Re “Mother and Sister Earth” (Editorial, 7/6): A Sufi teaching instructs: “To pluck a flower is to trouble a star.” Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” presents a very comprehensive view of the human impact on earth’s community. The looming environmental disaster (the root meaning of the word disaster is “ill-starred”) shows that we view the world of nature as a collection of objects that we can use for our consumer purposes rather than a communion of subjects that are interconnected and interdependent for life. Oikos is the Greek word for household, from which we get the word ecology. Planet Earth, our home, is the only planet coded for millions of diverse life forms. The encyclical proposes the question: Why would we continue destroying this beautiful home we live in with millions of other species that provide for us a wide spectrum of beauty and life? Should we not review our consumerist lifestyles instead?
Best Worst Case
Re “Encyclical From Pope Francis Welcomed as Global Call to Arms,” by Gerard O’Connell (Signs of the Times, 7/6): I beg a calm moment to shift the focus away from “human-caused” or “climate cycle” points of contention toward what faith asks of us in order to be in community with each other: an understanding of resources, interdependencies and the benefits of sustainable living.
In a popular cartoon printed eight years ago, a climate summit attendee asks, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?” Behind him a bulletin board lists the benefits of a more sustainable future: “Energy Independence; Preserve Rainforests; Sustainability; Green Jobs; Livable Cities; Renewables; Clean Water, Air; Healthy Children” and so on. You can view this question as one driven by scientific evidence or you can view it as a question of social and environmental ethics, void of climate change data. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me” and the Golden Rule ought to lead to a similar place of understanding that there is no real separateness.
A Missing Voice
I was disappointed in “Return to Havana,” by Margot Patterson (6/22); not a single leader of the Catholic Church was quoted. In virtually every country of the world, the church is a leader “on the ground,” with a unique and immediate viewpoint. I wonder if Ms. Patterson didn’t like what she heard from church leaders, if their words didn’t jibe with her editorial view, or if she didn’t have access to them, which in itself would have been a story. I just find it odd to neglect such an obvious source of material. I will likely never get to Havana; so I, like so many others, rely on stories like this to fill in the blanks. We will pray for the church in Cuba, as in so many others places around the world.
Re “L.A. Wage Wars” (Current Comment, 6/22): Homeboy Industries is a remarkable ministry, and I am hopeful that the training component, along with the other benefits trainees receive, will justify a temporary relaxation of the wage ordinance. This would certainly add an incentive for workers to finish training. Those who access Homeboy face great difficulties, and there can hardly be any benefit to adding another 60 unemployed and unemployable young people to the street. My anxiety about Homeboy was relieved by the laugh that I got about exempting union-based employment because wages might be lowered through collective bargaining. Too clever by half—to encourage unionization as a way to circumvent wage minimums.
Those concerned might do worse than not only to read Homeboy founder Father Boyle’s book, Tattoos on the Heart, but also to visit Homeboy’s online store and purchase some of its goods.
Holy Land Encounter
I read with interest “In Jesus’ Footsteps” (6/8), the account by James Martin, S.J., of the recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land sponsored by America Media. I traveled there last month as part of a Living Stones Pilgrimage planned by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.
In 2009 the Christian churches of Palestine issued a call for Christians from around the world “to come and see” how Palestinians are living under occupation. It was a powerful experience both to see the holy places where Jesus lived and walked and at the same time to see the huge separation wall, go through checkpoints, smell tear gas at a refugee camp in Bethlehem near where Jesus was born and hear the stories from both Christian and Muslim Palestinians about the precarious lives they live and how they are nonviolently resisting the occupation.
We also heard from Israelis about how they are working for justice for Palestinians. I, too, will never read the Scriptures in quite the same way. I, too, met Jesus in a new way in encountering my brothers and sisters in the land of the Holy One.
Following the ‘Nones’
I very much appreciated “The Gospel According to the ‘Nones’,” by Elizabeth Drescher (6/8). It reminded me of the early teaching of Jesus: uncomplicated, with emphasis on the good news of God’s love and mercy for all. I think we learn from the edges and the marginalized of society where the “church” needs to go. Those who break out of the established church organization can often point the way past our insular collective preoccupation with doctrines, laws and moral rectitude to the core of Jesus’ message as Gospel stories relate it.
I also know many former Catholics, all seniors, who are disillusioned by the church and the sexual abuse committed and covered up for decades by the hierarchy. Unfortunately, the Catholic bishops have never regained the trust they lost in that debacle of moral leadership. True church and spiritual reform comes from the bottom and the sides. My hope is that the “nones” can be seen as pointing the way for those of us who want to meet their needs as well as our own in some form of “future church.”
As a very old professional scientist and a convert to the church, ever thankful for the gifts of faith and reason, I am very moved by “A Voyage of Belief,” by Robert E. Lauder (5/25), and I will be reading John Haught as a result. The operative word at the end of the piece is “discovery.” My entire career has been about just this, and as it continues I am ever aware of how little I know. I, a tiny and very limited creature, am loved by an eternal Creator in an infinite universe.
It is a concept beyond my grasp, but the journey of discovery has been rich and beautiful beyond belief, and at age 85, I am ready and, thankfully, eager for the “rest of the story.” I give thanks for the divine and human wisdom of the Jesuit order and this magazine.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M., asked, “How Should Christians Respond to the Court’s Decision on Marriage?” (In All Things, 6/26). Readers respond.
I think Pope Francis is quite clear on the issue: Accept gay people of good conscience and treat them with love; no to the redefinition of marriage and the new secularist ideology sweeping the West. You can accept gay people and their relationships but be against redefining marriage. Children have rights to a mother and a father, in my book.
Rather than focus on what Jesus said about homosexuality (which was nothing, by the way) and obsess about how certain people are leading their lives, why not focus instead on actually helping out the most oppressed in our society and around the world? As a country, we have wasted too much time and money pondering whether same-sex marriage is right or wrong. Think about how many people in the world we could have helped by now if we devoted as much energy to their causes, instead of worrying about whether two men can have a wedding registry at Macy’s. So, to answer Father Horan’s question: Move on. Help those in need. Be Christ-like.