Tag Archives: Catholic Social Teaching
Trump is a ‘Clear and Present Danger’ to American people and world peace
By Michael M. Barrick
Donald Trump has proven repeatedly that he is a “Clear and Present Danger” to the American people and world peace (if you need proof, just stop reading; this column is written based on the assumption that our readers do have gray matter in their heads and have been paying attention to the impact our president is having on the most vulnerable among us and upon world peace).
Now, if you’re still reading, this is what is required. Whatever else we may be doing personally or professionally, we each have an obligation as children of God to oppose Donald Trump and his policies at every turn. We have a duty to our children and grandchildren and those we will never know who will follow them. We have inherited a legacy of a nation that, though imperfect, has generally been on a trajectory of improvement on human rights. That all changed in November 2016.
Trump must be stopped. He is unfit for the job. He lacks the historical knowledge, intellect, diplomatic skills, and ultimately basic human empathy that his job requires.
Stunned at the idiocy of the American people, I declared after the election to several friends that I was done with politics. It didn’t help that for 17 days of early voting, I experienced some of the most hateful comments ever directed at me – by so-called Christians. So, although I was the campaign manager for the most honorable person I have ever known to run for office – Art Sherwood, who ran for the North Carolina State Senate – after the election, I was determined to walk way. In fact, despite efforts by some friends and colleagues to immediately launch an effort to refute the inevitable disaster that we all knew was unfolding, I refused to participate. I said that the American people had chosen the idiot and could live with the consequences; I was “going back to the woods.” That was selfish. We can’t live with the consequences.
Indeed, before the election, I wasn’t a fan of Hillary Clinton and cast my primary vote for Bernie Sanders before ultimately voting for Clinton in the General Election. She was not my first choice, but I was – and am – confident that she would not have undone 240 years of American progress. So, admittedly overconfident like so many others, I looked forward to a better and relaxing 2017. Well, it didn’t turn out that way. So, as has been said before, these are times that try our souls. Indeed.
So, please, do what you can to save our nation. I personally have “set my face like flint” and will not turn to the left or to the right until Donald Trump is but a mere (albeit embarrassing) footnote in our history. It is my duty. It is our duty.
My outlook is not made in a void or out of a personal hatred for Donald Trump (though he does all he can to invite it). It is informed by Catholic social teaching. Yes, my faith informs my writing, my actions, and I hope all that I do. And that faith is not remotely close to the one espoused by the “Religious” Right.
What I learned about following Jesus came from my parents, from the nuns at St. Mary’s Grade School and Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg, W.Va., and from the priests at two parishes – Immaculate Conception in Clarksburg and later in life at All Saints in neighboring Bridgeport. These people and institutions were not perfect. I challenged virtually everything I was taught. I studied the scriptures myself. I scrutinized the Catechism. I have had more than one “dark night of the soul.”
Ultimately though, after 61 years, I have concluded I was exposed to some pretty solid teaching – and thank God, mentoring. This is what I learned, and believe even more strongly today: the “United States Catholic Catechism for Adults,” teaches, “A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first” (p. 423).
Clearly, Donald Trump – and for that matter, it would seem the entire (ahem, Christian) GOP – could not care less about the poor and vulnerable. Their enacted and proposed domestic policies will cause great pain and suffering to our most vulnerable citizens. Trump also is quickly destabilizing every volatile region of the earth through his bellicose policies and ignorant tweets.
He must be stopped. He is unfit for the job. He lacks the historical knowledge, intellect, diplomatic skills, and ultimately basic human empathy that his job requires.
So, he must go. His cabinet, if it had just one person of principle, could easily make a case to remove Trump by invoking the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Lacking that, it would seem impeachment is inevitable, but again, that requires courage within Trump’s own party. I see nobody in the GOP with such courage.
Of course, in 2018, we can take away his Republican majorities in Congress. That will help, but it may be too late. And should the Democrats win, they are just as susceptible to the intoxicating effects of power as any other human, so they must be diligently monitored as well.
