What is Good News?

Reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our August 19th newsletter

This Sunday, the response for our Responsorial Psalm is from Mark 16:15 “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.” The last couple of weeks it has been hard to find “Good News.” What with the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the shootings of police officers in Philadelphia, the ICE workplace raids in Mississippi, the continued separation of children from their parents at the border, the unrest in Hong Kong, it is kind of hard to think of any Good News. I often ask myself, ‘What is that Good News that Jesus told us to preach?’ Is it about something and someplace far away in the distance? Is the Good News that, at some point (if we are good) we get to go somewhere else? It is awfully hard to tell the world something that we really don’t fully understand ourselves.

Our theology teaches us that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins so we could get into Heaven. Maybe this is the good news; because we were dammed by the sin of Adam, Jesus had to come and save us and now when we die, we can “go to Heaven.” Whatever we do on Earth is only important insofar as it helps us get to Heaven. Is that the Good News?

Blessed John Duns Scotus said, “The Incarnation of the Son of God is the very reason for the whole Creation. To think that God would have given up such a task had Adam not sinned would be quite unreasonable! I say, therefore, that the fall was not the cause of Christ’s predestination and that – if no one had fallen, neither the angel nor man – in this hypothesis Christ would still have been predestined in the same way.” If Scotus is right then Jesus didn’t come to save us from original sin. Maybe, just maybe, the “Good News” which we seemed to have lost over the past 2000 years, is that the Kingdom of Heaven is here. The good news isn’t that Jesus came so we can go somewhere else but he came to create the kingdom here on earth.

In our first reading it says: “and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.” Imagine if we were telling the world, every nation, all people the Good News, not that they can go to Heaven at some point, but rather that Jesus came to create the Kingdom of Heaven. They can stop worshiping at the foot of the cross and do as Jesus commanded and pick up their cross to be co-creators with God in building the Kingdom of Heaven right here on Earth. Now that is Good News.

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on August 20, 2019 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  

The Sultan and the Saint goes to India

The Franciscan Action Network has been working for more than 2 years on a project promoting the docu-drama, The Sultan and the Saint. Produced by our friends at Unity Productions Foundation, the film is a powerful depiction of Muslim-Christian encounter as told through the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt.

This year is the 800th anniversary of this historic meeting in 1219. To celebrate, FAN has reinvigorated our efforts to have the film screened all over the globe.

The following is a report from the coordinator of one such screening, written by Fr. Victor Edwin SJ.

The docudrama THE SULTAN AND THE SAINT was screened at the Presentation Convent School Auditorium [in India] for the students of Eighth Grade of the same school.

Students watched the movie with great interest. After the movie in an interesting conversation conducted by Lakshmi Menon one of the organizers of the event.

Children felt that it is a crime to dehumanize the other and make people fight one another. Crusades were the fruit of such campaign, they said.

Children felt that it’s a pity that still politicians and vested interests people cleverly dehumanize others for polarizing people to strengthen their political and economic interest.

God raises people like Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al Kamil and give them courage to reach out to others for building Peace. Desire for peace comes from God, one girl affirmed. Peace requires wisdom said a girl.

Children emphasized that only courageous people could strive for peace. They were amazed by the mercy of Sultan in his act of feeding and protecting enemies and their horses. Has not Jesus said, Love your enemies, asked a little girl.

One girl pointed out that God inspires small and insignificant people to raise up to speak for God … speak for Peace. It is the divine paradigm!

It was an amazing morning of learning for us to be with children and to listen to their wisdom. Lakshmi asked the kids how many of them are ready to be messengers of peace. Everyone raised hands foe Peace.

We the organizers return home wondering the marvels of God that are revealed through the wisdom of Children.

Submitted by Fr. Victor Edwin, SJ

Published in: on August 15, 2019 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Have Come to Set the Earth on Fire

Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Vice President, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our August 12th newsletter

This week’s Scripture should sound familiar to us. There are within it many quotes that we have heard or have shared in our lives, and more especially in sharing our life or story of our Faith with others.

