Category Archives: Country

America Lost Its Religion

Article from The Atlantic by way of Catholic World News by Derek Thompson, Staff writer at The Atlantic

Three Decades Ago, America Lost Its Religion. Why?
“Not religious” has become a specific American identity—one that distinguishes secular, liberal whites from the conservative, evangelical right. Sep. 26, 2019

The idea of American exceptionalism has become so dubious that much of its modern usage is merely sarcastic. But when it comes to religion, Americans really are exceptional. No rich country prays nearly as much as the U.S, and no country that prays as much as the U.S. is nearly as rich.

America’s unique synthesis of wealth and worship has puzzled international observers and foiled their grandest theories of a global secular takeover. In the late 19th century, an array of celebrity philosophers—the likes of Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud—proclaimed the death of God, and predicted that atheism would follow scientific discovery and modernity in the West, sure as smoke follows fire.

Stubbornly pious Americans threw a wrench in the secularization thesis. Deep into the 20th century, more than nine in 10 Americans said they believed in God and belonged to an organized religion, with the great majority of them calling themselves Christian. That number held steady—through the sexual-revolution ’60s, through the rootless and anxious ’70s, and through the “greed is good” ’80s.

But in the early 1990s, the historical tether between American identity and faith snapped. Religious non-affiliation in the U.S. started to rise—and rise, and rise. By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as “nones”) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.

History does not often give the satisfaction of a sudden and lasting turning point. History tends to unfold in messy cycles—actions and reactions, revolutions and counterrevolutions—and even semipermanent changes are subtle and glacial. But the rise of religious non-affiliation in America looks like one of those rare historical moments that is neither slow, nor subtle, nor cyclical. You might call it exceptional.

The obvious question for anybody is: What the hell happened around 1990?

According to Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.

This story begins with the rise of the religious right in the 1970s. Alarmed by the spread of secular culture—including but not limited to the sexual revolution, the Roe v. Wade decision, the nationalization of no-fault divorce laws, and Bob Jones University losing its tax-exempt status over its ban on interracial dating—Christians became more politically active. The GOP welcomed them with open arms. The party, which was becoming more dependent on its exurban-white base, needed a grassroots strategy and a policy platform. Within the next decade, the religious right—including Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority—had become fundraising and organizing juggernauts for the Republican Party. In 1980, the GOP social platform was a facsimile of conservative Christian views on sexuality, abortion, and school prayer.

The marriage between the religious and political right delivered Reagan, Bush, and countless state and local victories. But it disgusted liberal Democrats, especially those with weak connections to the Church. It also shocked the conscience of moderates, who preferred a wide berth between their faith and their politics. Smith said it’s possible that young liberals and loosely affiliated Christians first registered their aversion to the Christian right in the early 1990s, after a decade of observing its powerful role in conservative politics.

Second, it may have felt unpatriotic to confess one’s ambivalence toward God while the U.S. was locked in a geopolitical showdown with a godless Evil Empire. In 1991, however, the Cold War ended. As the U.S.S.R. dissolved, so did atheism’s association with America’s nemesis. After that, “nones” could be forthright about their religious indifference, without worrying that it made them sound like Soviet apologists.

Third, America’s next geopolitical foe wasn’t a godless state. It was a God-fearing, stateless movement: radical Islamic terrorism. A series of bombings and attempted bombings in the 1990s by fundamentalist organizations such as al-Qaeda culminated in the 9/11 attacks. It would be a terrible oversimplification to suggest that the fall of the Twin Towers encouraged millions to leave their church, Smith said. But over time, al-Qaeda became a useful referent for atheists who wanted to argue that all religions were inherently destructive.

Meanwhile, during George W. Bush’s presidency, Christianity’s association with unpopular Republican policies drove more young liberals and moderates away from both the party and the Church. New Atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, became intellectual celebrities; the 2006 best seller American Theocracy argued that evangelicals in the Republican coalition were staging a quiet coup that would plunge the country into disarray and financial ruin. Throughout the Bush presidency, liberal voters—especially white liberal voters— detached from organized religion in ever-higher numbers.

Religion has lost its halo effect in the past three decades, not because science drove God from the public square, but rather because politics did. In the 21st century, “not religious” has become a specific American identity—one that distinguishes secular, liberal whites from the conservative, evangelical right.

Other social forces, which have little to do with geopolitics or partisanship, have played a key role in the rise of the nones.

The Church is just one of many social institutions—including banks, Congress, and the police—that have lost public trust in an age of elite failure. But scandals in the Catholic Church have accelerated its particularly rapid loss of moral stature. According to Pew research, 13 percent of Americans today self-identify as “former Catholics,” and many of them leave organized religion altogether. And as the ranks of the nones have swelled, it’s become more socially acceptable for casual or rare churchgoers to tell pollsters that they don’t particularly identify with any faith. It’s also become easier for nones to meet, marry, and raise children who grow up without any real religious attachment.

Nor does Smith rule out the familiar antagonists of capitalism and the internet in explaining the popularity of non-affiliation. “The former has made life more precarious, and the latter has made it easier for anxious individuals to build their own spiritualities from ideas and practices they find online,” he said, such as Buddhist meditation guides and atheist Reddit boards.

Most important has been the dramatic changes in the American family. The past half century has dealt a series of body blows to American marriage. Divorce rates spiked in the ’70s through the ’90s, following the state-by-state spread of no-fault divorce laws. Just as divorce rates stabilized, the marriage rate started to plummet in the ’80s, due to both the decline of marriage within the working class and delayed marriage among college-educated couples.

“There’s historically been this package: Get married, go to church or temple, have kids, send them to Sunday school,” Smith said. But just as stable families make stable congregations, family instability can destabilize the Church. Divorced individuals, single parents, and children of divorce or single-parent households are all more likely to detach over time from their congregations.

Finally, the phenomenon of “delayed adulthood” might be another subtle contributor. More Americans, especially college graduates in big metro areas, are putting off marriage and childbearing until their 30s, and are using their 20s to establish a career, date around, and enjoy being young and single in a city. By the time they settle down, they have established a routine—work, brunch, gym, date, drink, football—that leaves little room for weekly Mass. “They know who they are by 30, and they don’t feel like they need a church to tell them,” Smith said.