Clearly, any and every strategy that will remove or mitigate Donald Trump – so long as it is peaceful and within the law – must be employed. If you care about peace and justice, you must stand against this evil president. It doesn’t matter how. You know the highest and best use of your talents. Put them to work for this cause. Pray; write a song; run for office; support organizations that are fighting Trump; and, for God’s sake, vote! It is your most precious freedom. Not voting is being a lousy steward of the rights you enjoy that were paid for by the blood of your ancestors.
The Republicans love to quote scripture to justify their policies. How they justify an alliance with Donald Trump, is on the surface, mystifying. Ultimately though, it isn’t. They’re just liars. They use religion to get votes, but ultimately simply want power to enact an agenda totally inconsistent with American values and history.
So, let us respond appropriately: “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). You need not be a Christian to understand this. If you have eyes to see and ears to hear, you know what is going on. As such, you know your duty. Let’s get about doing it.
© Michael M. Barrick 2017.
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West Virginia Catholic leaders argue that the Veteran Day collection undermines the message of non-violence as taught by Christ and the Church
“Put your sword back in its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword”
By Michael J. Iafrate and Jeannie Kirkhope
SPENCER, W.Va. – This weekend, several Catholic dioceses across the country will participate in the second triennial collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS). This non-territorial diocese, founded in the 1985 by Pope John Paul II, provides pastoral services to members of the United States military stationed across the world. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia is one of several dioceses participating in this collection.
The West Virginia Chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia has serious reservations about our diocese’s formal support of this collection.
Like all Catholics, Catholic soldiers have a variety of pastoral needs. The AMS is one way the church attempts to meet these needs. While some among our membership question the validity of military chaplaincy itself, all of us share a concern about the deeper messages communicated, intentionally or not, by the church’s support of the AMS collection. Namely, we believe that militarism in the United States is a problem that is getting worse, not better. Indeed, in our 2015 “People’s Pastoral” we identified a number of pervasive idolatries in the United States, including “the unquestioning, violent patriotism that works like a powerful religion to sanction and bless an economy of endless war.” In that same letter, we noted that “Even our churches fall for these idolatries again and again,” and that “[w]hen this occurs, religion cooperates with injustice and loses its prophetic impulse.” One way our churches do this is by succumbing to our culture’s unquestioning support of the wars of the United States. At best, this takes the form of sentimental slogans of “support the troops.” At worst, Catholics even join the nation’s chorus of “my country right or wrong.”
Timed as it is the weekend before Veterans’ Day, we believe this collection intentionally seeks to capitalize on the emotions of the faithful and silences our church’s teachings on nonviolence and the dignity of all human life. The collection effectively provides material support for the military-industrial complex, and indeed our own church’s part in that system. And finally, the collection gives the impression that the church takes no issue with the recent military activity of the United States, most of which has been condemned by Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. As followers of Jesus, we are deeply troubled by such visible cooperation with U.S. militarism on the part of our church.
Secondly, as Catholics in West Virginia, our Diocese’s support of this collection is troubling as we have seen for decades the way that poor and marginalized people in Appalachian communities are targeted for military service due to a lack of employment and educational opportunities. Our diocese’s support for this collection normalizes these recruitment patterns which prey upon the poor and ensure what Pope Francis has called an ongoing “world war in installments.”
We agree with the view of a recent Vatican conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International, which boldly stated,
We believe that there is no “just war.” Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict. […] We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence.
We believe the Diocese’s support of this collection undermines this commitment to Gospel nonviolence. Therefore, we ask:
- That Bishop Michael Bransfield withdraw the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s support for the collection for the AMS;
- That pastors, priests, and other pastoral leaders throughout the Diocese refuse to implement this second collection in our churches; and
- That the faithful refuse to contribute to the collection and instead redirect their resources to church groups or secular organizations working for justice and peace. In particular, we encourage supporting groups who a) provide direct service to economically vulnerable, such as Catholic Charities, soup kitchens, and Catholic Worker houses; b) work for economic justice, especially in the Appalachian region; and c) raise a voice for peace, such as Catholic Peace Fellowship and Pax Christi USA. (You might consider placing this form in the collection basket to peacefully offer your dissent.)