In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we see how God’s Word in a ‘Public Forum’ or to people in power can be harsh. In fact, God’s Word to us can be very challenging, personally. For the call to look at ourselves or how we are living and what we are doing in light of God’s call can bring about that dreaded need to change that none of us are ever happy to hear.

I remember in my early days of formation, being told that if I ever really wanted to know God’s will, or call in my life, to pray and then do whatever came to mind that I would not want to do. It’s still true today for me. Thus our journey always gets us where we need to go, but it might be a little rocky along the way.

In Hebrews we are encouraged to continue in running the race, to endure and to be faithful to the call of God in our lives. To put aside anything that would distract us or slow us down, knowing that we will get there in God’s time, and might even see a miracle along the way.

In the Gospel of Luke we hear about division, fire, and disputes between family and friends. Sounds kinda like the news and all that is happening in the world and within the Church.

But let us not be like those who did not like what Jeremiah was saying. For the Prince of Peace is talking about the Presence and the Power of the Holy Spirit which will overcome in God’s Name all for the Glory of God’s Kingdom.

Instead, let us hang on, accept, share our lives and hearts for we know that God indeed has a plan. For His Will shall be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Vice President

Published in: on August 13, 2019 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  

God is calling us to break violence’s stranglehold on our world

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

The recent tragic mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, killing at least 29 people, point to an ongoing epidemic of mass shootings in the United States. As of Aug. 5, the 217th day of the year, there were 255 mass shootings – more mass shootings than number of days so far this year.

When both mass shootings and single shootings are added together, everyday on average 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured (see: https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-america/).

When compared to other wealthy nations and many low-income countries, the U.S.’s rate of gun violence is far greater (see: https://n.pr/2T9W6FP).

While common sense gun control laws like universal background checks and gun registration, as well as banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons would certainly help stem this epidemic, the problem runs far deeper than reasonable legislation can adequately address.

The U.S., as well as so much of the world, is addicted to the evil of violence.

Just consider how widespread and far-reaching are the global tentacles of violence: 55 million annual abortions, infanticide, euthanasia, drug gangs, child soldiers, religious/ethnic/racial persecution, dozens of armed conflicts, armed militias, war preparation, arms manufacturing, arms sales, the violent “entertainment” industry and the astronomical global military spending of $1.7 trillion annually.

And then there are the many other cruel realities that human beings suffer from, that at first glance may not appear violent-related, but, in truth inflict grave violence to the human dignity of countless brothers and sisters. Among these cruel realities are closed borders to desperate migrants and refugees, hunger, poverty, homelessness, people lacking clean water/sanitation/medical care, abandoned orphans, forgotten elderly, human trafficking and child labor.

Dare we not forget there are two other evil categories of violence which are threatening the very existence of life on earth: the ominous reality of nuclear weapons – with the very real possibility of nuclear war anytime, and the unfolding catastrophic violence to our common home – the earth – caused principally by human-induced climate change.

Both of these looming dangers have led the prestigious Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to report that their Doomsday Clock is perilously still at 2 minutes to midnight (see: https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/).

In the words of Pope Francis we need to create a “culture of encounter” with all people – even our enemies.

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … Do to others as you would have them do to you,” said Jesus.

Violence is not the way of Jesus. This is indisputable!

The late preeminent theologian and biblical scholar, Fr. John McKenzie said, “If Jesus does not reject violence for any reason, we do not know anything about Jesus. Jesus taught us not how to kill but how to die.”

So, following the example of the non-violent Jesus, let us teach, preach, work and pray to root out violence in ourselves, governments, corporations, schools, cultures and even in our church – e.g. the “just-war” theory (see: https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/).

Saint Pope John Paul powerfully said, “Violence is evil, that violence is unacceptable as a solution to problems, that violence is unworthy of man. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Published in: on August 9, 2019 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Where Is My Treasure?

Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our August 5th newsletter

Faith without fear is a strong theme in this week’s readings. Abraham, Sarah, and many generations are held up as models who “did not receive what had been promised but saw it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth…” And “All died in faith.” Today, as this country and the world struggles with a migration crisis, it is good for us to remind ourselves that we are all migrants, all sojourners, in our time on Earth. As we sojourn, a critical question for each of us is “What do I treasure?” Critical because Jesus teaches “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” That is, your purpose in life, what gives you meaning and happiness.

We have myriad examples of people who knew where their treasure was and allowed it to direct their hearts. Clare of Assisi, whose feast is August 11th, is a shining example of one who knew at a young age where her treasure was and gave herself wholeheartedly to living it with faith, not receiving papal approval for her Rule of Life until she was dying.

It is not hard to find examples today. An elderly neighbor spends every moment caring for her beloved husband who is sinking deeper into Alzheimer’s. Parents of a mentally disabled young woman surround her with love, support, and opportunities, with unrelenting patience. Catholics deeply concerned about the inhumane conditions in which immigrant children are held in detention gather in the nation’s capital to pray and call for the administration to stop the inhumanity. Seventy women and men, religious and lay, are arrested in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. A young mother writes an inspiring article explaining why she brought her 3 year old son to join the Catholic Action.

These are some of my experiences of people whose hearts compel them to do what they do because they know where their treasure lies. I suggest that the treasure is even more than a husband, a daughter, or immigrant children. God’s presence in their hearts guides them to do the right, true, loving thing. You have examples of your own. Include yourself. Be encouraged with Jesus’ promise: “Do not be afraid… for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on August 6, 2019 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  

You Fool…

Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our July 29th newsletter

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” As I begin this reflection, I ask myself this question over and over again: What is God’s message that I need to be open to hear to-day? If you wish, do the same, ask yourself the same question before you continue reading.

For me, God’s voice could not be louder and clearer in this 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time readings: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Lk. 12:14

We (the human race) have sold ourselves a big lie. We have convinced ourselves that being successful, thus happy, is linked to what we possess in money, material things and intellectual capacity: the bigger, the more, the better. The rich man of the gospel certainly represents this belief. In fact, instead of sharing what he had unexpectedly acquired in abundance, he does not hesitate to build larger barns for his exceptional harvest and say to himself: “You have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” Then God says to him:

“YOU FOOL, this night your life will be demanded of you,”
you will not be able to carry your barns with you!

What is it with us humans that in spite experiences of life to the contrary we continue to believe that “bigger barns” are the proof of having made it in life, of being blessed by God’s goodness? We continue to believe what has been disproven by common sense or even by science.

We seem not to hear, or at least not believe, the New Testament warnings against greed and the constant invitation to love simplicity of life, in order to grow in Christ. The letter to the Colossians invites us to: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, and the greed that is idolatry… even further: “Stop lying to one another.” Indeed, we are all caught in a big lie.

We as a country, and the world as well, are living a moment of history of deep confusion, when human values placed in our hearts by the Almighty are abandoned and substituted with the almighty dollar; when the world is more then ever divided by the have and have-nots, by the place where we come from and by the color of our skin. In the midst of this, today I hear God’s voice suggesting to us: you fool, is that going to matter when life is going to be demanded of you? How much can you take with you? It is not what you had that will be remembered of you, but what you were able to share of possessions, your welcome to others, your effort to create a more compassionate and livable world for future generations. And so…

If I want to be honest with myself and listen to God’s voice, I cannot miss this clear teaching:
“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all in all.”

May we heed God’s Word.

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on July 30, 2019 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  

One way to Live the Change: Green Roofs

By Catherine Juliano

Catherine Juliano is a math and political science major at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She is assisting our communications coordinator this summer as an intern.

Recently, I became aware of my university’s comprehensive plan to construct green roofs to combat climate change. In fact, the largest such roof at any university has been installed on the roof of the Joyce Center, which is 79,096 square feet. (Pictured) It is part of a larger sustainability plan that Notre Dame has to halve its carbon footprint by 2030, all in response to the Pope’s 2015 Laudato Si encyclical. I am proud to be a Notre Dame student for many reasons, but as a climate activist, Notre Dame’s commitment warms my heart.