The rise of the nones shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the religious identity that seems to be doing the best job at both retaining old members and attracting new ones is the newfangled American religion of Nothing Much at All.

Does the rise of the nones matter?

Let’s first consider the possibility that it doesn’t. As America’s youth have slipped away from organized religion, they haven’t quite fallen into wickedness. If anything, today’s young people are uniquely conscientious—less likely to fight, drink, use hard drugs, or have premarital sex than previous generations. They might not be able to quote from the Book of Matthew, but their economic and social politics—which insist on protections for the politically meek and the historically persecuted—aren’t so far from a certain reading of the beatitudes.

But the liberal politics of young people brings us to the first big reason to care about rising non-affiliation. A gap has opened up between America’s two political parties. In a twist of fate, the Christian right entered politics to save religion, only to make the Christian-Republican nexus unacceptable to millions of young people—thus accelerating the country’s turn against religion.

Although it would be wrong to call Democrats a secular party (older black voters are highly religious and dependably vote Democratic), the left today has a higher share of religiously unaffiliated voters than anytime in modern history. At the same time, the average religiosity of white Christian Republicans has gone up, according to Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the polling firm PRRI and the author of The End of White Christian America. Evangelicals feel so embattled that they’ve turned to a deeply immoral and authoritarian champion to protect them—even if it means rendering unto an American Caesar whatever the hell he wants. American politics is at risk of becoming a war of religiosity versus secularism by proxy, where both sides see the other as a catastrophic political force that must be destroyed at all costs.

The deeper question is whether the sudden loss of religion has social consequences for Americans who opt out. Secular Americans, who are familiar with the ways that traditional faiths have betrayed modern liberalism, may not have examined how organized religion has historically offered solutions to their modern existential anxieties.

Making friends as an adult without a weekly congregation is hard. Establishing a weekend routine to soothe Sunday-afternoon nerves is hard. Reconciling the overwhelming sense of life’s importance with the universe’s ostensible indifference to human suffering is hard.

Although belief in God is no panacea for these problems, religion is more than a theism. It is a bundle: a theory of the world, a community, a social identity, a means of finding peace and purpose, and a weekly routine. Those, like me, who have largely rejected this package deal, often find themselves shopping à la carte for meaning, community, and routine to fill a faith-shaped void. Their politics is a religion. Their work is a religion. Their spin class is a church. And not looking at their phone for several consecutive hours is a Sabbath.

American nones may well build successful secular systems of belief, purpose, and community. But imagine what a devout believer might think: Millions of Americans have abandoned religion, only to re-create it everywhere they look.

Cynical Myth of Global Warming

Is the political action of Global warming a Democratic ruse or a sientific fact.

The Cynical Myth of a Global Warming “Consensus”
August 27, 2019 | James R. Bascom, Tradition, Family, Property – TFP

The Cynical Myth of a Global Warming “Consensus”

The Cynical Myth of a Global Warming “Consensus”
An article of faith of the modern environmental movement is the scientific “consensus” behind man-made global warming. Global warming activists and even some serious scientific organizations claim that 97% of the world’s scientists unreservedly accept this theory. It is often the first and most common argument used by climate activists, from Al Gore to the Greenpeace climate warriors protesting in front of the White House.

Pope Francis incorporated this belief into his 2015 “green” encyclical, Laudato si’: “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”1 He repeated it during an airplane interview on September 6, 2017, on the return flight from a trip to Colombia. A reporter asked the Pope if, in light of the recent devastation in the United States caused by Hurricane Harvey, he thought there was a “moral responsibility” for countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Notes on the Unacceptable Philosophy and Theology of Laudato Si’

He agreed entirely, appealing to a “consensus” of scientists:
“…Whoever denies this should go to the scientists and ask them. They speak very clearly. The scientists are precise… you see the effects and scientists say clearly which is the path to follow… [So] if one is a bit doubtful that this is not so true, let them ask the scientists. They are very clear. They are not opinions on the air, they are very clear. And then let them decide, and history will judge their decisions.”2

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the Pope’s right-hand man for climate activism, stated:
“From the scientific point of view, the sentence that the earth is warmed by human activity is as true as the sentence: The earth is round!”

Is there a “scientific consensus” about man-made global warming? Can there be any such thing as a scientific “consensus” in the first place? Do 97% of scientists believe in global warming?

The answer to all three questions is an unequivocal NO, and we will analyze each one in depth.

What Is a “Scientific Consensus” Anyway?

The word “consensus” is confusing at best and deceptive at worst. There is no infallible “pope” of science who declares one or another scientific theory to be fact and all others to be heretical. Science has relatively few absolute, unchangeable truths and many theories of varying degrees of certitude. A scientific theory is not infallible simply because a democratic majority of scientists say so.

And what is the definition of “scientific consensus?”

Different scientific theories are accepted by various numbers of scientists to varying degrees, all of which are labeled “consensus.” If 50% + 1 of scientists accept a theory, does that make a “consensus?” Or does it have to be 75% or more? If so, why?
What about the degree of adherence to a scientific theory? If 90% of scientists believe a theory is “probably correct,” but only 10% affirm that is “certainly correct” (which is the case in many scientific debates) does that make a “consensus?” If so, why?

Most importantly, why is it wrong to question a “scientific consensus” (however one defines it) in the first place? As any honest scientists will admit, in every scientific field, disagreement is common, and widespread “consensus” is the exception. Scientific knowledge is constantly undergoing challenges, upheavals, and paradigm shifts thanks to new discoveries. Indeed, the history of science is littered with the wrecks of refuted theories.

The Media’s Comical but Worrisome Eco-Catastrophe Obsession

In biology, for example, our knowledge and theories about the cell have changed more from Charles Darwin’s death in 1882 to today than in the previous 10,000 years of human history combined. Astronomy has learned more about the planets, galaxies, and the universe in the twentieth century than in the 1,800 years since Ptolemy.