Catholics would do well to remember that November 11 is not only Veterans’ Day, but also the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a patron saint of conscientious objectors, who told his superiors in the Roman army, “I am a soldier of Christ, and it is not lawful for me to fight.” We pray for all those affected by the wars of the United States, including U.S. soldiers, and we pray that in word and action we may become more and more a church of peacemakers, following the Lord Jesus who told his disciples to put their swords away.
© 2016, CCA. Michael Iafrate and Jeannie Kirkhope are co-coordinators of the West Virginia chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia.
Mountain State Catholic Social Justice Group Cites Church Teaching for Opposing ‘West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act’
Contradicting the official stance of the West Virginia Catholic Diocese, state chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia calls bill a ‘license to discriminate’ against sexual minorities
SPENCER, W.Va. – The West Virginia chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA), an Appalachian Catholic social justice organization based here, has released a statement opposing West Virginia House Bill 4012, the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The bill, which is scheduled for a vote as early as Thursday, would lead to state sanctioned religious-based bigotry against those in the LGBT community, according to the CCA.
CCA Coordinator Jeannie Kirkhope said, “We join with diverse critics of this legislation who fear that the bill would provide religious groups, businesses, and individuals with the ability to discriminate against sexual minorities and others on the grounds of ‘religious freedom.’”
The CCA opposition contradicts the official stance of the diocese – which includes all of West Virginia, though Kirkhope shared, “CCA engaged in dialogue with representatives of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to better understand the diocese’s public support for the bill.”
Despite that outreach, the CCA decided to publicly oppose the bill. Michael Iafrate, chair of the CCA Board of Directors and the author of the organization’s recently released People’s Pastoral, explained, “In urging opposition to the bill, the CCA statement cites the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on the preferential option for the poor and marginalized, the “Catechism of the Catholic Church’s” teaching opposing discrimination against gay and lesbian people (no. 2358), and the experience of marginalized people in states where similar laws have passed.”
The pastoral is guided by the concept of “The magisterium of the poor and the earth” – simply meaning that the people, too, speak with the same authority as the church’s leadership regarding the vital issues of the day. In the pastoral, Iafrate identified the challenges to the LGBT community in the pastoral, writing, “Some of fiercest hostility comes from people motivated by Christian teachings.”
In a statement regarding House Bill 4012, Kirkhope and Iafrate said, in part:
We appreciate the background of 1993 federal act with the same name, and the history leading up to it, with its pertinence to protecting Native American sacred lands and religious practices from governmental infringement … However, the primary motivation behind West Virginia’s bill # 4012, and others like it, seems not to be the protection of legitimate religious exercises, but securing the ability of religious groups to discriminate against marginalized populations on the basis of religious convictions. As CCA’s People’s Pastoral states, ‘[W]e must honestly acknowledge that even mainstream churches have served as havens of discrimination and hatred’ (p. 24).
“We oppose the bill because, first, we see no need for religious freedom to be ‘restored’ in West Virginia because, as a fundamental value written into the U.S. Constitution and protected by law, it is a freedom which has never been lost here …
“In addition, HB 4012 would be detrimental for the economy of the mountain state when it is already struggling with a lack of economic diversity due to the dominance of the extractive industry … This is why even West Virginia’s largest industries are opposed to HB 4012 ….
“Finally, Catholics are called by God to oppose discrimination in all of its forms. No religious conviction justifies our treatment of anyone as a second-class citizen. All are made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, religious freedom does not trump civil rights, as both are important and should be protected equally …
“Our Roman Catholic Church is one of the most powerful institutions in the nation and the state of West Virginia, commanding a tremendous amount of wealth and influence. It also teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. Whereas the First Amendment protects our Church’s privilege and teaching, we do not believe the legalization of gay marriage threatens either. We cannot claim social victimization, thus, reinforcement for freedom of religion by a state law is not necessary.
