Can the Church Hurry Up?

March 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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To give you a little background on my approach to this question, I begin with a story. It’s 2000 or 2001 and my husband, the Baptist minister, and I are in Siena on holiday. We are visiting one of the basilicas in Siena; I forget which one. In the basilica we come upon a statue of a young man. Next to the statue is a sign that says “This is a statue of Blessed Joachim Piccolomini, who died in 1305 and was beatified in 1609. The Servite fathers and brothers of this basilica never cease to pray for the canonization of Blessed Joachim. If you or someone you know has been blessed by a miracle through the intercession of a Blessed Joachim, please notify the Servite Superior, Father So and So.”

My husband has learned to value much about the Catholic tradition in our quarter century or so together, but I have to confess, he began laughing hysterically as we read the sign.

“It’s been four hundred years since he was beatified!!” he shouted? “And they’re still praying!?”

“This should give you some insight into the women’s ordination issue,” I replied.

Blessed Joachim seems to have been a holy fellow, utterly dedicated to the poor. But he is not my main concern today. My concern is that in recent months I have been reading like a crazy person about climate change and related catastrophes–extreme weather, desertification, floods, climate migration by hundreds of millions, water shortages, and wars that those shortages are guaranteed to produce. (See Gwynne Dyers Climate Wars if you need the details.) By 2050 we are going to be into all of this big time. And some of it much sooner.

So my question is, can the Church–and here I mean the Catholic Church, the second largest religious body on earth–hurry up and get its members to focus on the imminent destruction of nature, including the Life with which it is otherwise so preoccupied?

Now in point of fact, Pope Benedict XVI has made a number of statements about the seriousness of the climate crisis. At the Third World Water Forum in 2003 the Vatican representative  actually called the world water crisis, “in the broad sense of the concept, a right to life issue.”

Trouble is, I have never heard the world water crisis or climate change mentioned from a Catholic pulpit. Certainly not the way I have heard the rights of the unborn stressed from the pulpit. Yet truly, if the human race is washed away, or if it incinerates itself with nuclear weapons as Pakistan has already threatened to do to India over water shortages there, will this not be the killing of the unborn on a scale that abortion could never possibly effect?  So why aren’t the (remaining) Catholic priests in the US denouncing the massive  CO2 production by American Catholics (including me, let me add) that threatens God’s very creation? Why isn’t the Vatican ordering them to do this?

Now we know that the institutional church can hurry up. It recently decided to ignore the time limits on the canonization process–not on behalf of Blessed Joachim, from whom the Servites must continue to pray–but for Pope John Paul II, who will be beatified in May.

The question is, can the Vatican and the bishops get a move on with regard to the survival of nature, including all God’s children? Or is the beatification of one of their colleagues, with whose politics they identify, more important than that?


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