Scientists continually propose scientific theories that buck mainstream “consensuses.” Even today, we do not have certainty about basic scientific questions such as the size of the universe, the nature or existence of “black holes,” the age of the Earth, or even whether light is a particle or a wave. Our understanding of the atom has undergone numerous transformations over the last 200 years and continues to do so.

Climate science is extremely complex. Every year, we learn more and more about the many factors that influence the Earth’s climate. Scientists can and do make incorrect assumptions or conclusions based on faulty theories or incomplete data. In the seventies and eighties, many scientists, scientific organizations, and most of the media declared a scientific “consensus” that a global cooling trend was underway that would lead to a new Ice Age. Now, some of the very same scientists tell us that anyone who questions global warming is a “denier.” Either the “consensus” was wrong then, or it is wrong now.

Appealing to authority rather than evidence—as proponents of the man-made global warming theory are doing when they claim a “scientific consensus”—is anything but scientific. It is nothing less than an attempt to silence opposition, shut down all debate and scare the general public into submission.

Do 97% of Scientists Endorse the UN’s Position on Global Warming?

To this end, the most common argument used by climate activists such as Al Gore is that 97% of scientists worldwide explicitly endorse the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) position that man-made global warming is happening, that it is caused mostly by man’s activities, and that it is a grave threat to humanity and the Earth.

It is quite an intimidating figure. Anyone who dissents from man-made global warming, therefore, must be a member of a tiny, dangerous, isolated fringe. Perhaps they chose the 97% figure because 90% still leaves too large of a minority in opposition, but 99% or 100% is not very believable. At any rate, it is a very well chosen number for psychological effect.

The average observer might think that such a solid number as 97% has equally solid evidence to back it up. In reality, the most commonly cited studies presented to support the “97%” figure are misleading at best, and fraudulent at worst.

We will cite one of the most respected government scientific organizations in the world, NASA. On its web site dedicated to man-made global warming, NASA lists four studies to support its claim that “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”3
Appealing to authority rather than evidence is anything but scientific. It is nothing less than an attempt to silence opposition, shut down all debate and scare the general public into submission.

One study cited is “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” by historian Naomi Oreskes. In 2004, Oreskes took 928 papers published in scientific journals from 1993 to 2003 and searched them for evidence of support for global warming. She did not search the whole paper, but rather those papers “abstracts,” which is the summary written at the very beginning of the paper that summarizes its main points. She claimed that 75% of the abstracts either implicitly or explicitly supported the IPCC’s view that humanity is responsible for most of the global increase in temperature for the past fifty years.

Oreskes’s conclusions are flawed for several reasons.

First, many of the articles she cites mention global warming only in passing, or assume some human impact on climate. A much smaller number explicitly endorses the IPCC view. Oreskes did not make any distinction and lumped them all together as supporting the IPCC. She also did not make any distinction between authors who believe global warming is dangerous and those who believe it is benign.

Second, she reviewed only the abstracts of the 928 scientific papers for evidence of support for global warming, and not the papers themselves. Abstracts routinely misrepresent the content and conclusions of the papers and are often chock full of keywords for search engine purposes. This is no different than reading the blurb on the back cover of a book and drawing conclusions about the author’s positions on topics other than what he wrote about.

Third, most of the scientific papers are not about climate change, and most of their authors are not specialists in any of the climate sciences. Oreskes also ignores the many hundreds of articles published by prominent climate skeptics that raise serious doubts about man-made global warming.

Fourth, in 2008, medical researcher Klaus-Martin Schulte published a scientific study of the Oreskes report and found that only 7 percent explicitly endorsed the IPCC view on global warming.4

Another scientific paper cited by NASA and widely used to push the 97% myth is by Australian cognitive scientist John Cook. In 2013, he published a paper in Environmental Research Letters in which he analyzed the abstracts of 11,944 published scientific papers, published between 1991 and 2011 that include the words “climate change” or “global warming.”

According to his very broad criteria, of all the papers that express an opinion about man-made global warming, 97.1% endorsed the IPCC position that humans are the main cause.

This paper was immediately debunked by a scientific paper published in Science & Education by David Legates, Wei-Hock Soon, William Briggs, and Christopher Monckton, in which they found that, in reality, of all the scientific papers that express an opinion on global warming, only 1% were found to explicitly endorse the IPCC’s position.
Richard Tol, a lead author of the UN’s IPCC reports, flatly rejected Cook’s findings:
“Cook’s sample is not representative. Any conclusion they draw is not about ‘the literature’ but rather about the papers they happened to find. Most of the papers they studied are not about climate change and its causes, but many were taken as evidence nonetheless. Papers on carbon taxes naturally assume that carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming—but assumptions are not conclusions. Cook’s claim of an increasing consensus over time is entirely due to an increase of the number of irrelevant papers that Cook and Co. mistook for evidence.”5

Eternal and Natural Law: The Foundation of Morals and Law

Also cited by NASA is a 2009 study by then-University of Illinois student Maggie Zimmerman and her master’s thesis adviser Peter Doran. But just like the previous two, it also contains serious flaws.

Zimmerman’s “study” consisted of a two-minute online survey sent to 10,257 scientists working at universities and government agencies asking for their opinion about man-made global warming. A total of 3,146 responded. Of these, she eliminated the scientists whose area of expertise—cosmology, physics, meteorology, solar science, etc.—would lead them to think that the Sun might have a major influence on the Earth’s climate. Only about 5% self-identified as climate scientists.

The survey asked two questions: “When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?” and “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” Those questions are ambiguous, since “significant” could mean many different things, and is certainly not the same as the IPCC report which affirms man as the primary factor. The questions also do not ask if such warming is harmful or benign for the planet, an important distinction.6

To get the 97% figure, Zimmerman restricted her criteria only to self-identified “climate scientists” who must have published at least 50% of their peer-reviewed publications in the last five years on the subject of climate change. This is a serious flaw in methodology since she would include a person who published three papers in the past five years if two of them were on climate change, but not another who published 40 papers of which only 19 were on climate change.7

The Civilization of the Lie and Its Rejection of Truth

In short, the Zimmerman paper is a seriously flawed study that was widely promoted by the media to push a political agenda, not science. It was designed to produce one and only one result (the 97% myth) which happens to be the party line pushed by climate activist organizations.

