Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Letters to the Editor
(From the May 3, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
The Inland Register welcomes letters to the editor. Letters should be no longer than 500 words. Letters must be signed, with address and phone number for contact, but names will be withheld upon request. Remember to be charitable.
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Fax: (509) 358-7302
In the March 22 Inland Register, I noticed an obituary for Sister Mary Kevin Ferguson of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
How easily we read the death of one of these Sisters who gave their lives teaching in our Catholic schools. Like many other Religious, after they retire (in this case, to La Crosse, Wis.) they are not in the immediate area for people to honor their life and attend their funeral services.
When we moved from a small little farm town to Spokane in 1957, Sister Mary Kevin was my second grade teacher (with nearly 60 students). I was seven years old, and it was a little scary, starting school in the big city. She was like a mother hen and took me in and made me feel welcome and safe. She helped prepare me for my First Communion. I remember her being a very kind and happy person. She helped provide a positive Catholic school experience to many in her 23 years of teaching in Spokane. I’m sure it must have been rewarding, but often thankless.
So a big thank-you to her and the many Sisters: for their unselfish dedication, for giving so much to our Catholic schools.
Sue Millersmith, Spokane
“Sinister.” What a strange word to describe those folks like me, who love God’s creation and want to see it preserved in health and beauty for our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren! (Letters to the Editor: “‘Sinister side’ of climate concern,” IR 4/12/07). My agenda is not “contrary to Christian doctrine,” but wholly in line with Scripture.
Many people don’t understand that there’s more to being “pro-life” than merely being anti-abortion and anti-population control. Promoting peace instead of war is pro-life, and most important of all is preserving our small Earth, because we humans depend upon it for absolutely everything we need to continue living.
God’s instruction to “be fruitful and multiply” was given to the only two people on Earth at that time, not to the 6.5 billion persons now inhabiting this little planet. At the same time, God gave Adam and Eve “dominion over” the rest of creation, which means to care for, cherish, nurture, and protect; not to destroy, pillage, demolish and lay waste our Earth, as so many humans have done and are doing, which threatens, not only quality of life, but life itself, especially for the poor.
Many folks don’t yet truly understand that we humans are completely dependent upon the rest of God’s creation for our food, water, oxygen, clothing, housing and beauty: everything necessary for our survival as human beings. Thus our life support systems have been gravely compromised by our ignorant, thoughtless, greedy, and selfish choices.
The Bible also tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” and it’s love of money, the power and things it brings, and the greed of wanting more and more, that are mostly responsible for the mortal danger in which we find ourselves.
The “human capital” that Ms. Bacon mentions has already developed the technology, “the finest products of human ingenuity,” that we need to save ourselves and future generations. All we lack is the will to action.
Rather than being “far afield,” nurturing and restoring Planet Earth is right in line with Scripture. And it also tells us that we have before us the ability to choose between life and death. In Deuteronomy, God exhorts us to “choose life, therefore, so that you and your descendents may live.”
Which will we choose?
Bernadine Van Thiel, Spokane
I would like to respond to the letter written by Susan Bacon (“‘Sinister side’ of climate concern,” IR 4/12/07).
It is hard to know where to start to respond when Susan and I are at such different places of understanding reality and the interconnection of all beings. The letter was jolting to me in the apparent extreme of its values of consumerism and materialism. I am assuming that Susan Bacon was not being ironic.
To call the environmental movement (the protection of the Earth and its life forms and resources) sinister is, to me, harsh and judgmental. Susan Bacon may not know that not only is Catholic social teaching valuing the need to save the ecosystems of life, but other religions, and Christian churches, including Evangelicals, are likewise concerned. Also, our own bishop has written a pastoral letter on the Columbia Watershed.
She should know, too, that we Carmelites, as well as the Sisters of Providence, Holy Names, Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedic-tines, and too many other congregations to list here, also have as a priority the saving of the planet and the whole web of life. Since I know these Religious environmentalists, I can assure you that none have anything sinister in mind in regard to the devaluing of life, especially of human life. Rather, all are aware that whatever is lost or destroyed affects human life, and humans only partially understand the consequences of these losses. If our earth heats up too much or other living creatures are lost, there are major repercus-sions for humans. Obviously we cannot live without good soil, clean air, pure water, and a livable temperature range. But temperatures are rising and soil is exhausted, polluted, or blown away. There are over 150 dead zones in the ocean now, doubling every 10 years, and one right now off the coast of Los Angeles is the size of New Jersey. Presently we don’t know the ramifications for agriculture of the disappearing bees.
Population control has nothing to do with not loving humans, but rather with the carrying capacity of the planet and its resources. The planet is finite and can only support a certain amount of people. It may be possible that the Earth could support more humans if people in the wealthiest countries didn’t use more than their fair share of resources. However, I didn’t hear Susan saying that humans need to make any changes in their lifestyles as regards the life of the planet. Extravagant activities and lifestyles of some of Earth’s inhabitants – especially in the United States – is contributing to much suffering for the poor. Susan seems to have a concern for the poor, but even the scientists say that those who will be hurt most by global warming are the poor. Human dignity is an abstraction apart from an understanding of humans as rooted in the total God-given community of life that supports and sustains us in every way. To think “human community” apart from the totality is a false understanding of how creation operates. Humans cannot live outside the biological matrix of the planet’s life-supporting systems.
If the planet becomes uninhabitable for human life, population control is rather a mute point. Who will be here to theologize about it? It becomes more obvious each year that we cannot do anything we want to the planet and survive. Many people in the West are living in a way that is unsustainable and not even possible for all the people living now on the planet. I don’t know what Susan is considering when she writes that such an analysis “seeks to deny humans the finest products of human ingenuity.” What are these products that are greater than air, water, or soil? You can’t breathe, drink, or eat, i-Pods, the latest fashions, cars, or cell phones. We have a different understanding of what the meaning of human life might be. I cannot believe as a Christian that God and the planet have been pouring forth this amazing billions of years of life creativity to simply produce human consumers or to make buying and selling products the primary meaning of existence. That doesn’t sound like Jesus, who said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” The finest products we can make can in no way compare with God’s creation of water, earth, air, plants and animals, and life itself.
And creation isn’t there just for our utilitarian use. It is also an icon and reflection of God’s beauty. Carmelite love of creation is partially embodied in the poetry and theology of St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. In one of his famous poems, “The Spiritual Canticle,” he writes:
O woods and thickets
Pouring out a thousand graces,
I also take issue with the way Susan used Scripture selectively. Besides the statement to humans to “be fruitful and multiply” (and isn’t that accomplished already?) the theologians’ first account of Creation has God also telling the non-human creatures to “be fruitful and multiply and to fill the waters and earth. And God also gave to all the wild beasts, birds of heaven and living reptiles on the earth all the foliage of plants for food.” (Gen. 1:30-31). Seven times God looks at each thing created and declares it as good (not useful) in itself. According to Scripture, we don’t have a right to destroy these good things God has created, or to use up all that the non-human creatures need for food/existence. And if we decide to do so, we put our own existence in peril. Saving every good thing God has made is about saving humanity. All life is important to God and there isn’t a better use of the Christian moral authority than the preservation of all life on the planet. The life of all beings and the ability of the planet to sustain life isn’t just one more item in an agenda of good issues, it is the sine qua non of all other “agendas.”
Sister Leslie Lund OCDH, Newport, Wash.
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