Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Going Green with Benedict XVI?

Father John J. Lombardi

"The Vatican is going green." That's the headline of a news story I read recently. Maybe you heard about "green protestors" in San Francisco and in the Black Sea/Russia protesting oil spills there. Or: ready now for Thanksgiving's New Uncle Ben's Wild Rice Pilaf? Then there's ever-present recycling? -- seems everyone's doing it-and ditto for green tea. And: Is there Global warming? These are all good considerations, and we should-esp. as Catholics-ponder them, and possibly "go green" as much as we can. And yet: as we see pictures of dead, oil-encrusted birds and see one too many strip malls erected-stop and think: when was the last time you saw a baby-fetus killed by abortion (early or late trimester). Literally thousands occur every day.

So let's now check in with our Holy Father. Pope Benedict has said we should not exploit the resources of the earth and neglect what God has given us; nor do injustice to the poor-calling this "irresponsible exploitation" He also spoke to young people about the water supply and "nature's delicate equilibrium", and also stated we need "to make courageous choices" to bring about unity of Man and earth." So: Going green w/ Benedict XVI?

What's up with all this? It seems from the pervasiveness of organic vegetables to recycled envelopes, to promoting of Native American spirituality to the Pope himself that "going green" is The Wave of the Present. There's a lotta' good to this and, well, some balance needed.

For too long we (Americans especially) used too much oil, sometimes bought large, unnecessary cars (especially today--ya' notice?), eaten lotza food and spoiled beautiful environments (you can be both a conservationists and a conservative, now, can't ya?); gotten sick from chemical-technological-complex overexposure (in office environments as well as stripped coal mine areas); and basically committed a kinda' partial-racial genocide by betraying the Native American Indians in so many ways. Yes/ no brainier: we need to be greener.

Hey-let's get positive-and green. I admire one growing family, already with a bunch of kids and who are eschewing the generic McMansion and, rather, re-designing their smallish house for more usable space. I respect the family who has only one car and the parents do a lotta walking and car-sharing. I'm enthused about the family that is trying to buy and grow more local and homegrown foods-and be healthier. I dig the folks who are into St Hildegard of Bingen (mediaeval abbess-1098-1197) who counseled popes and fashioned herbal-medical cures and wrote mystical music for peace body and soul. And: I certainly appreciate all the faith-filled folks who make me humus and lentil soup and veggies galore!

But now let's consider some observations. How many environmentalists consider God and family and traditional morality as most important? Obviously some do (there are many evangelical environmentalists who believe in both the Precious Blood and the precious water supply). However: sometimes an anti-Western and anti-Christian spirit exists in some groups. Not all are like this, but some are reflexively so. Also: many paradoxically do not consider the human, nascent child as "part of the environment" or nature-- to be protected. Instead some want "rights" to kill the child in the womb but will instead heroically protect an animal. As Mother Teresa said it is tragic when someone kills a child and: how can you then pray for peace in this world? We need tree huggers and child lovers; peaceniks as well as organic potato growers. Point: We need to hear environmentalists speak of nature and God. The Lord is sometimes removed from the picture. Let's encourage environmentalists to have the same passion when they speak of ecology as with God; let's be religious and recycle at the same time. Let's also help folks be aware that we cannot replace God with anything. Let's now realize that environmentalism without God is not possible for Catholic and Christians. Pope Benedict is leading us in the right kind of environmentalism

I was recently talking to a university professor with a simple lifestyle, large family and generosity and intellect to boot. He said the Most Important Issue Today is the Family and Belief. There are many important issues -including environmentalism-but which may indeed, however unwittingly, distract us from What Is Really Important-and immanent-what we need most Right Now. It's not a question of "either-or" but both/and: Family and God first; others things second. Look at the Sweden, this wise guy said-a most-environmentally-friendly country: yet it is largely irreligious and the family is neglected and rejected. They may be going green but also lean-on morality, children and the family. Also: he said when you get first things first, second things come along; but when you don't then failure ensues. Next: when you remove God and the supernatural, eventually false humanisms fail the world and may create more chaos. Besides: Popes John Paul II and Benedict have spoken eloquently about the environment while always preserving the First Commandment: God First. If you analyze the time popes (and bishops) speak on environment compared to morality or sacraments or spirituality, there's a big difference. The proportion is indicative of importance and focus and need. Last: as this man's lifestyle demonstrates-walk the walk, don't just talk the talk. He lives, as I now think about it, a kinda' eco-friendly life (although he wouldn't say so!) and loves the Lord (in worship and bible sharing) and loves others (thru teaching, helping). Come to think of it, he lives not only so others may simply live, but supernaturally live. Now, how many are this balanced?

Maybe you think that, because of this Policy: God First and Family-that others think you're a dinosaur (that'd might be helpful: they're green!), so here are some responses: God is the Most Important Issue of Life (the First Commandment); the family and brotherhood of mankind next and yes: environment is also up there. But until we get the priorities straight we will be killing one another thru abortion, family breakdown which rivals global meltdown Here are some other responses:

In a way the first environmentalists and "go-greeners" were Saint Benedict (home grown foods and a little vino good for bodily health!); the Desert Fathers (made wicker baskets, and tilled the soil), and St Francis (talked to animals, used few resources. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurine were Catholic homesteaders and "neo agrarians" (and some live today in New York and elsewhere). So, Catholics should remember, and remind folks:

1-We are worshipping-honoring the Creator of this beautiful creation: actually we see the world as a "theophany" (manifestation of the God) as in: Bless the Lord-all your works of the Lord (Dan. 3). 2-We are trying to live simply so others simply live. 3. Less is more: possessions; usage of food and energy (less gas guzzlers luxury cars), etc. 4-Our Catholic-Christian heritage of saints (see above) cues us to creativity, simplicity and ecological friendliness-and God orderedness…As usual we need balance in all things.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi