A Commentary on the U.S. Catholic Conference
By Stephanie Block
This commentary is submitted to the Catholic Bishops of the United States. It is essential to note its limited purpose and scope:
- This commentary is intended for the use of the Catholic Bishops of the United States in their consideration of the issues discussed. However, it will also be made available to other interested parties.
- This commentary endeavors only to set forth facts. It does not call into question the good faith or integrity of anyone involved with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) or the United States Catholic Conference (USCC).
- This commentary is entirely directed to issues of prudence and judgment rather than legality and good faith. The discussion herein is intended merely to raise legitimate questions about specific USCC activities.
- The scope of the Commentary will not directly examine the structure of the NCCB/USCC, but will argue and provide evidence that elements within the USCC manifest serious and disturbing disunity on matters of faith and morals, which therefore require corrections due to the enormous influence of the Conferences.
The elements of USCC activity to be examined for evidence of disunity are:
- Public affiliations of the Conference and its committees;
- Creation of ecotheology;
- Expenditures through the Conference for benevolent purposes;
- Publications associated with the Conference;
- Lobbying and public policy efforts of the Conference.
The National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRPE) is a formal, ecumenical alliance between the USCC and three other religious bodies: 1
- National Council of Churches
- Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
- Evangelical Environmental Network
Paul Gorman, former Vice President of Public Affairs and Advocacy at New York City's Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, is the founder and executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. The secretarial office of the NRPE remains at the Cathedral and Gorman is quite open about the influence its "visionary ecumenism" has had on his own ambition to encourage religious ecology "to branch throughout the entire faith community."2
The cathedral has been home to the Gaia Institute, whose work is to test the Gaia Hypothesis that the planet earth is not simply an environment, but is "in fact a living organism, a self-sustaining system which modifies its surroundings so as to ensure its survival."3 It has also supported the work of Thomas Berry, professor at Fordham University, and his theological interpretations of this hypothesis. "This re-entrenchment with the earth as a living reality is the condition for our rescue of the earth from the impending destruction we are imposing upon it. To carry this out effectively, we must now, in a sense, reinvent the human as species within the community of life species. Our sense of reality and of value must consciously shift from an anthropocentric to a biocentric norm of reference."4 Berry's ideas have filtered into local Catholic parishes by the recommendation of his work in several USCC publications, particularly the first USCC/NRPE parish resource kit, "Renewing the Face of the Earth."5
1. The National Council of Churches (NCC): In 1985, Rael and Eric Isaac wrote that "In the wake of publicity about the weakness of the NCC for despotisms of the left in Reader's Digest and 60 Minutes, the United Methodist Reporter, the largest independent Methodist newspaper, conducted its own study and found that there was indeed a 4-1 disproportion in the number of resolutions critical of non-Communist countries as against Communist countries. Moreover, the Reporter found these figures understated the difference, because criticisms of Communist countries were confined on the whole to narrow issues . . . while condemnations of non-Communist countries were sweeping."6
A more recent analysis reports: "A 1990 NCC mission study on Central America referred to 'the success of the socialist revolution in Cuba' as a model for the rest of Latin America. In 1993, the NCC General Board adopted resolutions calling for an end to the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba and for extending diplomatic relations to North Korea, while ignoring continuing human rights abuses in each. A 1993 mission study on the Caribbean proclaimed the wisdom of liberation theology and the glories of the Castro regime in Cuba."7
This analysis also discloses various grants given by the NCC, which included $10,000 to a group in Peru for presenting "varied concepts of God."
2. The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life: The founding statement of COEJL begins with a list of "the most pressing of [ecological] threats," which includes "exponential population growth." It identifies part of its mission as "mobilizing our community towards . . . practices which promote environmental sustainability."8
3. Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN): The EEN was initiated by two organizations. Evangelicals for Social Action, and World Vision, "as part of a growing movement among Christians to respond faithfully to . . . [the] biblical mandate for caring stewardship of God's creation."9 It has issued "On the Care of Creation: An Evangelical Declaration." This document states, among other things: "Many of these degradations [land degradation, deforestation, species extinction, water degradation, global toxification, the alteration of the atmosphere, and human and cultural degradation] are signs that we are pressing against the finite limits God has set for creation. With continued population growth, these degradations will become more severe."10
1. Declaration of the "Mission to Washington": In 1992, the NRPE (called Religion and Science for the Environment at the time) issued a Joint Appeal, stating among other things: ". . . [T]he human community grows by a quarter of a million people every day, mostly in the poorest nations and communities. That this crisis was brought about in part through inadvertence does not excuse us. . . . We signers of this declaration -- leaders in religion and science -- call upon our government to change national policy so that the United States will begin to ease, not continue to increase, the burdens on our biosphere and their effect upon the planet's people… We believe there is a need for concerted efforts to stabilize world population by humane, responsible, and voluntary means consistent with our differing values." (emphasis added)11
2. Resource Kits: In conjunction with the NRPE, the United States Catholic Conference has engaged in a number of initiatives. For three successive years (1994-1996), the joint activity of NRPE/USCC has produced parish resource kits on environmental issues that have been distributed to every parish in the United States.12 It has produced what the NRPE calls "a definitive Catholic reader," And God Saw That It Was Good. It has also engaged in environmentally related public policy activity that includes, again according to NRPE, such issues as "sustainable development in foreign aid."13
3. "Renewing the Face of the Earth": This is a video produced by Union of Concerned Scientists in cooperation with the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. Its images are manipulative: animals are depicted as cute or majestic and the scenery is beautiful and contrasted to pictures of human overcrowding or destructiveness (pollution, bulldozing, etc.) The video promotes a new theology and attempts to create a new sense of "sin." It also develops the concept of reconciliation with the other species of life. One scene takes place in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which houses NRPE, and shows a procession of animals and plants, including an elephant, goats, and birds of prey. NRPE Director Paul Gorman describes the reactions (which the viewer doesn't see). "People wept . . . They were perceiving a moment of reconciliation." The narrator says, "The challenge of the churches and synagogues is to open their doors and welcome life inside our congregations and inside our hearts." By implication, the video is saying that the churches and synagogues have not been open to welcoming life. The authors of the video fail to recognize Life, in the person of the Creator of Life, through His Word and His Presence in those places that worship Him (particularly in His Eucharistic Presence), and substitute instead merely "living creatures" Of particular concern is the video's subtle message about population control. Michal Smart, Director of COEJL, expands the notion of a Sabbath rest. "Rather than creating unceasingly, the Sabbath teaches us to say 'enough,' to stop creating. Leave the world as it is." Calvin DeWitt, of the Au Sable Institute, which is a partner with the Evangelical Environmental Network (a NRPE partner) speaks of the "immense cost" of preserving the species. The video shows scenes of a crowded city, and then expands outward to show an image of North America at night as seen from a satellite. "That's the planet at night, dotted with light," the commentator observes. "The lights are human presence. How much light can the planet tolerate?" The video also espouses a revisionist scripture. Noah's flood is retold in such a way that the flood is not a punishment of God to personal sin, but an environmental issue concerning "preservation of the species." Calvin DeWitt translates a passage in Genesis as: "Adam was asked to serve the garden." His exegesis was that the garden served us with its fruit and we in turn served the garden. Between the garden and mankind there was a "con-service," that is, conservation. The Hebrew verb in the passage, however, says man was put in the garden to "keep" it (sh'mar: keep, or guard), not "serve" it as a maid or waiter. We cannot "serve" what is impersonal. Another speaker on the video, Fr. Drew Christensen S.J., who directs the USCC Office of Peace and International Justice and who co-edited the USCC collection of environmental essays, And God Saw That It Was Good, stated that this command to keep the garden was the first and most fundamental command, coming before the Decalogue. The first command, however, was not to keep the garden, but to obey God (specifically, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).
4. Scholars Conferences: While USCC fosters a number of predominantly Catholic conferences and scholarly activity related to environmental concerns (see section III B 6 of this Commentary), it also participates in similar activity from an ecumenical perspective, along with other NRPE members. One example was the Religion and Ecology Conference Series at Harvard University from February 1998-July 1998.14 Walter Grazer, director of the USCC Environmental Justice Program, spoke at a Conference on Christianity and Ecology at Harvard University, which included Rosemary Radford Ruether, Thomas Berry, Daniel Maguire, and Elizabeth Johnson as representatives of the Catholic ecological position.15 The Conference contained sessions on "Responses to Population and Consumption Growth," "Broadening the Scope of Ethics," and "Public Policies for Sustainability" that included an address on "Doing Theology on a Small Planet." Paul Gorman, Director of the NRPE and Walter Grazer filled out a panel on the "Praxis of the Churches." As a second example, Grazer, representing the USCC at a "Dialogue on Global Climate Change" in October 1998, moderated a panel about "Religious Perspectives on Climate Change."16 One panelist claimed that, "a casual attitude toward global warming ought to be viewed as a sin."17
5. National Policy: The President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD), which has as its eighth goal the "reduced rate of population growth in the United States and the world," heard from religious leaders in 1995 during a roundtable meeting in San Francisco. NRPE executive director Paul Gorman is quoted in Chapter 5 of the PCSD publication Sustainable Development: A New Consensus that "the American religious community can make a profound contribution to the search for sustainability." The publication articulates the need to develop public participation, education, and collaborations in meeting the national goals toward sustainable development. The NRPE, targeting faith communities, is an organization that can tap into the "social capital" sought by the PCSD and bring about an "increase in citizen engagement and public trust".18
6. UN Policy: The NRPE and several of its associated organizations actively assist the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP -- Regional Office for North America) "to bring together the forces of religion and ecology."19 The United Nations Environment Programme cosponsored the culminating event of the above-mentioned 1998 Religion and Ecology Conference Series.20 Conference information, indicating strong NRPE representation, states that "participants from the Harvard conferences on Religions of the World and Ecology will report to the larger UN and NGO Community on what these [various religious] traditions have to offer for renewing human-earth relations."21 As there was no public outcry from the USCC, the highly controversial representatives for "Catholic" thought, who were speakers at the Conference Series, have been given the ability to present and shape environmentally related global policies.
Although the environmental activity and various writings emerging from a number of USCC departments have the backing of a number of bishops, they do not carry the full weight of support from the NCCB and therefore are not binding on the faithful. Despite this, documents produced by one USCC department are used as a precedent for actions and public policy emanating from another. In this way, all manner of environmentally related material has been disseminated nationally in the name of the Catholic Church, whether or not it is completely reflective of Catholic social justice teaching.
1. "Called to Global Solidarity": In 1997, SDWP produced a document, "Called to Global Solidarity: International Challenges for US Parishes."22 The subsidiary function of the parish, in this document, is replaced by encouragement of each Catholic parish to reach "beyond its own members and beyond national boundaries" that it may become "a truly 'catholic' parish." Among the issues over which it calls for increased global solidarity, the document states: "We will continue to oppose population policies that insist on the inclusion of abortion among the methods of family planning…" And later on it says, "…the recent decline in resources for sustainable development must be reversed." The document strikingly offers no opposition to other population policies that use "family planning" to limit population growth. Rather, the document appears to obliquely provide support for those policies when it gives assent to the concept of "sustainable development," a term that has been defined as including the arrest of population growth.23
2. Public Policy: The February 1999 Environmental Justice Backgrounder of Public Policy produced by the USCC Office of Social Development and World Peace included the topic of "International environmental issues." In this section, the backgrounder raises the issue of the Kyoto Treaty, which mandates the reduction of "greenhouse emissions." The backgrounder describes only that opposition based on economic considerations: "…opposition is based on . . . fear that the Kyoto Treaty would place the U.S. economy at a competitive disadvantage…"24 The backgrounder fails to mention that there is strong opposition from the scientific community against the "junk science" propelling much of the alarm over this issue, as well as profound concern about the governance issues the Protocol raises.25 The backgrounder also mentions that the bishops' Domestic Policy and International Policy Committees have established an Advisory Panel to study the issue of global climate change. The NRPE, meanwhile, of which the USCC is a well-publicized partner, has not only pledged to work for approval of the Kyoto Protocol but "plans to have members of the clergy and lay lobbyists focus on senators from nine states," coordinating advocacy work in congregations across the region.26
EJP is an office of the USCC Department of Social Development and World Peace. According to Jill Ortman-Fouse, EJP Program Specialist, the EJP was launched in 1993 as "a part" of the NRPE.27 In 1995, Walter Grazer, director of the USCC-EJP, addressed the Campaign for Human Development 25th Anniversary Celebration and stated that the EJP aimed "to get environmental concerns on the map for Catholics" and that "taking care of God's creation should be a matter of faith."28
1. Illicit development of "doctrine": Jill Ortman-Fouse, moderator of a workshop at the 1996 Catholic Social Justice Ministry Gathering and USCC-EJP Program Specialist, described the various programs of the USCC-EJP.29 They include a small grants program, a scholars project, leadership development -- including an annual leadership retreat, and an environmental network. Concerning the scholars project, Ortman-Fouse said that it was in this project that "we're extending Catholic social teaching about the environment through theological scholarship," and from the base of this extended social teaching would be developing USCC public policy relevant to the environmental debate.
2. "Pirating" religious sentiment for environmental support: Kathy Dubel, Director of the Justice and Peace Department of the Diocese of Rochester also spoke at the 1996 Catholic Social Justice Ministry Gathering."30 She spoke of having "pirated" a St. Francis Day program, which had attracted people -- particularly Third Order Franciscans -- because of its devotional promise. The program was used to identify potential recruits for the diocesan environmental justice committee. Responding to this description of "pirating" a religious program, Ortman-Fouse, USCC-EJP Program Specialist, assured workshop participants that it was encouraged. ("…which we encourage.") Dubel also described how the NRPE/USCC-EJP environmental resource kit, "Peace with God" was used in her diocese.31 The article taken from that kit, "Environmental Hazards and Children -- Born and Unborn," was used to connect environmental concerns to the state Catholic Conference's legislative agenda by putting it "under the category of 'protecting human life.' 32 The issue is 'insured equity in the location of toxic waste sites.' So we talked about a consistent life ethic approach to the Catholic Conference agenda and lifted out other issues, including the environmental issue. This [the article in the NRPE/USCC kit] was an important resource. We were able to lift out pieces of this to explain social justice ministry and why it's protecting human life." This appears to be a second example of the Diocese of Rochester's Justice and Peace Department "pirating" religious sentiment (namely, the Catholic pro-life ethic) for environmental purposes.
3. Parish Resource Kits: A National Catholic Reporter editorial describes the EJP education work this way: "Not only do they ensure that the pro-environment sentiment is inserted into episcopal statements . . . but they bombard parishes across the land. More than 20,000 'resource kits' have been distributed to U.S. parishes in the past three years…"33
a. Resource kit #1: "Renewing the Face of the Earth," while affirming the evil of coercive population control programs or incentives, promotes natural family planning as a means to address population issues (p. 7). The message, however, is that responsible parents will limit the size of their families. "In addressing population issues, respect for the inherent dignity of the person . . . and protection of the inherent right of parents to decide freely and responsibly on the number of children and the spacing of births are guiding principles. Alleviation of poverty and disease, improvement of living conditions and wider educational opportunities, as well as recognition of women's rights and potentialities, contribute to responsible decision-making regarding child-bearing and parenting."34 Later, the resource states: "Population is a major factor in sustainable development. As the bishops state in [the 1992 USCC Pastoral Statement] Renewing the Earth: 'Even though it is possible to feed a growing population, the ecological costs of doing so ought to be taken into account.' . . . Also, respect for cultural norms, natural family planning, and responsible parenthood should be promoted."35 The implication is that, to stave off a growing population, the responsible Christian limits the size of his or her family.
The kit's "Penitential Litany" appears to provide a confession of environmental sins "How many species must we abuse and extinguish . . . For our sins and failings, O God, we ask forgiveness."36
b. Resource kit #2: "Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All Creation," includes two disturbing articles. One, "Environmental Hazards and Children -- Born and Unborn," attempts to draw on the moral outrage against abortion and apply it to pollution.37 The second, "Naysayers and Doomsayers: How Do We Sort Out the Differences in the Ongoing Environmental Debate," recognizes that a number of the environmental concerns (e.g. global warming and human population growth) on the NRPE/USCC agenda are subject to intense scientific disagreement.38 The article comes to an extraordinary conclusion: ". . . in science some views are more valid than others because they represent a consensus. . . . Once scientists reach a consensus, the views of the few remaining skeptics do not deserve equal weight . . . if enough evidence is given to create reasonable doubt and indicate that society's present course could threaten the quality of life for our descendants, it is justifiable and prudent to throw our weight on the side of those predicting severe environmental harm." The first assertion, that "truth" is determined by consensus, viciously politicizes science. The second, that scientific uncertainty is no reason to dissuade one from a course of action grounded in fear and personal conviction is anti-intellectual.
c. Resource kit #3: "Let the Earth Bless the Lord," provides dozens of examples of environmental activism from around the United States and then expands its political message into the global arena.39 From the fairly benign, if not almost naive, parish activities of "planting a butterfly garden" (p. 6, Holy Family Catholic Educational Center in San Jose, California), the resource kit moves into a "Call to Solidarity and Global Environmental Stewardship" section. "The Church has as one of its primary functions the educative role of helping believers and other people of good will form their consciences so that they can see environmental issues as having moral content."40
4. Environmental Justice Small Grants Program/Regional Justice Grants: Several hundred thousand dollars of environmental grants have been distributed through the EJP (under the Social Development and World Peace Office of the USCC), according to Walter Grazer, EJP Director.41 These grants include:
a. St. Francis Prayer Center, Flint, Michigan:42 received $1,500 through a 1997 EJP small grant, as well as $30,000 in 1996-1997, $35,000 in 1997-1998, and $30,000 in 1998-1999 from the (Catholic) Campaign for Human Development. The Detroit News investigative report discovered that the St. Francis Prayer Center received money from the Environmental Protection Agency "expressly for the purpose of influencing local elected officials . . . It is wholly inappropriate for a federal agency to use federal taxpayer dollars to fund activist groups to lobby local officials."43
b. Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Seattle, Washington:44 received $1,500 through a 1997 EJP small grant to "develop, distribute and monitor a three-part education and action project that includes a K-12 curriculum, a household and parish community packet . . . and dissemination of information to 1,000 Catholic leaders in the peace and justice network.45 The Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center is a Call to Action "Church Renewal Organization."46 Its educational credentials include the sponsorship of the Northwest Women's Convocation, "Spirituality for the 21st Century," that featured as keynote speakers Call to Action dissidents Joan Chittister, OSB and Edwina Gately.47
c. River of Life Initiative, Detroit, Michigan: received a $6,000 EJP regional grant in 1998. The project, a commitment of the Archdiocese of Detroit, seeks to clean up the Clinton River and is part of a larger, $16 million NRPE environmental movement to "bring care for God's creation to the heart of religious life and to play our part in protecting the Earth's sacred environment."48
5. Environmental Justice Program Sponsored Events: In May 1999, the EJP co-sponsored a meeting of Catholic university faculties of theology and science with Portland University.49 At the Conference, the first draft of a new pastoral letter on the Columbia River50 was presented to scholars from around the nation. According to John Hart, a theology professor who served on the Project Steering Committee, "what is most significant about the new pastoral letter is that the bishops define the common good in a much broader sense than any pastoral letter has done before. 'Instead of talking about the common good in social, legal, and political terms, the bishops use the term to refer to both people and other members of the community of life,' that is, to the totality of life on earth."51 The pastoral draft says: "Evils present periodically in the watershed include racism, sexism, classicism, and speciesism: attitudes that one's own . . . species is superior to, independent of, and has the right to dominate another . . . species to satisfy one's needs and wants." It also calls for the Columbia watershed to be a "sacramental." "The Columbia watershed should be a sacramental… The Columbia watershed, then, is intended by God as a sacramental commons."52 Historian Lynn White, another Conference speaker, "Put the blame for the world's environmental problems squarely at Christianity's feet… White asserted that a marriage between human-centered Christian theology deriving from the Middle Ages and Western expansionist goals had produced a ruthless attitude toward nature." Yet another speaker, Fr. Kevin W. Irwin, said that he found "theological fundamentalism -- holding fast to familiar theological approaches and formulas --to be a bigger obstacle than biblical fundamentalism to developing a new environmental theology… In contrast to the historic human-centered focus of Christian theology, an adequate theology of the environment understands justice, not only in human terms 'but of and for the whole earth,' he said." Monica Hellwig described some of the objectives for developing Catholic environmental thought. Among those objectives "is the major task of growing in our understanding of the different ways that 'faith and science construe and interpret reality'." Walter Grazer, director of the USCC Environmental Justice Program, lauded the new pastoral letter as "another important step . . . because it 'provides a vision' and 'gives legitimacy' to the environmental movement'."53
Kathy Dubel, Director of the Justice and Peace Department of the Diocese of Rochester identified the CHD as a partner in addressing environmental issues through its grants.54
1. Sustainable Milwaukee: CHD gave Sustainable Milwaukee an award of $35,000 in 1997-1998 and $40,000 in 1998-1999. Sustainable Milwaukee is identified as an environmental grant because, as a member of Sustainable America, it sees "sustainable economic development is a key to structural or systemic change with far-reaching implications for the environment, quality of life, economic well-being, and in a very fundamental way, our ability to control what happens in the here and now and in the future," according to Elaine Gross, executive chairman of Sustainable America.55 Sustainable America's objective, "to advance public policies that sustain economic development," sounds innocuous.56 However, as an initiative developed in response to -- and fueled by -- federal guidelines in sustainability, stabilization of the U.S. population must be understood as one of its environmental "goals."57 Also of concern is that Sustainable Milwaukee was created by the progressive political party. The New Party.58 Supporters explain that: "The initiative's political independence is not in any party label (Sustainable Milwaukee is not an electoral organization), but in the radical agenda it promotes, providing a model of progressive alternatives and sparking considerable grassroots activism. It allowed the Milwaukee New Party to organize the grassroots effort behind a 'Living Wage' campaign…"59
2. Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ): SWOP and SNEEJ are related organizations60 that have been recipients of CHD money.61 Particularly interesting is that the current co-director of SWOP, Jeanne Gauna, serves on the Boards of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.62 SWOP is ideologically Marxist. Rose Shaw, on the editorial board of swop's newsletter and her husband Emil, who has written for the newsletter and serves as a member of its photography staff, are openly communists.63 Articles in the SWOP newsletter over the years include support for the Sandinistas, the Zapatistas and achievement of sovereignty of indigenous peoples.64 SWOP is a highly political organization and is running its current co-chair, Michael Leon Guerrero as a candidate for City Council. A good percentage of Guerrero's campaign contributions have come from fellow SWOP members.65
3. CHD Educational Materials: "Poverty and Faithjustice"66 is CCHD-prepared material intended for use by small groups "in a context of faith and prayer."67 It is designed as a guide for six facilitated sessions in which the facilitator is to "encourage everyone to participate and to do so from personal experience and conviction rather than from abstract theories or ideologies."68 The sessions are structured to present and persuade participants about the validity of a particular ideology. Session I, for example, asks the question: "Who is poor in the US? Why are people poor in a wealthy society?" The guided conclusion is that poverty will require fundamental changes in the social and economic structures of the United States. Although touching on behavioral reasons for poverty (divorce, addictions, laziness, etc.), the emphasis is clearly on societal issues. Session 2 examines the difference poverty makes in the lives of both the poor and nonpoor, given that the United States is a wealthy and democratic society. "Why should poverty be a concern to people of faith?" The guided conclusion of the material is that poverty is not in the self-interest of Americans. "Some commentators claim that concentrated poverty diminishes the overall wealth of the economy. Others hold that poverty jeopardizes the vitality of democracy inasmuch as it alienates people . . . gives more power to those who possess wealth rather than those who promote the common good." It then directs the participant to reflect on the creation of a "just society" in which all systems, structures, and individuals promote the common good. The third session focused around the questions "What is God's vision for human life? What moral principles regarding poverty are called forth by God's vision?" guides the participant to consider solely material answers. The fourth session, asking how the US economy can be evaluated from a faith perspective and what can people of faith do about poverty in the US answers the question by promoting both direct services (food, clothing, and shelter) and the support for "social/system change." Political activism, the material explains is the way to accomplish social change. Session 5 asks, "Who is responsible for dealing with poverty in the US? What can those responsible about poverty do about the causes of poverty?" The answer is provided by an excerpt lifted from the US bishops' Economic Justice for All: Catholic Social Justice Teaching and the US Economy.69 "We also carry our moral responsibility to assist and empower the poor by working collectively through government to establish just and effective public policies." The last session deals with the problem of how people of faith help shape a just society. The answers provided by the CCHD material are community organizing and support of the CCHD.
Given the intensity of USCC efforts to make environmental issues a substantial facet of Church concern, it is not surprising to find that new Catholic educational materials reflect this. One such program is Sadlier's "Proclaiming Catholic Social Teaching," a series of grade-appropriate texts from kindergarten through high school.70 Using the seven social justice themes identified by the USCC, 5 year olds are taught that God wants people to take care of all living things. Nine year olds are taught that, "we are responsible for everything in our environment." Taking a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church out of context, teenagers are taught that "Our worship of God, in the Body of Christ . . . 'is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred.' (CCC # 1179)"71
- The United States Catholic Conference should not be affiliated with the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. NRPE materials do not accurately represent the relationship between mankind, nature and God, nor do they reflect the reality of human population concerns. Such distortions contradict the Catholic perspective on environmental issues. In addition, NRPE materials also present highly controversial perspectives as scientific "facts."72 For these reasons, it is highly imprudent for the United States Catholic Conference to engage in any partnership or collaborative efforts with the NRPE.
- The United States Catholic Conference should not manufacture ecotheology or permit pro-life "spins" to ecological issues. Environmental issues are valid, in and of themselves. Environmental activists do not need to artificially force them into a "spiritual" wrapper, nor do they need to give them pro-life validation. To do so mocks the devotional impulse, saps the pro-life movement, and makes environmental activists appear pagan and/or devious. For these reasons, the Wanderer Forum Foundation recommends that the USCC discourage the development of "ecotheology" and similar theological novelties. Legitimate environmental activism should be pursued in a straightforward manner.
- The United States Catholic Conference and associated bodies should not fund any organization nor support any material, which uses popular education techniques.73 Organizing through the techniques of conscientization and consensus-building is manipulative of people's values and beliefs. This is inherently unethical and a direct attack against the dignity and personal freedom of the individual. The USCC should withdraw all support from any materials or programs that operate by such means.
- The environmental activity and materials coming from the USCC require greater oversight. Its material must be thoroughly scrutinized for doctrinal validity. Similarly, activities undertaken in the name of the Conference require greater oversight.
- The USCC should not lose sight of its primary mission. While environmental issues are of legitimate concern to all people, they do not carry the import of the Gospel message. The Church must not permit Her essential message to be overwhelmed by subsidiary issues that are the proper work of the laity. Enormous Church resources are used to pay for NRPE activities.74 We recommend that those resources be used toward the Church's proper mission of evangelization or good works.75
This commentary is offered for the consideration of the bishops in a spirit of objective inquiry. As noted in Section I above, it is not intended to disparage any person or group or to question the good faith or legality of any positions taken by any persons or groups involved in these matters. Rather, we respectfully submit this Commentary to assist the bishops in their deliberations about the future funding and activities of the USCC.
1. According to NRPE website information (http://www.nrpe.org/uscc.html), cooperating Catholic "partners" with the USCC/NRPE affiliation include the Campaign for Human Development; Catholic Relief Services; National Council of Catholic Women; Office on Family, Laity, Women, and Youth; the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, and the Offices of African-American and Hispanic Catholics.
2. Trebbe Johnson, "Genesis of a Movement," The Amicus Journal, newsletter of the Natural Resources Defense Council, spring 1997. Also, Susan Ives, "A Conversation with Paul Gorman: Creating A Liturgy for the Earth," Land and People, Fall, 1998.
3."The Gaia Hypothesis," http://forests.org/forests/gaiawhat.html.
4. Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1990, p. 21.
5. He is also referenced for further reading in the Appalachian bishops' pastoral. At Home in the Web of Life, footnote 55.
6. Rael Jean Isaac and Erich Isaac, Coercive Utopians, Discipleship Books, 1985, p. 26.
7. Concerned Methodists, "Stewardship Report on the United Methodist Church," 1995. May be obtained from CM, P.O. Box 2864, Fayetteville, NC 28302-2864. Telephone (910) 488-4379.
8. The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, "A Jewish Response to the Environmental Crisis: The Founding Statement of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life," issued by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, Washington DC, March 10, 1992.
9. Home page of the Evangelical Environmental Network:
10. Evangelical Environmental Network, "On the Care of Creation: An Evangelical Declaration," undated, http://www.esa-online.org/een/html/declaration.html.
11."Declaration of the 'Mission to Washington,’ Joint Appeal by Religion and Science for the Environment (now called the National Religious Partnership for the Environment -- NRPE)," Washington, DC, May 12, 1992. The signers of this appeal included United States Catholic Conference representatives:
- John Carr (Secretary for the USCC Department of Social Development and World Peace)
- Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J. (Director of the USCC Office of International Justice and Peace)
- Joseph Fitzgerald (Director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, a USCC corporate affiliation)
- Annette Kane (Executive Director of the National Council of Catholic Women, a USCC corporate affiliation)
- Most Rev. James W. Malone (Chair of the USCC Domestic Policy Committee and Bishop of Youngstown)
- Sr. Catherine McNamee (President Director of the National Catholic Educational Association, a USCC corporate affiliation)
- Most Rev. John R. Roach (Chair of the USCC International Policy Committee and Archbishop of St. Paul/Minneapolis)
- Sr. Betty Sundry (Associate Director of the corporate entity affiliated with the USCC, Leadership Conference of Women Religious)
- Nancy Wisdo (Director of the USCC Office of Domestic Social Development) Also among the Catholic signatories were:
- The Most Rev. William B. Friend (Chair of the NCCB Committee on Science and Human Values, and Bishop of Shreveport)
- Rev. William J. Byron (President of Catholic University of America)
- Dr. John Haught (Chair of the Theology Department, Georgetown University)
- Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC (President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame)
12. The 3 resource kits are:
#1 (1994) "Renewing the Face of the Earth,"
#2 (1995) "Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all Creation,"
#3 (1996) "Let the Earth Bless the Lord"
13. Excerpted from NRPE website. Http://www.nrpe.org/uscc.html.
14. The Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University sponsored a series of 3-day conferences held at various locations throughout the U.S. and on various dates throughout the spring and early summer of 1998. The particular conference under discussion in this Commentary is "Christianity and Ecology" held April 17-19, 1998 in Portland, Oregon.
15. Rosemary Radford Ruether: Professor at the Garett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, author of Gaia and God and a frequent Call to Action speaker. Ruether's conference address was "Ecofeminism and the Challenge to Theology." Among other remarks Ruether has made are: "We need to seek the most compassionate way of weeding out people… Our current pro-life movement is really killing people through disease and poverty." From an address delivered at "Earth Spirit Rising: A Midwest Conference on Healing and Celebrating Planet Earth." Cincinnati, May 1998.
- Thomas Berry: Professor at Fordham University, author of The Universe Story. The book explores a "natural theology" of creation.
- Mary Evelyn Tucker, in "Thomas Berry and the New Story: Introduction to the Work of Thomas Berry," Bucknell University, undated, found on the internet wrote this: "To extract ourselves from this cultural pathology of alienation from one another and destruction of the earth Berry calls for a New Story of the universe… He calls for reinventing the human at the species level, which implies moving from our cultural coding to recover our genetic coding of relatedness to the earth. By articulating a new mythic consciousness of our profound connectedness to the earth we may be able to reverse the self-destructive cultural tendencies we have put into motion with regard to the planet." The Universe Story, deeply influenced by Teilhard de Chardin's philosophy, "sets forth the model for the telling of a common creation story," which is the story of evolution as a theological solution to man's deep sense of alienation. "Berry claims that the Christian Story is a sectarian story. It is no longer the story of the earth or the integral story of humankind."
- Daniel Maguire: Professor at Marquette University and President of Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health, and Ethics (pro-abortion). Maguire spoke on "Population-Consumption-Ecology: The Triple Problematic."
- Elizabeth Johnson: Professor at Fordham University and author of She Who Is, in which she writes: In a word, "SHE WHO IS discloses in an elusive female metaphor the mystery of Sophia-God as sheer, exuberant, relational aliveness in the midst of the history of suffering, inexhaustible source of new being in situations of death and destruction, ground of hope for the whole created universe, to practical and critical effect… Speaking rightly about God from a feminist perspective means weaving the stories of women and women's way of being into the stories of God that the Jewish and Christian traditions habitually tell." She Who Is, Crossroad Publishing Co., 1996, p. 243-244.
A summary report of the Conference may be obtained at http://divweb.harvard.edu/cswr/news/5-2chr,htm. According to the online newsletter for the Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions (Spring 1998), Berry and Johnson opened the Conference on Friday night by discussing "ecological dimensions of a living faith that is rediscovering all of creation and interacting with the new Universe story." Ruether was described as challenging the "Christian churches to discard the pattern of gender hierarchy that was built into its doctrine of creation and its map of social relations. She sketched a profile of an ecofeminist reconstruction of Christian thought about the self, soul/body relations, finitude, evil, redemption, God, Christ, and revelation. Respondents . . . elaborated on the ecofeminist challenge to theology." Maguire's contribution to the Conference was to declare "the world's religions to be at fault in failing really to address the population-consumption explosion. He critiqued the influence of religious natalism, environmental racism, and sacralized marketism on the attitudes and behavior of affluent Christians on every continent."
16. American Association for the Advancement of Science Conference, "Dialogue on Global Climate Change," October 1-2, 1998.
17. AAAS Conference Summary of the October 1998, "Dialogue on Global Climate Change."
18. Sustainable America: A New Consensus, President's Council on Sustainable Development, chapter I: "National Goals Toward Sustainable Development" Goal 7 Civic Engagement.
19. United Nations Environment Programme/ Regional Office for North America http://www.rona.unep.org/faith_me.htm.
20. UN Culminating Conference, "Religion and Ecology: Discovering the Common Ground," October 20, 1998, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme: Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions; Center for Respect of Life and Environment; Bucknell University; Interfaith Center of New York; and Institute on Religion in an Age of Science.
21. UN/AMNH Culminating Conference, "Religion and Ecology: Discovering the Common Ground," October 20, 1998, http:// divweb.harvard.edu/cswr/ecology/un.htm.
22. "Called to Global Solidarity: International Challenges for US Parishes," USCC, Inc., Washington, DC, 1997.
23. For example: the Conference on "Ethics and Spiritual Values and the Promotion of Environmentally Sustainable Development" cosponsored by the UN Habitat II and the World Bank, was primarily concerned over issues of population control. In the United States, the President's Council for Sustainable Development contains a strong population control element and is actively pursued through economic Empowerment Zone grants to poor communities who must demonstrate their plans to achieve "sustainability" in order to receive these grants. On a more local level, CHD-funded, Alinsky-style community organizations in a number of locations have actively assisted in preparing and implementing the local sustainability plans, bringing the problem full circle, back to the Catholic Church.
24. "Environmental Justice Backgrounder of Public Policy" USCC Office of Social Development and World Peace. February 1999.
25. See, for example, information on global warming available from the University of Virginia Department of Environmental Science, the Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #896, or the Citizens for a Sound Economic Foundation "Global Warming: A Political, Economic and Scientific Backgrounder."
26. John Cushman, "Religious Groups Mount a Campaign to Support Pact on Global Warming" New York Times, August 15. 1998.
27. Jill Ortman-Fouse, moderator of a workshop at the 1996 Catholic Social Justice Ministry Gathering, February 25-28, 1996, Washington DC, workshop #515: "Tilling the Garden: Nurturing Parish Environmental Awareness."
28. Walter Grazer, August 25-28, 1995, workshop #45: "Environmental Justice II."
29. Jill Ortman-Fouse, February 25-28, 1996, Washington DC, workshop #515: "Tilling the Garden: Nurturing Parish Environmental Awareness."
30. Kathy Dubel, February 25-28, 1996, Washington DC, workshop #515: "Tilling the Garden: Nurturing Parish Environmental Awareness."
31. USCC publication coordinated by Walter E. Grazer, manager of the Environmental Justice Program of the USCC Department of Social Development and World Peace, "Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All Creation" [parish environmental resource kit #2], developed through the interreligious collaboration of the NRPE, Washington DC, 1995.
32. Patricia King, policy advisor for health and welfare issues. Office of Domestic Social Development of the USCC, "Environmental Hazards and Children -- Born and Unborn," included in parish environmental resource kit #2, "Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All Creation" (parish resource kit #2), developed through the interreligious collaboration of the NRPE, Washington DC, 1995.
33. "A Few Small Steps Toward Saving the World," editorial. National Catholic Reporter, December 4, 1998.
34. "Renewing the Face of the Earth" USCC, 1994, p. 15. The resource kit was prepared out of the USCC Office of Social Development and World Peace, Environmental Justice Program, "through the work of the National religious Partnership for the Environment (inside front cover).
35. Ibid., p 20.
36. Ibid., p. 23.
37. Patricia King, USCC policy advisor for health and welfare issues, Office of Social Development and World Peace, "Environmental Hazards and Children -- Born and Unborn," published in the USCC/NRPE Resource Kit #2, "Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All Creation" 1995.
38. "Naysayers and Doomsayers: How Do We Sort Out the Differences in the Ongoing Environmental Debate," no byline, published in the USCC/NRPE Resource Kit #2, "Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All Creation," 1995.
39. Resource kit #3, "Let the Earth Bless the Lord: God's Creation and Our Responsibility, A Catholic Approach to the Environment," USCC, 1996.
40. Ibid., p. 16.
41. Pamela Schaeffer, "Restoring the Sacred in Nature," National Catholic Reporter, June 4, 1999.
42. "Empowerment for Environmental Equity" St. Francis Prayer Center Project.
43. "EPA: Rogue Agency," editorial. The Detroit News, September 24, 1998. The Detroit News carried a series of articles, primarily by reporter David Mastio, Detroit News Washington Bureau, detailing the story: "Mostly Whites Live Near Proposed Mill Site," August 27, 1998; "Flint Mill Wins Appeal" September 15, 1998: "EPA Appeals Board Rejects Some Objections to Proposed Steel Mill," September 15, 1998 (an Associated Press article); "EPA Aided Mill Fighters," September 23, 1998: "EPA Ready to Clear Flint Mill" October 30, 1998.
44. "Northwest Environmental K-12 Curriculum, Household and Parish packets," Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center.
45. "Efforts Against Toxic Waste, Noise Pollution, Lead Poisoning, Among Projects Funded by U.S. Bishops' Environmental Mini-Grants," USCC Office of Communication, Washington, February 25, 1997.
46. Call to Action Renewal Directory, 1998 Edition.
47. "News from Seattle University," Connections, Newsletter of the National Association for Women in Catholic Higher Education (Boston University), March 1997, vol. 5, no. 2.
- Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB is a Call to Action speaker who has worked for women's ordination and feminized scripture translations.
- Edwina Gately is a Call to Action speaker who has worked for women's ordination, has challenged the deity of Jesus and Church teaching about homosexuality. Gately promotes worship of the "Mother Goddess" and the practice of witchcraft, which she considers the spirituality of feminine wisdom.
48. Emilia Askari, "Saving Our Sacred Earth" Detroit Free Press, May 27, 1999.
49. "Linking Environmental Studies, Theology and Science: A 21st-Century Challenge for Catholic Colleges and Universities," May 14-16, 1999. USCC Office of Social Development and World Peace calendar of "Upcoming Events for EJP," updated 1999, www.nccbuscc.org/sdwp/ejp/events.htm.
50. "The Columbia River Watershed: Realities and Possibilities-A Reflection in Preparation for a Pastoral Letter; An International Reflection by the Catholic Bishops of the Region," The Columbia River Pastoral Letter Project, 1999. The Bishops who have participated in this Project are: Archbishop Alex J. Burnett, Archbishop of Seattle, Washington: Archbishop John G. Vlazny, Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon; Bishop Thomas J. Connolly, Diocese of Baker, Oregon; Bishop Eugene J. Cooney, Diocese of Nelson, British Columbia; Very Reverend John J. Darragh, Administrator, Diocese of Helena; Bishop Michael P. Driscoll, Diocese of Boise, Idaho; Bishop Carlos A. Sevilla, SJ, Diocese of Yakima, Washington; Bishop William S. Skylstad, Diocese of Spokane, Washington.
51.Pamela Schaeffer, "Restoring the Sacred in Nature," National Catholic Reporter, June 4, 1999.
52."The Columbia River Watershed: Realities and Possibilities-A Reflection in Preparation for a Pastoral Letter," Overview: Caring for Creation. Later, the pastoral draft says: "The Earth is a sign of God's presence and the context of human life, and in that sense is like a natural 'sacrament' for people… The whole of creation can be a sacramental for a person of faith."
