A cheer for the Church

  Dear HCN,

Concerning Jim Robbins' "Holy Water": It is very good to see the Catholic Church taking some more specific steps (in the Columbia River basin pastoral letter) toward applying the ideas in Renewing the Earth (HCN, 9/11/00: Excerpts from the pastoral letter draft).

I would like to set the record straight, however (or at least make it complete), on Lynn White's article in Science magazine, "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis." He did, indeed, claim that "Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt" for environmental destruction. Robbins stops here, in his quotations from White's article - as is typical of writers who refer to it.

But White's argument does not stop there. At the end of his article, he says that if the original problem was of religious origin, so must the solution be religious. (He, himself, was a Christian.) His solution was to "rethink" our Christian religion in relation to nature, and he argued that St. Francis of Assisi should be the model. "The key to an understanding of Francis is his belief in the virtue of humility - not merely for the individual but for man as a species ... With him the ant is no longer simply a homily for the lazy, flame a sign of the thrust of the soul toward union with God; now they are Brother Ant and Sister Fire, praising the Creator in their own ways as Brother Man does in his." He closed the article by proposing "Francis as a patron saint for ecologists." The Northwest bishops are, it seems, acting as Lynn White would have wanted.

John Bliese
Lubbock, Texas

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