“We take issue with this bill, and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s support of it, because the use of our privilege to secure our own interests would endanger the civil rights of those most excluded in our midst. Roman Catholicism has historically fallen short in practicing equality and the protection of the dignity of the human person especially when that person has happened to be female or has had a sexual orientation other than that of the majority …
“Regardless of any stance on gay marriage, CCA, along with many other West Virginia Catholics, stands with women, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and all victims of discrimination, especially those who are targeted in the name of religion. Catholics can proudly and confidently demonstrate faithfulness to church teaching on discrimination precisely by opposing this bill. As one of our members who advocates for youth said, ‘We don’t need [HB 4012] and, on a very practical level, it would make it easier for people to make gay rural kids’ lives hell.’
“For these reasons, Catholic Committee of Appalachia says ‘No’ to HB 4012 on behalf the vulnerable and excluded people in our Diocese who would be most adversely affected if this bill were to pass: those facing joblessness, women, children and the LGBT community.”
About the Catholic Committee of Appalachia
Since 1970, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia has existed to serve Appalachia, her poor and the entire web of creation. Mountaintop removal, labor, private prison development, sustainable lifestyles and communities, poverty, health, clean water, racism and climate change are among those issues which CCA has addressed. CCA has taken responsibility for the organization and ongoing promulgation of two groundbreaking pastoral letters of the Catholic Bishops of Appalachia, “This Land is Home to Me” (1975) and “At Home in the Web of Life” (1995). It just published its third People’s Pastoral, “The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us.”
© Appalachian Chronicle, 2016
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Catholic Committee of Appalachia Asks Appalachia’s Bishops to Vigorously Support and Apply Pope’s Ecological Encyclical
Grassroots movement with 45-years of work in the region demands more of bishops than shown thus far
Special to the Appalachian Chronicle
SPENCER, W.Va. – The Catholic Committee of Appalachia, a grassroots Catholic social justice organization based here, has issued a statement to the bishop of West Virginia as well as the other bishops of the Appalachian region asking them to speak strongly on environmental justice matters in response to Pope Francis’ recent ecological encyclical.
The statement was initially conceived in response to the public comments of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield regarding the encyclical, titled Laudato Si’, which CCA found concerning. In a diocesan statement and numerous media interviews, Bransfield expressed his views on how the document would apply in his diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which includes all of West Virginia. The bishop’s comments appeared to downplay the pope’s strong message of economic change and the need to shift rapidly to alternative energy sources, changes which Bransfield claimed are “not financially feasible in West Virginia.”
The organization calls on the 26 bishops of the region to speak and act in the bold spirit of Pope Francis’ encyclical. The statement can be read here: CCA Statement to Appalachian Bishops.
The two letters, which were signed by CCA Coordinator Jeannie Kirkhope, follow:
Letter to Bransfield
Dear Bishop Bransfield,
Greetings in the Lord!
Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA) writes to you as an ally in the struggle for justice in our region. We thank you for your leadership as you issue statement after statement expressing sensitivity to the situation of the poor and marginalized in West Virginia and in our world. We also commend you and thank you for highlighting Pope Francis’ new ecological encyclical, Laudato Si’, in the media as it relates to the issues of poverty and ecological destruction in West Virginia. No other bishop in CCA’s network is issuing teachings or correlating the encyclical with distinctly Appalachian concerns as you have done.
As you know, one of our members, Michael Iafrate, put forth independent criticisms of your media comments in an article published in the July 1stt online edition of National Catholic Reporter. We want to express our concerns over those same comments which suggested that part of the encyclical is not applicable in our state right now. We feel quite the opposite is true. CCA has long held that Appalachia is “ground zero,” unique as a region where social, environmental and economic issues all coalesce to form a microcosm of the wider world. As the heart of Appalachia, West Virginia is actually the perfect place to start responding to each and every urgent challenge set forth by Laudato Si’, especially that of stepping away from fossil fuels. West Virginia has an incomparable ability to offer countless ways in which our national and international communities can address the concerns we face as a planet.