53. Report on the May 1999 Conference at Portland University from "Restoring the Sacred in Nature." See footnote 51.
54. Kathy Dubel, Director of the Justice and Peace Department of the Diocese of Rochester, workshop #515: "Tilling the Garden: Nurturing Parish Environmental Awareness," 1996 Catholic Social Justice Ministry Gathering, Washington DC, February 25-28, 1996.
55."Executive Summary of the First Annual General Assembly of Sustainable America," Atlanta, Georgia February 27-March 2, 1997, www.sanet.org/execsum.htm.
56. "Goals and Objectives," SA Talks, Newsletter of Sustainable America. vol. 1, #2, October 1996.
57. "Sustainable America: A New Consensus for the Prosperity, Opportunity and a Healthy Environment for the Future," publication of the President's Council on Sustainable Development," Goal 8 -"Reduced rate of population growth in the United States and the world."
58. "…[R]unning candidates is only one aspect of a political movement. While the major parties focus their activity only on elections, the New Party is active all year round. In Milwaukee, for example, New Party activists helped pull together a broad community coalition, called Sustainable Milwaukee, which developed a people-oriented economic plan for the future of their city." David Reynolds, "Why It's Third Party Time," http://www.lbbs.org/SEP/ reynolds4.htm.
59. David Reynolds, "Angry Voters Do Have Somewhere to Go," New Politics, vol. 6, #3 (new series), Summer 1997.
60. They are related in that SWOP helped to found SNEEJ. [See: Roberto Rodriguez and Patrisia Gonzales, "Environmental Justice Movement is Being Slapped Around," in Latin Spectrum, a nationally syndicated column distributed by Chronicle Features, 1996.] They are also related in that SWOP founder and former director, Richard Moore, is the current director of SNEEJ. They are related in that the present co-chair, Michael Leon Guerrero, has served as co-chair of the SNEEJ Coordinating Council. [See SWOP web-site, Staff and Interns. August 1999: http://www.swop.net/staff.html.
61. CHD Annual Reports: SNEEJ: 1992 CHD grant for $40,000: 1994 CHD grant for $45,000: SWOP: 1997 CHD grant for $20,000
62. SWOP website, Staff and Interns, August 1999: http:// www.swop.net/staff.html.
63. Rose and Emil Shaw are identified on the masthead of Voces Unidas, the SWOP monthly magazine. A sample of Emil's writing for Voces Unidas appears in its 1/98 issue. The couple has written for the People's Weekly World, a publication of the Communist Party USA: For example, Emil Shaw has articles in 1/20/96, 2/21/97, and Rose and Emil co-authored an 8/27/99 PWW article. Emil is identified as a member of the Communist Party of New Mexico in byline biographical information accompanying a 6/1/98 news clip in the Communist Party of Carolinas June 1998 newsletter. Four Fronts!
64. See, for example. Voces Unidas issues May 1996, January 1998, and May 1999.
65. Guerrero Campaign literature for the 1999 election for Albuquerque City Council clearly identifies him as co-director of SWOP. Listings of campaign contributions for 1999 Albuquerque City Council Candidates, Albuquerque Journal, 9/10/99.
66. "Poverty and Faithjustice: An Adult Education Program on Christian Discipleship in the United States," prepared by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Service, published by the United States Catholic Conference, 1998. According to the declaration of Msgr. Dennis M. Schnurr, General Secretary NCCB/USCC, at the beginning of "Poverty and Faithjustice," the material is a 1997 CCHD planning document, approved by general membership of the NCCB, which authorized the CCHD "to develop relevant materials on social justice issues in order to raise the consciousness of parishioners."
67. "Poverty and Faithjustice" Introduction, p. 2.
68. Ibid., page 3.
69. Economic Justice for All: Catholic Social Justice Teaching and the US Economy, USCC, Washington DC, 1986, no. 189.
70. The themes are identified and outlined in "Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions," USCC 1998.
71. The exact quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1179):
"The worship 'in Spirit and in truth' of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the 'living stones,' gathered to be 'built into a spiritual house.' For the Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, "we are the temple of the living God."
72. The three questionable areas of environmental concern promoted by the USCC environmental resource kits are:
1. human population,
2. global warming,
3. diversity loss.
These are "questionable" areas of concern because scientists are not in agreement that
1. increased human population is, per se, detrimental to the environment (See material available from the Population Research Institute),
2. that global warming has
- occurred, or that if it is occurring, it is
- caused by human interference with the environment, or
c. that it is a matter of negative concern; (See, for example, information on global warming available from the University of Virginia Department of Environmental Science, or Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #896) and
3. that the inflated claims of biological extinction have actually occurred.
In addition, some of the recommended political solutions are highly problematic (e.g. radical loss of private property).
73. "Popular education technique" is a technical term for guided consciousness-raising.
74. For example, newspaper reports that the $16 million NRPE initiative announced in May 1999 is funded in part through the USCC (see Emilia Askari, "Saving Our Sacred Earth: Faith Communities at the Forefront of National Initiative," Detroit Free Press, May 27, 1999.)
75. The mission of the Church is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n.768): "So the she can fulfill her mission, the Holy Spirit 'bestows upon (the Church] varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her.' Henceforward the Church . . . receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and the beginning of that kingdom." The passages quoted in the Catechism refer to Lumen Gentium (n. 4 and 5). To make clear that this kingdom is not the promise of an earthly Utopia, the Catechism explains in n. 549: Jesus "did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin . . ." or again, in n. 2819, quoting from Romans 14:17 "The kingdom of God [is] righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."
Stephanie Block is the Director of Special Research Projects for the Wanderer Forum Foundation. Her research for the Foundation has included studies about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Industrial Areas Foundation. Mrs. Block has contributed articles to The Wanderer newspaper and has written Change Agent: The Industrial Areas Foundation in the Catholic Church. She has made presentations at Regional Wanderer Forums in Albany, NY, and Chicago, IL, and at the Annual International Wanderer Forums in 1997 and 1998. Mrs. Block is the home-schooling mother of seven children. © The Wanderer Forum Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 542, Hudson, WI 54016-0542.
© The Wanderer Forum Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 542, Hudson, WI 54016-0542.
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