Other studies cities by NASA, such as that done by William R. L. Anderegg in 2010, then a student at Stanford University, are just as flawed. Like the others, he scanned the abstracts of hundreds of scientific papers looking for clues of the authors’ positions on global warming. To achieve the “97%” figure, he restricted his definition of “climate scientists” to those who are the “most published,” which happens to be disproportionally populated by a small group of dedicated activist scientists. He removed those scientists who explicitly signed statements against the IPCC position on climate but included those who had not. In his view, silence on the issue meant that those authors accept the extreme position of the IPCC on man-made global warming.8

Conclusion

It is disgraceful that a heretofore respected organization such as NASA would cite such weak and easily refuted studies to sustain its shaky hypothesis on man-made global warming. It is not a fact, but an unproven assertion that 97% of scientists accept unequivocally the IPCC’s position.

There is no scientific consensus on man-made global warming. The only consensus among scientists is that there is no consensus. Rank and file climate scientists simply disagree on how much warming is occurring (if any), the causes of this warming, the role of man’s activities in this warming, whether or not such warming is benign or dangerous to civilization, and what measures mankind should take to address it (if any).

Six Characteristics of True Environmental Stewardship

Although the jury is still out on the danger of global warming, a far worse threat to the common good is the cynical promotion of global warming as a fact by people and organizations such as NASA who know better. Much worse is the Vatican, led by Pope Francis, using the full weight and moral authority of the Catholic Church to give such a fraudulent claim legitimacy.
More articles like this may be found on Pan-Amazon Synod Watch, at https://panamazonsynodwatch.com/.Tradition, Family, Property – TFP

Footnotes
Pope Francis, Laudato si’, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-in-flight-press-conference-from-colombia-62782.
https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/.
Craig D. Idso, Robert M. Carter, S. Fred Singer, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming (Arlington Heights, Illinois: The Heartland Institute, 2016), p. 10-12.
Ibid, p. 17-18.
Ibid, p. 14.
https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/climate-scientists-consensus-based-on-a-myth.
https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/deep-sixing-another-useful-climate-myth.

AG Barr remarks to law school

William Barr’s right about left’s designs on religious freedom
South Bend, IN ~ Friday, October 11, 2019

Thank you to the Notre Dame Law School and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture for graciously extending an invitation to address you today. I’d also like to express gratitude to Tony de Nicola, whose generous support has shaped – and continues to shape – countless minds through examination of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition.

Today, I would like to share some thoughts with you about religious liberty in America. It’s an important priority in this Administration and for this Department of Justice.

We have set up a task force within the Department with different components that have equities in this area, including the Solicitor General’s Office, the Civil Division, the Office of Legal Counsel, and other offices. We have regular meetings. We keep an eye out for cases or events around the country where states are misapplying the Establishment Clause in a way that discriminates against people of faith, or cases where states adopt laws that impinge upon the free exercise of religion.

From the Founding Era onward, there was strong consensus about the centrality of religious liberty in the United States.

The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.

In his renowned 1785 pamphlet, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison described religious liberty as “a right towards men” but “a duty towards the Creator,” and a “duty….precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”

It has been over 230 years since that small group of colonial lawyers led a revolution and launched what they viewed as a great experiment, establishing a society fundamentally different than those that had gone before.

They crafted a magnificent charter of freedom – the United States Constitution – which provides for limited government, while leaving “the People” broadly at liberty to pursue our lives both as individuals and through free associations.

This quantum leap in liberty has been the mainspring of unprecedented human progress, not only for Americans, but for people around the world.

In the 20th century, our form of free society faced a severe test.

There had always been the question whether a democracy so solicitous of individual freedom could stand up against a regimented totalitarian state.

That question was answered with a resounding “yes” as the United States stood up against and defeated, first fascism, and then communism.

But in the 21st century, we face an entirely different kind of challenge.

The challenge we face is precisely what the Founding Fathers foresaw would be our supreme test as a free society.

They never thought the main danger to the republic came from external foes. The central question was whether, over the long haul, we could handle freedom. The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions.

By and large, the Founding generation’s view of human nature was drawn from the classical Christian tradition.

These practical statesmen understood that individuals, while having the potential for great good, also had the capacity for great evil.

Men are subject to powerful passions and appetites, and, if unrestrained, are capable of ruthlessly riding roughshod over their neighbors and the community at large.

No society can exist without some means for restraining individual rapacity.

But, if you rely on the coercive power of government to impose restraints, this will inevitably lead to a government that is too controlling, and you will end up with no liberty, just tyranny.

On the other hand, unless you have some effective restraint, you end up with something equally dangerous – licentiousness – the unbridled pursuit of personal appetites at the expense of the common good. This is just another form of tyranny – where the individual is enslaved by his appetites, and the possibility of any healthy community life crumbles.

Edmund Burke summed up this point in his typically colorful language:

“Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put chains upon their appetites…. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

So the Founders decided to take a gamble. They called it a great experiment.

They would leave “the People” broad liberty, limit the coercive power of the government, and place their trust in self-discipline and the virtue of the American people.

In the words of Madison, “We have staked our future on the ability of each of us to govern ourselves…”

This is really what was meant by “self-government.” It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislative body. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves.

But what was the source of this internal controlling power? In a free republic, those restraints could not be handed down from above by philosopher kings.

Instead, social order must flow up from the people themselves – freely obeying the dictates of inwardly-possessed and commonly-shared moral values. And to control willful human beings, with an infinite capacity to rationalize, those moral values must rest on authority independent of men’s will – they must flow from a transcendent Supreme Being.

In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.

As John Adams put it, “We have no government armed with the power which is capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

As Father John Courtney Murray observed, the American tenet was not that:

“Free government is inevitable, only that it is possible, and that its possibility can be realized only when the people as a whole are inwardly governed by the recognized imperatives of the universal moral order.”

How does religion promote the moral discipline and virtue needed to support free government?

First, it gives us the right rules to live by. The Founding generation were Christians. They believed that the Judeo-Christian moral system corresponds to the true nature of man. Those moral precepts start with the two great commandments – to Love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind; and to Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.

But they also include the guidance of natural law – a real, transcendent moral order which flows from God’s eternal law – the divine wisdom by which the whole of creation is ordered. The eternal law is impressed upon, and reflected in, all created things.

From the nature of things we can, through reason, experience, discern standards of right and wrong that exist independent of human will.

Modern secularists dismiss this idea of morality as other-worldly superstition imposed by a kill-joy clergy. In fact, Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct.

They reflect the rules that are best for man, not in the by and by, but in the here and now. They are like God’s instruction manual for the best running of man and human society.

By the same token, violations of these moral laws have bad, real-world consequences for man and society. We may not pay the price immediately, but over time the harm is real.

Religion helps promote moral discipline within society. Because man is fallen, we don’t automatically conform ourselves to moral rules even when we know they are good for us.

But religion helps teach, train, and habituate people to want what is good. It does not do this primarily by formal laws – that is, through coercion. It does this through moral education and by informing society’s informal rules – its customs and traditions which reflect the wisdom and experience of the ages.

In other words, religion helps frame moral culture within society that instills and reinforces moral discipline.

I think we all recognize that over the past 50 years religion has been under increasing attack.

On the one hand, we have seen the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system and a comprehensive effort to drive it from the public square.

On the other hand, we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism.

By any honest assessment, the consequences of this moral upheaval have been grim.

Virtually every measure of social pathology continues to gain ground.

In 1965, the illegitimacy rate was eight percent. In 1992, when I was last Attorney General, it was 25 percent. Today it is over 40 percent. In many of our large urban areas, it is around 70 percent.

Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.

As you all know, over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses. That is more casualities in a year than we experienced during the entire Vietnam War.

I will not dwell on all the bitter results of the new secular age. Suffice it to say that the campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has brought with it immense suffering, wreckage, and misery. And yet, the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy.

Among these militant secularists are many so-called “progressives.” But where is the progress?

We are told we are living in a post-Christian era. But what has replaced the Judeo-Christian moral system? What is it that can fill the spiritual void in the hearts of the individual person? 

And what is a system of values that can sustain human social life?

The fact is that no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion.

Scholarship suggests that religion has been integral to the development and thriving of Homo sapiens since we emerged roughly 50,000 years ago. It is just for the past few hundred years we have experimented in living without religion.

We hear much today about our humane values. But, in the final analysis, what undergirds these values? What commands our adherence to them?

What we call “values” today are really nothing more than mere sentimentality, still drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity.

Now, there have been times and places where the traditional moral order has been shaken.

In the past, societies – like the human body – seem to have a self-healing mechanism – a self-correcting mechanism that gets things back on course if things go too far.

The consequences of moral chaos become too pressing. The opinion of decent people rebels. They coalesce and rally against obvious excess. Periods of moral entrenchment follow periods of excess.

This is the idea of the pendulum. We have all thought that after a while the “pendulum will swing back.”

But today we face something different that may mean that we cannot count on the pendulum swinging back.

First is the force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay; it is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the “progressives,” have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.

These instruments are used not only to affirmatively promote secular orthodoxy, but also drown out and silence opposing voices, and to attack viciously and hold up to ridicule any dissenters.

One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor. It is taking on all the trappings of a religion, including inquisitions and excommunication.

Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake – social, educational, and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.

The pervasiveness and power of our high-tech popular culture fuels apostasy in another way. It provides an unprecedented degree of distraction.

Part of the human condition is that there are big questions that should stare us in the face. Are we created or are we purely material accidents? Does our life have any meaning or purpose? 

But, as Blaise Pascal observed, instead of grappling with these questions, humans can be easily distracted from thinking about the “final things.”

Indeed, we now live in the age of distraction where we can envelop ourselves in a world of digital stimulation and universal connectivity. And we have almost limitless ways of indulging all our physical appetites.

There is another modern phenomenon that suppresses society’s self-corrective mechanisms – that makes it harder for society to restore itself.

In the past, when societies are threatened by moral chaos, the overall social costs of licentiousness and irresponsible personal conduct becomes so high that society ultimately recoils and reevaluates the path that it is on.

But today – in the face of all the increasing pathologies – instead of addressing the underlying cause, we have the State in the role of alleviator of bad consequences. We call on the State to mitigate the social costs of personal misconduct and irresponsibility. 

So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion. 

The reaction to drug addiction is safe injection sites.

The solution to the breakdown of the family is for the State to set itself up as the ersatz husband for single mothers and the ersatz father to their children.

The call comes for more and more social programs to deal with the wreckage. While we think we are solving problems, we are underwriting them.

We start with an untrammeled freedom and we end up as dependents of a coercive state on which we depend.

Interestingly, this idea of the State as the alleviator of bad consequences has given rise to a new moral system that goes hand-in-hand with the secularization of society.  It can be called the system of “macro-morality.”  It is in some ways an inversion of Christian morality.

Christianity teaches a micro-morality. We transform the world by focusing on our own personal morality and transformation. 

The new secular religion teaches macro-morality. One’s morality is not gauged by their private conduct, but rather on their commitment to political causes and collective action to address social problems.

This system allows us to not worry so much about the strictures on our private lives, while we find salvation on the picket-line. We can signal our finely-tuned moral sensibilities by demonstrating for this cause or that.

Something happened recently that crystalized the difference between these moral systems. I was attending Mass at a parish I did not usually go to in Washington, D.C.  At the end of Mass, the Chairman of the Social Justice Committee got up to give his report to the parish. He pointed to the growing homeless problem in D.C. and explained that more mobile soup kitchens were needed to feed them. This being a Catholic church, I expected him to call for volunteers to go out and provide this need. Instead, he recounted all the visits that the Committee had made to the D.C. government to lobby for higher taxes and more spending to fund mobile soup kitchen.

A third phenomenon which makes it difficult for the pendulum to swing back is the way law is being used as a battering ram to break down traditional moral values and to establish moral relativism as a new orthodoxy.

Law is being used as weapon in a couple of ways.

First, either through legislation but more frequently through judicial interpretation, secularists have been continually seeking to eliminate laws that reflect traditional moral norms.

At first, this involved rolling back laws that prohibited certain kinds of conduct. Thus, the watershed decision legalizing abortion. And since then, the legalization of euthanasia. The list goes on.

More recently, we have seen the law used aggressively to force religious people and entities to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith.

The problem is not that religion is being forced on others. The problem is that irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith.

This reminds me of how some Roman emperors could not leave their loyal Christian subjects in peace but would mandate that they violate their conscience by offering religious sacrifice to the emperor as a god.

Similarly, militant secularists today do not have a live and let live spirit – they are not content to leave religious people alone to practice their faith. Instead, they seem to take a delight in compelling people to violate their conscience.

For example, the last Administration sought to force religious employers, including Catholic religious orders, to violate their sincerely held religious views by funding contraceptive and abortifacient coverage in their health plans. Similarly, California has sought to require pro-life pregnancy centers to provide notices of abortion rights.

This refusal to accommodate the free exercise of religion is relatively recent. Just 25 years ago, there was broad consensus in our society that our laws should accommodate religious belief. 

In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – RFRA. The purpose of the statute was to promote maximum accommodation to religion when the government adopted broad policies that could impinge on religious practice. 

At the time, RFRA was not controversial. It was introduced by Chuck Schumer with 170 cosponsors in the House, and was introduced by Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch with 59 additional cosponsors in the Senate. It passed by voice vote in the House and by a vote of 97-3 in the Senate. 

Recently, as the process of secularization has accelerated, RFRA has come under assault, and the idea of religious accommodation has fallen out of favor.

Because this Administration firmly supports accommodation of religion, the battleground has shifted to the states. Some state governments are now attempting to compel religious individuals and entities to subscribe to practices, or to espouse viewpoints, that are incompatible with their religion.

Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the schools. To me, this is the most serious challenge to religious liberty. 

For anyone who has a religious faith, by far the most important part of exercising that faith is the teaching of that religion to our children. The passing on of the faith. There is no greater gift we can give our children and no greater expression of love.

For the government to interfere in that process is a monstrous invasion of religious liberty.

Yet here is where the battle is being joined, and I see the secularists are attacking on three fronts.

The first front relates to the content of public school curriculum. Many states are adopting curriculum that is incompatible with traditional religious principles according to which parents are attempting to raise their children. They often do so without any opt out for religious families.

Thus, for example, New Jersey recently passed a law requiring public schools to adopt an LGBT curriculum that many feel is inconsistent with traditional Christian teaching. Similar laws have been passed in California and Illinois. And the Orange County Board of Education in California issued an opinion that “parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction.”

Indeed, in some cases, the schools may not even warn parents about lessons they plan to teach on controversial subjects relating to sexual behavior and relationships.

This puts parents who dissent from the secular orthodoxy to a difficult choice: Try to scrape together the money for private school or home schooling, or allow their children to be inculcated with messages that they fundamentally reject.

A second axis of attack in the realm of education are state policies designed to starve religious schools of generally-available funds and encouraging students to choose secular options.  

Montana, for example, created a program that provided tax credits to those who donated to a scholarship program that underprivileged students could use to attend private school.  The point of the program was to provide greater parental and student choice in education and to provide better educations to needy youth.

But Montana expressly excluded religiously-affiliated private schools from the program.  And when that exclusion was challenged in court by parents who wanted to use the scholarships to attend a nondenominational Christian school, the Montana Supreme Court required the state to eliminate the program rather than allow parents to use scholarships for religious schools.

It justified this action by pointing to a provision in Montana’s State Constitution commonly referred to as a “Blaine Amendment.”  Blaine Amendments were passed at a time of rampant anti-Catholic animus in this country, and typically disqualify religious institutions from receiving any direct or indirect payments from a state’s funds.

The case is now in the Supreme Court, and we filed a brief explaining why Montana’s Blaine Amendment violates the First Amendment.

A third kind of assault on religious freedom in education have been recent efforts to use state laws to force religious schools to adhere to secular orthodoxy. For example, right here in Indiana, a teacher sued the Catholic Archbishop of Indianapolis for directing the Catholic schools within his diocese that they could not employ teachers in same-sex marriages because the example of those same-sex marriages would undermine the schools’ teaching on the Catholic view of marriage and complementarity between the sexes.

This lawsuit clearly infringes the First Amendment rights of the Archdiocese by interfering both with its expressive association and with its church autonomy. The Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the state court making these points, and we hope that the state court will soon dismiss the case. 

Taken together, these cases paint a disturbing picture. We see the State requiring local public schools to insert themselves into contentious social debates, without regard for the religious views of their students or parents. In effect, these states are requiring local communities to make their public schools inhospitable to families with traditional religious values; those families are implicitly told that they should conform or leave. 

At the same time, pressure is placed on religious schools to abandon their religious convictions. Simply because of their religious character, they are starved of funds – students who would otherwise choose to attend them are told they may only receive scholarships if they turn their sights elsewhere. 

Simultaneously, they are threatened in tort and, eventually, will undoubtedly be threatened with denial of accreditation if they adhere to their religious character.  If these measures are successful, those with religious convictions will become still more marginalized. 

I do not mean to suggest that there is no hope for moral renewal in our country.

But we cannot sit back and just hope the pendulum is going to swing back toward sanity.

As Catholics, we are committed to the Judeo-Christian values that have made this country great.

And we know that the first thing we have to do to promote renewal is to ensure that we are putting our principles into practice in our own personal private lives.

We understand that only by transforming ourselves can we transform the world beyond 

ourselves.

This is tough work. It is hard to resist the constant seductions of our contemporary society. This is where we need grace, prayer, and the help of our church.

Beyond this, we must place greater emphasis on the moral education of our children.

Education is not vocational training. It is leading our children to the recognition that there is truth and helping them develop the faculties to discern and love the truth and the discipline to live by it.

We cannot have a moral renaissance unless we succeed in passing to the next generation our faith and values in full vigor.