The “green roof” is not a new idea, but it is one we should be talking about. In the slate gray concrete jungles that we call cities, on buildings nestled between the church-like Gothic stone of many colleges and universities, and even on all of the commercial, industrial, and residential buildings over 2000m in the city of Toronto, green roof design is being implemented to combat the smog and heat we are creating through widespread carbon emissions. With their vegetative coverings, these roofs help control rising temperatures, and they make air cleaner. They reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because the plants on the roofs absorb carbon in their leaves and tissues. Of course, this measure alone does not solve the problem of global warming, but it certainly helps. Did you know that if your building has a green roof, if uses less air conditioning because the plants absorb and reflect heat? It has a reverse effect in winter because the roof serves as a kind of insulation. With the increased storms we are seeing, green roofs can soak up rainwater and reduce runoff and flooding. So while we wait for our politicians to legislate impactfully so that we can effectively reduce our insatiable consumption of electricity and oil, of SUVs, lawnmowers, snowblowers, and methane releasing cow meat and milk (among many other sources of carbon emissions), we can cry out in this meaningful way to protect our planet. What if every college and university across the world constructed at least one green roof? What kind of sea change might that make?

At the end of the Canticle of the Creatures, St. Francis proclaims that “Sister Mother Earth… sustains and govern us” and “produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” Here, Francis could very well have been talking about a green roof. He was, no doubt, an ecological mystic who honored God and all of His creation. Francis was also courageous. Beyond the birdbaths and garden statues, which in many ways over-simplify his life, Francis was remarkable because he did what was difficult. He was a war veteran who chose a life of poverty and simplicity, sleeping outside with his friars and wearing a burlap tunic. He walked from Assisi to Rome to deliver his rule to Pope Innocent III. He calmed a ferocious wolf in the city of Gubbio. He even went to Eqypt during the 5th Crusades to speak peacefully about Christianity with the Sultan. In other words, he had courage, and the reason he had it was because God gave him the strength to walk in His glory.

Imagine flowers, vegetables, and herbs on many rooftops. See the people, coming together, gardening the new land in an effort to combat climate change. The sunlight falls on their backs, a gift from the sun itself, which has traveled 93 million miles to be there. The gardeners didn’t bring the sun or even the scent of the magnificent flowers attracting birds and bees. The miracles of the earth: God does that. We are gardeners, responsible for the pruning and weeding that help things grow. God is in us, working through us, giving us His power to take our own steps. We are responsible for this earth that God has given us. We can use the power of nature itself to combat climate change, and with Francis’ inspiration, we can do it with courage and love – “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).

Published in: on July 27, 2019 at 9:30 am  Comments (1)  

Prayer in Action

Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our July 22nd newsletter

The readings for this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time are deeply reflected in the responsorial psalm, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.” It’s interesting though that when people focus on prayer they are often drawn to today’s gospel passage and Jesus’ teaching his disciples to pray.

As we listen to the gospel we can observe some other important things. First, we hear that Jesus himself was praying off in a certain place. The scriptures tell us that Jesus did this often. On this occasion we hear that some of the disciples were watching, observing. They asked, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” The disciples were aware of John the Baptist and his disciples, probably how they lived, preached, prayed and worshiped.

Jesus shared the words that are so familiar to us. Words that cross denominational boundaries. Yet, his teaching on prayer does not stop there. He continues to instruct his followers with messages of prayer in action. Persistence, hospitality and generosity are also qualities of prayer.

May our prayer lead us to greater participation with Divine Love which is lived with a commitment to those who are poor, those who are oppressed and those who are marginalized. Let us be confident that God always hears our prayer and calls us to be images of Christ’s incarnate love, mercy and generosity to others.

