Something good to keep in mind? The Catholic view of environmental stewardship does not equal pantheism or watering down religion to nice values.
It’s only the beginning of the five-day-long St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Religious Educators at Franciscan University, but we’ve already been quite immersed in the wisdom flowing from the conference speakers.
Wednesday evening, Sister M. Johanna Paruch, FSGM, Ph.D., — professor of catechetics at Franciscan University — gave a straightforward presentation on the right Catholic view of stewardship of creation.
Speaking to the crowd of Catholic teachers, youth ministers, campus ministers, directors of religious education, and many others, Sister Johanna pointed out that God didn’t create us only to take care of the earth, though this is often the belief of many well-meaning Catholics.
She cited Pope Emeritus Benedict’s excellent December 2008 address to the Roman Curia, which included the statement that the Church “has a responsibility towards creation, and must also publicly assert this responsibility.”
Somehow, said Sister Johanna, this helped Benedict develop the moniker of “the green pope,” despite the fact that Benedict included later in the paragraph his full meaning: “An integral part of the Church proclamation must be a witness to the Creator Spirit present in nature as a whole, and, in a special way, in the human person, created in God’s image.”
For, “the person is the center of all creation,” said Sister Johanna.
She added that part of the confusion is because in recent years, religious education has been very horizontal, instead of vertical.
“I had values education in high school; I wasn’t taught religion at all. But the gospel is not about values, the gospel is about Jesus Christ! Christ should be at the center of our desire to take care of the earth,” she said.
More recently, Sister Johanna explained, Pope Francis has also gotten the “green pope” treatment, leaving many believing he only cares about the social justice aspects of the faith.
She quoted the new pontiff’s homily at the beginning of his papal ministry:
“Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down!”
“Does this mean he’s the ‘green pope?'” she asked. “No, it means that he’s the vicar of Jesus Christ and he’s telling us to be more Christ-like. So don’t let anybody say that to you.”
Connecting this to St. Francis of Assisi’s true spirituality–“people think the birdbath is the essence of Francis. That is not the essence of Francis”–she explained that Francis loved God in the crib, the Incarnation, the cross, the whole Passion, and the Eucharist.
With upcoming Bosco conference speakers including Bishop Richard Joseph Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo, New York; Fr. Louis Molinelli, director and president of the Don Bosco Preparatory High School in Ramsey, New Jersey; and Andre Regnier, co-founder of Catholic Christian Outreach in Canada, I’m excited to see what else is in store for this week and weekend!
Until next time,