The times are hostile to this. Public agencies, including public schools, are becoming secularized and increasingly are actively promoting moral relativism.

If ever there was a need for a resurgence of Catholic education – and more generally religiously-affiliated schools – it is today.

I think we should do all we can to promote and support authentic Catholic education at all levels.

Finally, as lawyers, we should be particularly active in the struggle that is being waged against religion on the legal plane.

We must be vigilant to resist efforts by the forces of secularization to drive religious viewpoints from the public square and to impinge upon the free exercise of our faith.

I can assure you that, as long as I am Attorney General, the Department of Justice will be at the forefront of this effort, ready to fight for the most cherished of our liberties: the freedom to live according to our faith.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you today. And God bless you and Notre Dame.

Respect Laws of Country That Receives You: Pope

Pope to Migrants: With Respect for Culture & Laws of Country That Receives You, May You Work Out Together the Path of Integration

Pope Celebrates Mass for Migrants in St. Peter’s Basilica on Fifth Anniversary of Pope Francis’ Visit to Lampedusa on July 8, 2013
JULY 06, 2018 15:20DEBORAH CASTELLANO LUBOVPOPE AND HOLY SEE

‘With respect for the culture and laws of the country that receives you, may you work out together the path of integration.’

Despite technically being on ‘summer break,’ Pope Francis said this during the Mass he wished to celebrate for Migrants, at the Altar of the Chair, in St. Peter’s Basilica today, July 6, at 11 a.m. The news of the Mass–which coincided with the fifth anniversary of the visit of Pope Francis to Lampedusa on July 8, 2013–was announced by Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, in a statement earlier this week.

The Mass was a time of prayer for the deceased, for the survivors and for those who assist them. Approximately 200 people were present, including refugees and caregivers. While always free, participation was reserved for those with tickets.

In his homily, the Holy Father called for treating migrants as Jesus had treated the poor and disadvantaged, but also stressed that migrants ought to be properly integrated.

Noting he wished to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his visit to Lampedusa with them, who represent rescuers and those rescued on the Mediterranean Sea, he said: “I thank the rescuers for embodying in our day the parable of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to save the life of the poor man beaten by bandits. He didn’t ask where he was from, his reasons for travelling or his documents… he simply decided to care for him and save his life.”

To the rescued, Francis reiterated his solidarity and encouragement, noting he is “well aware” of the tragic circumstances that they are fleeing.

“I ask you to keep being witnesses of hope in a world increasingly concerned about the present, with little vision for the future and averse to sharing. With respect for the culture and laws of the country that receives you, may you work out together the path of integration.”
Pope Francis concluded, saying: “I ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and to stir our hearts to overcome all fear and anxiety, and to make us docile instruments of the Father’s merciful love, ready to offer our lives for our brothers and sisters, as the Lord Jesus did for each of us.”

Here is the Vatican-provided text of the Holy Father’s homily:

***

“You who trample upon the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land… Behold the days are coming… when I will send a famine on the land… a thirst for hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:4.11).

Today this warning of the prophet Amos is remarkably timely. How many of the poor are trampled on in our day! How many of the poor are being brought to ruin! All are the victims of that culture of waste that has been denounced time and time again. Among them, I cannot fail to include the migrants and refugees who continue to knock at the door of nations that enjoy greater prosperity.

Five years ago, during my visit to Lampedusa, recalling the victims lost at sea, I repeated that timeless appeal to human responsibility: “ ‘Where is your brother? His blood cries out to me’, says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us (Homily, 8 July 2013). Sadly, the response to this appeal, even if at times generous, has not been enough, and we continue to grieve thousands of deaths.

Today’s Gospel acclamation contains Jesus’ invitation: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). The Lord promises refreshment and freedom to all the oppressed of our world, but he needs us to fulfill his promise. He needs our eyes to see the needs of our brothers and sisters. He needs our hands to offer them help. He needs our voice to protest the injustices committed thanks to the silence, often complicit, of so many. I should really speak of many silences: the silence of common sense; the silence that thinks, “it’s always been done this way”; the silence of “us” as opposed to “you”. Above all, the Lord needs our hearts to show his merciful love towards the least, the outcast, the abandoned, the marginalized.

In the Gospel we heard, Matthew tells us of the most important day in his life, the day Jesus called him. The Evangelist clearly records the Lord’s rebuke to the Pharisees, so easily given to insidious murmuring: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’” (9:13). It is a finger pointed at the sterile hypocrisy of those who do not want to “dirty the hands”, like the priest or the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is a temptation powerfully present in our own day. It takes the form of closing our hearts to those who have the right, just as we do, to security and dignified living conditions. It builds walls, real or virtual, rather than bridges.

Before the challenges of contemporary movements of migration, the only reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy. A response less concerned with calculations, than with the need for an equitable distribution of responsibilities, an honest and sincere assessment of the alternatives and a prudent management. A just policy is one at the service of the person, of every person involved; a policy that provides for solutions that can ensure security, respect for the rights and dignity of all; a policy concerned for the good of one’s own country, while taking into account that of others in an ever more interconnected world. It is to this world that the young look.

The Psalmist has shown us the right attitude to adopt in conscience before God: “I have chosen the way of faithfulness, I set your ordinances before me” (Ps 119,30). A commitment to faithfulness and right judgement that all of us hope to pursue together with government leaders in our world and all people of good will. For this reason, we are following closely the efforts of the international community to respond to the challenges posed by today’s movements of migration by wisely combining solidarity and subsidiarity, and by identifying both resources and responsibilities.

I would like to close with a few words in Spanish, directed particularly to the faithful who have come from Spain.

I wanted to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my visit to Lampedusa with you, who represent rescuers and those rescued on the Mediterranean Sea. I thank the rescuers for embodying in our day the parable of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to save the life of the poor man beaten by bandits. He didn’t ask where he was from, his reasons for travelling or his documents… he simply decided to care for him and save his life. To those rescued I reiterate my solidarity and encouragement, since I am well aware of the tragic circumstances that you are fleeing. I ask you to keep being witnesses of hope in a world increasingly concerned about the present, with little vision for the future and averse to sharing. With respect for the culture and laws of the country that receives you, may you work out together the path of integration.

I ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and to stir our hearts to overcome all fear and anxiety, and to make us docile instruments of the Father’s merciful love, ready to offer our lives for our brothers and sisters, as the Lord Jesus did for each of us.

Pope on Saving Earth

Let Us Think of Lord’s Instructions to St Francis of Assisi to ‘Go and Repair My House’

Pope Francis Addresses International Conference Saving our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth

JULY 06, 2018 15:33DEBORAH CASTELLANO LUBOVSOCIAL DOCTRINE AND THE COMMON GOOD

Here we can think back on the call that Francis of Assisi received from the Lord in the little church of San Damiano: “Go and repair my house, which, as you can see, lies in ruins”. Today, the ‘common home’ of our planet also needs urgently to be repaired and secured for a sustainable future.

Pope Francis stressed this at the opening of the International Conference Saving our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth, held on the third anniversary of the Holy Father Francis’ Encyclical Laudato si’, in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall from July 5-6, 2018, noting there is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse.

He expressed his hope “that concern for the state of our common home will translate into systematic and concerted efforts aimed at an integral ecology.”

“May Saint Francis of Assisi,” the Holy Father prayed, “continue to inspire and guide us on this journey, and may our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”

“After all,” the Pope underscored, “that hope is based on our faith in the power of our heavenly Father.”

“He, ‘who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way.

“In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him!” (ibid., 245).”

Pope Francis concluded, imparting his Apostolic Blessing and asking those present to pray for him.

Here is the Vatican-provided text of the Pope’s address:

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome all of you assembled for this International Conference marking the third anniversary of the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ on care for our common home. In a special way, I would like to greet His Eminence Archbishop Zizioulas, because he and Cardinal Turkson together presented the Encyclical three years ago. I thank all of you for coming together to “hear with your hearts” the increasingly desperate cries of the earth and its poor, who look for our help and concern. You have also gathered to testify to the urgent need to respond to the Encyclical’s call for change, for an ecological conversion. Your presence here is the sign of your commitment to take concrete steps to save the planet and the life it sustains, inspired by the Encyclical’s assumption that “everything is connected”. That principle lies at the heart of an integral ecology.

Here we can think back on the call that Francis of Assisi received from the Lord in the little church of San Damiano: “Go and repair my house, which, as you can see, lies in ruins”. Today, the “common home” of our planet also needs urgently to be repaired and secured for a sustainable future.

In recent decades, the scientific community has developed increasingly accurate assessments in this regard. Indeed, “the pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world” (Laudato Si’, 161). There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse.

So I express my hope that concern for the state of our common home will translate into systematic and concerted efforts aimed at an integral ecology. For “the effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now” (ibid.). Humanity has the knowledge and the means to cooperate in responsibly “cultivating and protecting” the earth. Significantly, your discussions have addressed some of this year’s important steps in this direction.

The COP24 Summit, to be held in Katowice, Poland, in December, could prove a milestone on the path set out by the 2015 Paris Agreement. We all know that much still needs to be done to implement that Agreement. All governments should strive to honour the commitments made in Paris, in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most” (ibid., 169), and we cannot afford to waste time.

Along with states, local authorities, civil society, and economic and religious institutions can promote the culture and practice of an integral ecology. I trust that events such as the Global Climate Action Summit, to be held from 12-14 September in San Francisco, will provide suitable responses, with the support of citizens’ pressure groups worldwide. As I observed, along with His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, and unless we give priority to solidarity and service” (Message for the World Day of Prayer for Creation, 1 September 2017).

Financial institutions, too, have an important role to play, as part both of the problem and its solution. A financial paradigm shift is needed, for the sake of promoting integral human development. International organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank can encourage effective reforms for more inclusive and sustainable development. It is to be hoped that “finance… will go back to being an instrument directed towards improved wealth creation and development” (BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 65), as well as towards care for the environment.

All these actions presuppose a transformation on a deeper level, namely a change of hearts and minds. In the words of Saint John Paul II: “We must encourage and support an ‘ecological conversion’” (Catechesis, 17 January 2001). Here the religions, and the Christian Churches in particular, have a key role to play. The Day of Prayer for Creation and its associated initiatives, begun in the Orthodox Church, are beginning to spread among Christian communities throughout the world.

Finally, dialogue and commitment to our common home must make special room for two groups of people at the forefront of efforts to foster an integral ecology. Both will be at the centre of the next two Synods of the Catholic Church: young people and indigenous peoples, especially those from the Amazon region.

On the one hand, “Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded” (Laudato Si’, 13). It is the young who will have to face the consequences of the current environmental and climate crisis. Consequently, intergenerational solidarity “is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us” (ibid., 159).

Then too, “it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions” (ibid., 146). It grieves us to see the lands of indigenous peoples expropriated and their cultures trampled on by predatory schemes and by new forms of colonialism, fuelled by the culture of waste and consumerism (cf. SYNOD OF BISHOPS, Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology, 8 June 2018). “For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values” (Laudato Si’, 146). How much we can learn from them! The lives of indigenous peoples “are a living memory of the mission that God has entrusted to us all: the protection of our common home” (Address, Puerto Maldonado, Peru, 19 January 2018).

Dear brothers and sisters, challenges are not lacking! I express my heartfelt gratitude for your efforts in the service of care for creation and a better future for our children and grandchildren. Sometimes it might seem too arduous a task, since “there are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected” (Laudato Si’, 54). Yet “human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start” (ibid., 205). Please continue to work for “the radical change which present circumstances require” (ibid., 171). For “injustice is not invincible” (ibid., 74).

May Saint Francis of Assisi continue to inspire and guide us on this journey, and “may our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope” (ibid., 244). After all, that hope is based on our faith in the power of our heavenly Father. He, “who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way. In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him!” (ibid., 245).

To all of you I impart my blessing. And please, remember to pray for me.

Thank you!
[Vatican-provided translation]
JULY 06, 2018 15:33SOCIAL DOCTRINE AND THE COMMON GOOD
About Deborah Castellano Lubov