The latest in Lenten devotions may not mention sin, penance or personal sanctification. A disturbing trend among liberal Catholics is taking a turn toward a form of earth worship. The emphasis of this program is not Catholic or even Christian. There is little mention of God’s love, redemption, or protection for humanity.
Unfortunately, some Catholics are finding earth worship materials in their parishes this Lent. The changes these programs recommend are not personal but climatic. Don’t be surprised if this Gospel of climate change comes to a parish near you.
The good news of “anthropomorphic global climate change” has been taken on with religious zeal, literally, and it must be resisted. One organization actively promoting religious environmentalism is called GreenFaith. According to its website, “GreenFaith is an interfaith coalition for the environment that works with… people of all faiths to help them become better environmental stewards.”
The executive director of GreenFaith is an Episcopal clergyman named Fletcher Harper. A photograph shows him in Eucharistic vestments with a green stole, decorated with a Star of David, a star and crescent, and other religious symbols, curiously none of them are Christian. To be fair, the stole is cropped at his waist – perhaps there is a cross at the bottom.
This relativistic attitude is reflected all over GreenFaith’s website. Clicking on “Eco-Prayers and Rituals” yields resources for Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and Hindus. Another click on “Interfaith Resources” provides a 47-page document with prayers in the Buddhist, Hindu, Native American (including Sioux, Ojibwa, Navajo, Iroquois, and Omaha), Dinka, Yoruba, Baha’i, and Southern Bushmen practices. None is specifically identified as Christian. There are a few select Catholic authors – Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Saint Patrick, Saint Augustine, Henri Nouwen, and Mary Goergen OSF.
An Environmentalists Lent
Five “Eco-Spirituality Tips” appear at the top of the “Christian Resources” page, each with helpful explanations. The Christian holidays tab reveals the following information about Ash Wednesday:
With their traditional focus on the importance of self-restraint, Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent offer an important opportunity to address issues of consumerism, consumption and Christian faith.
Since the worst sins of humanity are environmental, an affiliate of GreenFaith, the “Church of England Environment Programme” devoted Lent 2018 to a serious reduction of the amount of plastic used in homes. Some Catholic parishes in the U.S. are borrowing this Lenten plan.
Its calendar assists the observant in their Lenten sacrifices. Included were:
- “February 24 – Shop at markets. Fresh food markets are not only often cheaper and fresher than supermarkets, but they sell fruit and vegetables loose. Don’t forget to take your reusable bags.”
- “March 2 – Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap. This is an easy change to make. If you are feeling keen, you can even make your own soap bars.”
- Thursday in Holy Week was a day for special contemplation – What lasting changes are you going to make? Do you find yourself looking at plastics in a different way? List three things you are going to commit to changing.”
Of course, at the end of Lent comes the glory of Easter:
The bodily resurrection of Jesus represents God’s affirmation of the eternal significance of physical reality. During the Sundays following Easter, there are many opportunities [to celebrate] Christ’s redemption not only of human beings but of “all things” (Col. 1:15 -20).
The mind reels when imagining a liberal clergyman telling the congregation that “all things,”, means that dogs, cats, horses, rainbow trout, and Aunt Mildred’s rosebushes are also redeemed and be expected in Heaven.
Laudato Si’ and The Pan-Amazonian Synod
Another organization, “Catholic Climate Covenant” provides specific resources to ecologically-minded Catholics. Among the links, there are twelve resources for Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, three of them in English and Spanish so that teachers can spread the word. The smiling “rainbow” Jesuit Fr. James Martin is cited in two links, while his associates at Salt + Light contribute another.
It would be a mistake to disregard these programs as extreme.
Consider the official Vatican News website’s report on the preparatory document for the upcoming Pan-Amazonia Synod. According to Devin Watkins, “the Document is an invitation for the Church to ‘see’ the identity and cries of the Amazon Basin, to ‘discern’ a path towards a pastoral and ecological conversion, and to ‘act’ or walk along new paths for a Church with an Amazonian face.” The document includes the following:
“The excessive growth of agricultural, extractive, and logging activities in the Amazonia has not only damaged the ecological richness of the region…. It has forced a ‘piecemeal’ and ‘non-inclusive’ urban development upon the Amazon Basin.”
This language reflects the anti-free market and anti-private property bias of Laudato Si’.
There is a legitimate place for the discussion of environmental issues, but any debate should not displace the primary task of Holy Mother Church, the sanctification of souls. Making the Church into another propaganda arm of the worldwide environmentalist agenda is a sad abrogation of the reason that Our Lord instituted the Church. It should not replace the Lenten meditation of the Passion and Death of Our Lord.