling or vocation, and less like a set of abstract or rigid rules.

Thank you for your interest, and for asking questions.

Peace to you. Let us not neglect to offer God praise and thanksgiving on a planet whose climate we have disrupted.


Published in: on November 27, 2011 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

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