In light of this, following the release of Mr. Iafrate’s article, we were pleased your spokesman, Bryan Minor, initiated an informal, unofficial conversation with several of us in an online forum on CCA’s Facebook group page. This gave us hope that CCA might be able to dialogue with you directly and work together to respond to the pope’s message, a message that echoes many of the concerns of the first two Appalachian pastoral letters which animate our work as CCA. This correspondence, then, is also to extend that invitation, and call on you and your Appalachian brother bishops to speak boldly and act publically with us in response to the key imperatives of the encyclical that correlate most closely with our work for justice in the mountains as outlined on the following pages.
We are experiencing a beautiful, hopeful moment in the church. Catholics all over the region are thinking about Laudato Si’ which presents a wonderful opportunity for CCA and the bishops within Appalachia to reconnect and work together again. There is so much potential for different sectors of the church to do what they do best and to learn from each other in dialogue without fear.
We look forward to your further reflections on Laudato Si’, and on the two pastoral letters of your Appalachian predecessors, as they relate to the state of West Virginia. It is exciting to imagine discovering together more concrete steps toward local and regional responses to them. We pray for the Spirit’s wisdom in your words and in your continued work for God’s People.
Letters to other Appalachian bishops
Greetings in the Lord!
Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA) writes to you as an ally in the struggle for justice in our region. We are experiencing a beautiful, hopeful moment in the church. Catholics from all over are thinking about the Holy Father’s encyclical, Laudato Si’, which presents a wonderful opportunity for CCA and bishops of the region to reconnect and work together again.
CCA has long held that Appalachia is “ground zero,” unique as a region where social, environmental and economic issues all coalesce to form a microcosm of the wider world. Our region has an incomparable ability to offer countless ways in which our national and international communities can address the concerns we face as a planet. Therefore, we feel Appalachia is the perfect place to start responding to the challenges set forth by Laudato Si’.
This correspondence, then, is to extend an invitation to dialogue and to call on you and your Appalachian brother bishops to speak boldly and act publically with us in response to the key imperatives of the encyclical that correlate most closely with our work for justice in the mountains as outlined on the following pages.
There is so much potential for different sectors of the church to do what they do best and to learn from each other in dialogue without fear. We look forward to your reflections on Pope Francis’ message, and on the two pastoral letters of your Appalachian predecessors. It is exciting to imagine discovering together more concrete steps toward local and regional responses to them. We pray for the Spirit’s wisdom in your words and in your continued work for God’s People.
About the Catholic Committee of Appalachia
Since 1970, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia has existed to serve Appalachia, her poor and the entire web of creation. Mountaintop removal, labor, private prison development, sustainable lifestyles and communities, poverty, health, clean water, racism and climate change are among those issues which CCA has addressed. CCA was responsible for the organization and promulgation of two groundbreaking pastoral letters of the Catholic Bishops of Appalachia, “This Land is Home to Me” (1975) and “At Home in the Web of Life” (1995).
© The Catholic Committee of Appalachia, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
Special to the Appalachian Chronicle (See the related article CCA Challenges Appalachian bishops)
SPENCER, W.Va. – Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, offers the church in Appalachia much to reflect on for years to come. The way local churches might respond to this encyclical is not simple or straightforward. Families, local communities, and community organizations will need to carefully discern their responses in the upcoming months. And local bishops must engage in the difficult task of attending to conflicting voices and ideas in their own contexts. As a contribution toward clarity of thought and action, we are compelled to raise our collective voice and to make the following immediate, concrete suggestions to the bishops of our region.
(1) Employ an “integral ecology.”
