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“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (4)

Fr Glen Loughrey, an Anglican priest from Melbourne, led the afternoon panel discussion at the seminar giving consideration to the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’. He spoke an acknowledgement of country and lamented that this had not been done earlier in the seminar. In Australia, he maintains, the underlying issue for caring for the environment, is caring for and respecting the people who have long cared for the land.

Until we deal with the question of the land—whose land it is, how we go about retuning it to the original owners—Mother Earth will not enable us to deal with the problematic situation we are in. Respect the land on which we live and show our deep care for the land and its people; once we demonstrate this, it will be possible to move ahead.

The programme for the seminar includes a prayer from Aboriginal tradition, attributed to Burnum Burnum, whichncan be read at https://theviolethourmuse.wordpress.com/tag/burnum-down-the-house/

Dr Cristina Lledo Gomez, who teaches at Charles Sturt University, affirmed this approach of prioritising the place of indigenous people. As a migrant, she resonates with the experience of displacement and cross-societal existence. Within the church, there is a sense that we have been traumatised by the increasing environmental damage that we are learning about. Harnessing the resources to move beyond this trauma is an important learning we can undertake, learning from the way that indigenous and migrant peoples have done this.

The encyclical moves people of faith beyond a consideration, solely of their spiritual dimensions; the notion of integral ecology presses for an integrated human development in spiritual, social, sexual, psychological and environmental dimensions, as we work together for the common good. A fine model to use in doing this is See—Judge—Act. Look at your experience; analyse and explore what this means, and draw in the Christian tradition, the resources of scripture and work of subsequent centuries; before moving to undertake specific actions.

David Marsh is a farmer who has delved deep into the ethics of land care, and whose work in developing an ecologically sustainable farm has recently been recognised with a national award. He describes what he has done, as “not intervening and let the world get on with doing what it does”. He spoke of his appreciation of those who had already presented and urged us to press on with “more moral thinking about irrigation” and the consequences of how it is structured.

Then Philippa Rowland, from Catholic Earthcare, spoke about the importance of the dialogue between science and faith. They are “the two wings of one bird”. She has a sense that we are currently in the narrowest part of the hourglass; there is much that is being squeezed into the one space. We humans have become clever at a rate much faster than the rate of development of our wisdom. We need to allow the knowledge of where we are, connect more fully with our discernment of what is needed.

The growing sense of urgency goes alongside a patient working at what is essential. Technology and vision need to work hand-in-hand. Food, clothing and water are critical. Policy change needs to be encouraged and driven further. A federal parliamentary group focussed on climate change is now more active, driven by a group of independents. That is cause for hope.

See also

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-1/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-2/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-3/

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“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (3)

In the afternoon session of a seminar today, we are continuing consideration of the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’. Fr Bruce Duncan explicates the theology of the document: the glory of God is human beings, fully alive, in accord with the famous parable of Matthew 25. Is this Vatican 2, part two? … or, Reformation, part two?? An intriguing suggestion …

Certainly, this document challenges the long tradition within Christian theology, to place human beings at the centre of our world, to regard humanity as the crowing pinnacle of creation, and to foster the sense that “we need to take care” of the creation. On the contrary, we are a part–an integral part–of that creation, interconnected, no less and no more important than the other creatures and ecosystems of this world. This, to me, is the big change–and big challenge–that this encyclical provides.

Bruce explained that groups of eminent scientists and social scientists have worked with the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace in the preparation of the document, which is thus grounded in the very best of current scientific understanding. At its launching, a group of Muslim scholars published their parallel statement in accord with Laudato si’. The orientation is to foster human wellbeing across, not just denominations, but other world religions. It is about what we all have in common.

Dialogue with indigenous peoples, right around the world, is also integral to the approach taken in the document. This is a highly important matter in South America, in particular in relation to the region of the Amazon—the area of the world from where Pope Francis comes. The indigenous contact with nature is vitally important if we are to shape a sustainable future.

Emily Evans (who works with the National Council of Churches in Australia) then offered an ecumenical perspective. Churches have been working towards justice, peace, and the integrity of creation for four decades. These are three aspects of the one reality; three perspectives on the one unified matter.

Numerous meetings of the full World Council of Churches and its justice commission have reaffirmed and developed this commitment from all the member churches. Ongoing actions and statements have furthered the work of seeking conversion about how we relate to, and live within, the created world. The WCC is now calling people across the world to join in a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, to engage in transformative actions together.

There are three intersecting and overlapping journeys involved: via positiva, celebrating the gifts; via negativa, visiting the wounds; and via transformata, transforming the injustices. These are particularly in view each year during the Season of Creation, which runs from 1 September to 4 October (the Feast of St Francis).

Of particular relevance to the theology of the document are these sections:

68. This responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world, for “he commanded and they were created; and he established them for ever and ever; he fixed their bounds and he set a law which cannot pass away” (Ps 148:5b-6). The laws found in the Bible dwell on relationships, not only among individuals but also with other living beings. “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and withhold your help… If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs; you shall not take the mother with the young” (Dt 22:4, 6). Along these same lines, rest on the seventh day is meant not only for human beings, but also so “that your ox and your donkey may have rest” (Ex 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.