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on July 23, 2019 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  

The Catholic Day of Action: My First Disobedience

by Michele Dunne, OFS

Michele Dunne (pictured below with Patrick Carolan) is a Secular Franciscan and an active member of the Franciscan Action Network. She lives in Washington DC with her husband.

“Who will speak if we don’t?”–we sang the Marty Haugen song repeatedly during the press conference portion of the Catholic Day of Action to protest detention of immigrant children in Washington DC July 18, in between inspiring talks by Catholic sisters, priests, FAN Executive Director Patrick Carolan, and Claribel Guzman from El Salvador, who is facing deportation. After the outdoor rally, we headed into the Senate Russell Office Building rotunda for a civil disobedience action—my first ever.

While I have participated in a number of large marches over the past few years, I never really considered showing up for smaller protests that carried the real possibility of arrest until recently. After all, I work full time for a non-profit peace-oriented organization already… and I would have to take time off to protest…and my employer might not like me getting arrested…and my husband might disapprove…and my young adult children might be scandalized, and…well, there were plenty of excuses.

At the same time, staying within my comfort zone was becoming untenable.  My work on the Middle East still seemed important but insufficient; what was I doing about peace, human rights, and social justice right here in the United States? Yes, I prayed, voted, supported organizations such as FAN doing good work, and kept informed about the issues, but I increasingly felt I should do something more—especially as a professed member of the  Secular Franciscan Order since 2016. Our Rule is bracing on this point: “Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.”

Then in the summer of 2018, an invitation arrived. An email from FAN announced an upcoming pilgrimage to Assisi from an organization called Pace e Bene, with the express aim of connecting Franciscan values and spirituality to a life of nonviolence.

The trip in June 2019 was like a week in heaven: visits to the major sites in the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare, daily mass with invigorating homilies by Rev. John Dear, lectures by Ken Butigan bringing out the revolutionary social and peacemaking initiatives of the two saints, deep conversations with fellow pilgrims who had varied experiences in spirituality and activism—and all while surrounded by the matchless beauty of the medieval city of Assisi and Umbrian countryside. I came away feeling encouraged and inspired, accompanied on the journey by new friends.

So when Patrick Carolan invited me, just a few days after my return from Assisi, to the July 18 protest, I suspected the time for action had come. Still, I was nervous.  Would a protest against detention of immigrant children really do any good? Would I be glad or sorry at the end of the day that I participated? I prayed for guidance over several days.

After participating in a webinar for potential participants, some of my fears were allayed. The protest seemed well planned, and the organizers presented a clear theory of change: we would do the civil disobedience to show that some Catholics were willing to take risks to speak out for immigrant children—and hopefully to inspire more Catholics to speak up as well.  The organizers were clear about what would happen at the protest, what the risks were for those who would be arrested, and what the police processing would involve. They told us to bring photo ID, $50 to pay the likely misdemeanor fine, a Metro card to get home—and not much else.

Organizers and protestors gathered early on July 18 at a church near the Capitol to meet in person and go over the details.  Asked for a show of hands, a large number said we were doing civil disobedience for the first time.

After the press conference on the lawn, we headed into the Russell building and found the rotunda. We donned signs with photos of children who had died in detention and formed a large circle, with several participants lying down to form a cross in the center. After a blessing by a priest, we chanted a few slogans and started praying a rosary—and almost immediately the police interrupted with a warning to disperse. By the third warning, those who were not willing to be arrested had left.  When I saw Sister Marie Lucey of FAN being led off in handcuffs, I knew it was getting real. The police were as courteous as they could have been, with many looking uncomfortable arresting nuns in veils, priests in Roman collars, Franciscan friars in brown robes, and lay people praying the Hail Mary.

Nothing quite prepared me for the disempowered feeling of having my wrists zip tied behind my back.  There followed several hours of police processing: transport to a police station, pat-downs, belongings put into plastic bags, sitting on folding chairs in a large, semi-open room that was very warm but made tolerable with fans and bottled water. My fellow detainees did not complain, but provided cheerful encouragement and interesting conversation—particularly the large contingent of Sisters of Mercy.  As each detainee finished the paperwork, paid the fine, and was released, the remaining cheered and applauded, while even the police officers grinned at our good cheer. Outside the station, protest organizers were waiting to offer water, snacks, rides, and thanks. I rode the Metro home with one of the other 70 people arrested, and we were surprised to discover that we were fellow parishioners.