Catholics in Appalachia notice when their bishops are tentative if not absent in publically voicing how Catholic social teaching relates to environmental issues specific to our region. Real concern has been expressed when bishops have placed near exclusive focus on a protectionist view of jobs—jobs which are declining as reliance on coal diminishes—while ignoring the exploitation of natural resources and ecological destruction that is still rampant in Appalachia.
Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA) has always insisted that human and ecological concerns are interrelated and must be addressed together. That is why we stand for and by miners in the struggle for worker justice, while, at the same time, fighting mountaintop removal and other socially and ecologically destructive practices of extractive industries, and we do not see any contradiction in doing so. Likewise, in Pope Francis’ encyclical, he sates, “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si’, no. 49).
CCA is in its 45th year of calling Appalachian bishops, Catholics and all people of good will to expand their views to include concerns for the whole, and we reiterate that call now.
(2) Expose and work to rectify the root causes of the region’s poverty, unemployment and ecological destruction.
This has been CCA’s prophetic voice in the region from the beginning. We are not aware of any current bishops clearly, strongly and unmistakably speaking out against industrial corporate interests, acknowledging the economic effects and structural violence they have inflicted on the people of Appalachia, both historically and in the present. (These industries include coal, gas, oil, timber and any corporate ventures that gain a profit at the expense of people, communities and creation, such as private prisons and factory farming.) When bishops neglect to do so, Catholics, the general public and industry itself are at risk of understanding that silence as approval of new industrial developments such as the expansion of oil and gas extraction that is spreading across the region in the form of hydraulic fracturing. This is an industry which has followed the same patterns as the coal industry, perhaps in even more destructive ways.
CCA publicly called for a moratorium on mountaintop removal mining in 1998. Without endorsement from the Church, in 2004, we offered an educational forum on the issue for bishops in the region. Statements from our church leaders in defense of God’s creation and people are in line with the “precautionary principle” Pope Francis encourages, namely that, “If objective information suggests that serious and irreversible damage may result, a project should be halted or modified, even in the absence of indisputable proof” (no. 186).
We ask Appalachian bishops to unambiguously call for a moratorium on mountaintop removal and other forms of extraction of natural resources that destroy God’s creation beyond repair, endanger communities, and poison residents, including babies in the womb. Although bishops may be working on these concerns indirectly through their lobbying Catholic Conferences, it is important for Catholics to hear our bishops publicly issue this challenge.
(3) Move concretely away from fossil fuels.
It is contradictory and damaging to the integrity of our faith tradition when bishops speak about justice, concern for the poor, and care for God’s creation while allowing their dioceses to benefit financially through investments in the very industries that structurally impose injustice, impoverish communities, and destroy creation.
Reducing and eliminating the use of fossil fuels and divesting of them while moving towards alternative renewable energy sources has been an ongoing educational theme of CCA. It is also a central imperative challenge that Pope Francis makes; and one that needs to be amplified by the church specifically in a region that most needs to hear the message. “A strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety, for it is not enough to include a few superficial ecological considerations while failing to question the logic which underlies present-day culture” (no. 197). There could be no more significant and profound shift in paradigms than coal country reducing the use of and divesting from coal.
CCA calls the church of Appalachia to explore, with diocesan finance councils, options for divestment from fossil fuels at the earliest opportunity and redirection of finances into socially responsible investments such as alternative energies. Other Catholic institutions, mainly colleges, have felt this contradiction and have divested from fossil fuels, and faith communities such as the Episcopal Church have divested as well. The church in Appalachia, of all places, needs to be taking leadership in this area.
(4) Partner with groups at the grassroots.
Catholic Committee of Appalachia, Christians for the Mountains, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition are examples of grassroots groups that are working to address regional justice issues on the ground and have decades of experience and wisdom to bring to the discussion. The encyclical aligns the Catholic Church with the grassroots climate movements like these, not with institutions that produce and ignore crisis. “Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest” (no. 13).