69. Together with our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly, we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes: “by their mere existence they bless him and give him glory”, and indeed, “the Lord rejoices in all his works” (Ps 104:31). By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws, for “the Lord by wisdom founded the earth” (Prov 3:19). In our time, the Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish. The German bishops have taught that, where other creatures are concerned, “we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful”. The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticizes a distorted anthropocentrism: “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man [sic] must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things”.

See also

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-1/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-2

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-4/

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“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (2)

Continuing the sessions at a seminar where we are considering how Christians across various denominations might respond to the encyclical of Pope Francis

Professor Quentin Grafton, from the Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy at the ANU, spoke about water: the need to provide water and to ensure the sustainable management of water resources and sanitation services, for all human beings.

Currently there are 2.1 billion people without access to safely managed drinking water and 4.5 billion people without access to safely managed sanitation services. Well over 4 billion people experience lack of access to a safe water supply on a periodic basis. We westerners take for granted our continuing supply of clean water and flushing toilets; we are in a highly privileged situation.

Around 700 children are dying EVERY DAY from diarrhoea, linked to unsafe drinking water. That’s already an unacceptable situation—an immediate challenge to the way that we manage water supply and sanitation services.

Yet, our future food production is imperilled by the steady reduction in water in underground aquifers in so many places around the world. We are making the problem worse, not addressing the underlying issue.

Prof. Grafton said that the claim, “it’s just the drought”, totally misrepresents the situation that we are facing in Australia. Irrigation takes a steady supply,of water, but as there is a steady decline in input, so the residual water available to “the environment” (and our consummated usage) declines—at an alarming rate. Our federal policy makers appear to be resolutely deaf to these facts.

Water Justice is what is needed. This entails the fair and just distribution of water; a recognition of multiple values, not just market values; full participation by all people in decision-making relating to water; and the development of long-term sustainability.

Laudato si’ paragraphs 30 and 31 affirm that access to safe drinking water is a basic human right, and this right will be crucial in securing the future of humanity.

30. Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality.

31. Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century

Prof. Grafton said that our commitment to one another means that we need to choose to stand in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable in the present, and to ensure a future for generations to come. This entails truth—humility—respect—wisdom—honesty—love—bravery (these are “the seven grandfathers, as articulated by an indigenous group in North America; see https://www.nhbpi.org/seven-grandfather-teachings/)

He ended by quoting St Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Then, Prof. John Williams of the ANU (and the Uniting Church) spoke about food and clothing. He began by declaring: “What you eat and what you wear, has more impact on the creation than anything else you do.” We can see the impact on our current lifestyle in this diagram:

Agriculture has a huge impact on our biodiversity; it changes land use and impacts the supply of fresh water; it disturbs the valuable nitrogen and phosphorous cycles of the planet. We. Are choices about our agricultural practices; those choices are based on our values. Our faith feeds into the development of those values.

The projected increase in demand for all foods is 102%; that will require changes to our current practices. Achieving real sustainability in food production means going beyond an approach that simply minimises environmental impacts. That means a global transition, with significant social and ecological changes. There are powerful forces opposing the changes required. There is also indifference amongst far too many policy makers.

The vision that Prof. Williams presented, is for sustainable governance and management of ecosystems, natural resources and earth system processes, to ensure we are operating within a safe place globally.

His closing words were: “The creation, as a whole, is indifferent to the wellbeing of any particular individual person living within that creation. God, however, is a creative, loving God, who has joined with us within the creation and has an intimate interest, with us, in solving these issues.”

See also

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-1/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-3/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-4/

 

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“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (1)

“Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

Elizabeth and I are participating in a seminar today considering how Christians across various denominations might respond to the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’.

The full encyclical can be read at http://m.vatican.va/content/francescomobile/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

A summary of its contents is provided at https://www.catholic.org.au/commission-documents/bishops-commission-for-justice-ecology-and-development/laudato-si/1711-encyclical-summary/file

The day opened with words from Aunty Dianne Torrens from the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, who shared something about her faith and how the land is so important for First Peoples.She brought words from her husband, Tim, and reflected on the changes that are noticeable in our environment today.

Professor Tony Kelly then spoke about developing “an integral ecology”, the focus of the day. Fr Kelly offered this striking observation: “No one has all the answers—that is part of the grace of today.” Searching for those answers, talking together and learning together, is the way that we experience the grace of God and, through that, develop a helpful response to the changes that are occurring.

He read from his work, An Expanding Theology: Faith in a world of connections. He observed that our very existence itself is a gift; we all share in the communion of life, and so “this new sense of the mystery of the cosmos is often accompanied by a stirring of ecological conscience as we wonder at the universe has brought forth life in all its precious variety. With such an expansion of consciousness in science and moral concern, faith is temporarily tongue-tied.”

Fr Kelly posed some critical questions: “How can our Christian vision encompass the wonder and responsibility that a new sense of reality inspires? How can faith make, and live, these new connections?” Our response to the environmental changes draws people together, bridging ecumenical and interfaith, cultural and national boundaries.

As human beings, we are all called to work together in addressing this situation. In this regard, he acknowledged that the First Peoples of Australia had long lived with this awareness, with regular connections and co-operation across the lands of the various nations that have existed here for millennia.

The full text of An Expanding Theology is accessible at

https://resource.acu.edu.au/ankelly/preface.htm

The day is continuing with further speakers, panel discussions, dialogue moments, and informal fellowship.

See my further blogs at

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-2/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-3/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-4/

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