I arrived home, where my husband promptly ordered my favorite pizza and listened to the story of the day. While I had feared he would disapprove of my participating in civil disobedience, he told me he respected what I had done.

As I relaxed in the evening, I recalled that during my Assisi pilgrimage I had asked Pace e Bene training coordinator Veronica Pelicaric how I could discern whether to undertake greater activism.  She quoted to me civil rights leader Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.”

Although the Catholic Day of Action left me perspired, exhausted, and hungry, did it make me come alive?  Yes indeed, I think it did.  After all, whether on detention of children or any other important issue of peace and justice, who will speak if I don’t? 

Published in: on July 22, 2019 at 9:06 am  Comments (1)  

The Green New Deal needs Catholic support

Henry Estrada is an intern for the Franciscan Action Network, currently a rising senior at the Catholic University of America majoring in Politics.

In Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si, he calls upon the world to care for the earth and its creatures.  This call for environmental caring is replete in Genesis, when the Lord commanded Adam to care and till the Garden of Eden.[1]  Pope Francis makes it clear that the message in Genesis is one of caring for His creation, rather than one of domination.  He describes the idea of dominating the earth being biblically sanctioned as a “wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world.”[2]  The message is clear to Catholics like me; care for God’s creation is a moral requirement for all of us.  The message is also meant for those who are not Catholic, as this letter is addressed not only to Catholics, but also to the wider human community.  Although his encyclical was published in 2015, things have unfortunately taken a turn for the worse.  Not only have the effects of climate change impacted the global community, but it has also harmed my own state, Maryland.

The moral requirement to care for God’s creation has been ignored for far too long in our world.  Natural disasters have gotten deadlier and become more frequent[3], natural resources have become scarce due to environmental changes caused by climate change[4], and pollution is wreaking havoc in communities in our very own states[5].  The issue strikes a personal chord in my home state of Maryland, where climate change and environmental degradation has harmed our Chesapeake Bay.  High rainfall caused by climate change has caused the bay to increase in sea level[6], as well as more nutrient pollution which in turn may create the bay’s largest “dead zone” in decades.  A dead zone is caused when “excess nutrients enter the water through polluted runoff from cities, suburbs and rural land, and feed naturally occurring algae. This then fuels the growth of algae blooms. The blooms, which then die and decompose, deplete the dissolved oxygen in the water. This creates hypoxic—or low-oxygen—conditions that suffocate the aquatic life that depend on the oxygen to survive.”[7] 

The issue of climate change does not only impact the home either.  Climate change is a phenomenon that impacts the entire earth, thus the need for lasting action in our states is necessary in order to do our part in preserving our planet.  Indeed, Pope Francis argues that not only must man use technology to fix the issue of climate change, but that a fundamental change in the human morality must be undergone in order to truly prevent catastrophe.  What Pope Francis means by this, is that we must move away from the activities which cause us to harm the earth; namely greed and pride.  In wanting the latest phone, the best meals, and the greatest vacations, we contribute to a culture of excess and materialism that not only harms our environment; but also harms our morality by morphing it into one of entitlement.  In believing ourselves to be superior to all things, we forget that we are children of God, children who know nothing yet believe we know everything.  This is exactly what led us to our international crisis to begin with.  As Catholics, we are called to heed the words of our Pope and to live out the message of love for God’s creation, this message also extends to the greater human community as well.  It is an issue the Pope knows requires all of us to address.  The need to right the wrongs we have done in the past, and continue to do today, is exactly why the Green New Deal is an important turning point in American politics.

The Green New Deal has proven itself to be an important catalyst in the congress as a conversation starter.  While political commentators poke fun at the revolutionary ideas found in the Green New Deal, members of congress on both sides have come to understand the importance of the environment and the issue of climate change.  This is evidenced by the introduction of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in the House by the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan caucus.  Both of these pieces of legislation attempt to transform the energy usage in our country to a more environmentally friendly one, however, these reforms cannot be passed unless legislators understand that Pope Francis is right when he speaks about the need for transformation of human morality.  There will always be climate change deniers unless legislators convince their constituents of the moral good that comes from protecting the environment.

In order to live up to the ideals of the Green New Deal, legislators must advocate for various faith principles so that legislation is made comprehensibly and morally right.  One of these faith principles is a consistent ethic of life, one in which the culture of life is prized about the culture of death.  By actively following an ethic of life, legislators protect our environment because of the inherent value of human life and the life of God’s other creations.  Another important faith principle to keep in mind is that of interdependence across boundaries.  Dialogue with those who have experienced climate change differently is important because it not only leads to comprehensive legislation, but it also enforces the idea that we depend on each other in order to solve the large issue of climate change.  Compassion and fairness are also important for those hesitant to see the value of environmental preservation, because of its potential to ruin his/her livelihood.  Some may not see the importance of fighting climate change due to the immediate threat of unemployment that environmental legislation may cause.  It is important not to vilify these people with genuine concern, but rather to dialogue and ensure fairness by assisting them in the transition into the new energy sector.  This leads to the next principle, restoration and renewal.  Not only does this principle encompass the renewal of the economy to a more environmentally friendly one, but it is also meant to restore the loss that people will feel in the new era of the Green New Deal.  Restoring is equipping the disenfranchised with the training and schooling necessary to transitioning them into the Green New Deal economy.  Finally, truth and science reminds the legislator to look towards the scientific consensus, so that an effective response to climate change can be made.  All of these principles depend on one another, similarly to how legislators depend on us to keep them accountable and on topic.

The need for action is now.  The constituents to these legislators are tasked with getting the movement moving.  We live in a representative democracy, where representatives are chosen to represent the interests of their constituents.  If we do not participate in the political system, then the Green New Deal craze will become a simple footnote in American history, future generations do not want to live in a world polluted and ravaged, we owe it to them and God to do right.  This is why it is important to contact your legislator and tell them of your concern for our earth.  It is also important to get communities of faith involved in this effort, Pope Francis has demonstrated the need for action, it is now our turn as religious people to take his universal call and be the change God wishes for us to become.  This is why I am currently an intern at the Franciscan Action Network, which has given me the opportunity to fight for environmental justice by participating in a network of activism all throughout the Washington D.C. area. Not everyone needs to become an intern, but we must all come together to care for God’s creation.

[1] Gn 2:15

[2] The Holy Father Francis. May 24, 2015. Laudato si’. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html. June 24, 2019.

[3] The Data Team. August 29, 2017. Weather-related disasters are increasing. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2017/08/29/weather-related-disasters-are-increasing. June 24, 2019.

[4] Kabul, Shadi Khan Saif. June 23, 2019. The Ticking Bomb of Water Scarcity in India. https://www.fairplanet.org/editors-pick/the-ticking-bomb-of-water-scarcity-in-india/. June 24, 2019.

[5] Smith, Mitch. Bosman, Julie. Davey, Monica. April 25, 2019. Flint’s Water Crisis Started 5 Years Ago. It’s Not Over. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/us/flint-water-crisis.html. June 24, 2019.

[6] Felver, Rachel. May 21, 2019.  The grade of the Chesapeake Bay remains a ‘C’.  https://www.chesapeakebay.net/news/blog/the_grade_of_the_chesapeake_bay_remains_a_c. June 24, 2019.

[7] Shonbrun-Siege, Carly. June 12, 2019. Experts predict largest dead zone in decades. https://www.chesapeakebay.net/news/blog/experts_predict_largest_dead_zone_in_decades. June 24, 2019

Published in: on July 19, 2019 at 9:15 am  Leave a Comment