There are many ways that these groups and the church in Appalachia can connect and learn from one another: listening sessions, tours of rural communities affected by mining, theological reflection, prayer, and celebration. CCA would like Appalachian bishops to join us around the table for dialogue and clarification of thought of the Pope’s messages in Laudato Si’ and to see how they can be fully implemented in Appalachia. For starters, we invite them to CCA’s Annual Gathering, September 18-20 at St. John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston, W.Va. See our CCA website for more detailed information.
© The Catholic Committee of Appalachia, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
Consuming and wasting upsets the ecological balance and is inherently unjust
By Michael M. Barrick
ALUM BRIDGE, W.Va. – When the environmental encyclical by Pope Francis is released Thursday, it will launch a critical philosophical and political debate. Indeed, at least one writer has predicted that the encyclical is a revolutionary assault upon capitalism.
It probably will be. And, it is long overdue. What the pope is doing is addressing the root cause of climate chaos – unbridled materialism that leads to consuming and wasting that upsets the planet’s delicate ecological balance. It also creates huge injustices in distribution of vital resources such as food and water, which then creates a whole new set of problems, not the least of which is war. Of course, we shouldn’t forget famine, pestilence, inadequate or nonexistent medical care and education.
In short, the threats of climate chaos cannot be overstated.
Here, in the heart of West Virginia, this is not just a philosophical debate. It is reality. Public health and safety, the environment, the economy and human services are all compromised by the Mountain State’s reliance upon a fossil fuel mono-economy. In the southern reaches of the state, it is Mountaintop Removal (MTR).
To learn more about MTR, read these articles:
Citing Medical Studies, Activists Call for End to Mountaintop Removal Permits
Federal and State Agencies Targeted for Lax Oversight of Mountaintop Removal
Environmental Groups target W.Va. DEP over Mountaintop Removal Permitting
Here, in the central and northern section of West Virginia – as well as in neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania – the threat is fracking, a slang word for hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting a fluid consisting of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale. This fractures the rock, releasing natural gas, which is then extracted. In West Virginia, the Marcellus shale, a layer of rock 3,500 – 8,000 feet below the surface, is the object of fracking. The vertical depth of the formation is about 150 feet. Whether recovered or left behind, the frack fluid presents problems. The wastewater contains not only the chemicals added to the water, but also heaving minerals and radioactive materials recovered as part of the extraction process.
You can read several articles about the impact of fracking here:
A Dirty Dozen Reason to Oppose Fracking
Attorney Crisscrosses West Virginia and Beyond to Teach About Pipelines
Victim in Fracking Accident had Warned County Commissioners of Roadway Dangers
Voices Out of the Wilderness
Incompetency and Complacency Increases Dangers from Fracking
From ‘Almost Heaven’ to ‘Almost Hell’
Breaking Ground, Breaking Hearts
Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry
Filmmaker Finds Compelling Story in Her Own ‘Backyard’
These stories indicate that Pope Francis understands that the debate about climate chaos is beyond determining its validity. The facts are clear; the climate is changing. It is doing so rapidly and unpredictably. That is why referring to it as climate chaos is most appropriate. Change sounds slow and benign. What we are experiencing is anything but that. We are experiencing weather swings that can only be described as chaotic – and deadly, whether immediately as in natural disasters or over time, through public health epidemics and ecological destruction. Its source is not a mystery. It is excess by humankind.
That he would speak to the subject is not surprising. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states, “The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”
What gives offense, apparently, is that the pope actually is going to offer a prescription for what ails us – conserve, consider your neighbor and care for creation. Good shepherds lead their sheep. Pope Francis is doing so.
I suppose in some quarters, the concept of taking care of your home is foreign. So, caring for one’s neighbor is likely considered a rather quaint notion. The teachings of Jesus Christ, however, are the opposite. Apparently, this pope takes very seriously his apostolic calling to proclaim the Gospel – all of it.
Let those who have ears to hear take it as seriously as he does.
© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider supporting our independent writing by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships. Learn more.
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