Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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the Inland Register
(From the May 15, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
Archdiocese of Portland
PORTLAND – Drought in the American West means increased competition and conflict for a limited water supply. Jerry Grondin, a water scientist in formation for the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Portland, says the message in a 2001 pastoral letter from the Pacific Northwest Catholic bishops could prove helpful.
Grondin explains that the pastoral letter, “The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good,” is written to all persons of good will and addresses from a Catholic perspective the social, economic, and ecological issues that have moral, ethical, and common good implications. (Editor’s note: the text of the letter can be found on the web site of the Washington State Catholic Conference: www.thewscc.org)
After the letter was released, Grondin served on an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council subcommittee to recommend how Catholics could implement the 27-page pastoral letter in response to the bishops’ call to action. Few Catholics have responded over the years. “Many do not understand why the bishops wrote the letter, why the Church should be involved, or how the Church’s moral and social teachings apply to the Columbia River watershed issues.”
Hoping to revive the letter’s influence, Grondin led a workshop last March at St. Francis Parish in Sherwood, Ore., and is willing to do more.
The wisdom of the Northwest Catholic bishops who wrote the letter, including Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad of Spokane, could apply to water disputes elsewhere.
The bishops respected the multiple sides of each issue and applied a balanced “both/and” approach to address them. They said the river should be both protected and used by humans. That is consistent with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ 1991 pastoral statement, “Renewing the Earth,” that argued, “Christian love forbids choosing between people and the earth.” They also remained consistent with the 1994 “Communities of Salt and Light” pastoral, “We cannot forget that we pursue the Kingdom of God, not some earthly vision or ideological cause.”
Grondin answers objections that creation talk draws the church’s attention away from Jesus by saying, “Christ and creation are intimately linked; Christ is the agent, sustainer and goal of all creation; through the Incarnation, Jesus became part of creation, redeeming and saving it with humanity; and at Mass, creation present in the bread and wine becomes Christ’s Body and Blood by Holy Spirit.”
Groundwater levels have dropped significantly in many places in Oregon, including the Sherwood and Umatilla areas, resulting in limiting existing or new water use. Climate change may make water availability worse.
“The Church’s participation in Christ’s mission of fulfilling God’s Kingdom includes re-establishing God’s intended ‘right’ relationships between God, humanity, and creation,” Grondin argues. Caring for creation is one way to proceed.
Grondin points out that God is creator of the universe who “maintains its existence through ongoing creative will.” Returning the created and human order to God’s intent are strong themes in the Old Testament, New Testament and Church tradition, and water plays an important role in biblical imagery.
Vatican II said the Church fulfills its mission of proclaiming and advancing God’s Kingdom by being active in the world.
He cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says that creation reflects God’s infinite beauty, and reminds listeners that Pope John Paul II said in 1990 that world peace is threatened not just by the arms race and regional wars, but by “lack of due respect for nature,” a teaching Pope Benedict affirmed in 2010. Last year, Pope Francis said money is dictating how we treat the world and urged humans to reclaim their God-given task of stewardship.
He concludes: “The pastoral letter encourages each individual and group to prayerfully discern what they might contribute to identifying and resolving the moral, ethical and common good issues related to their watershed and how to better move forward in a way consistent with God’s intention.”
– Catholic Sentinel (Oregon Catholic Press)
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