Prairie Messenger Header

Soul Mending

By Yvonne Zarowny

Honouring God’s creation


“Watch out for false prophets . . . by their fruits you will recognize them.”  
— Matthew 7:15-16
“The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility toward the poor, toward future generations and toward humanity as a whole.”

— Pope Benedict XVI (2009) Caritas in Veritate/Love in Truth (48)

With “extreme weather events” increasing in frequency and intensity due to human desecration of God’s Creation, I give thanks for Pope Francis’ effectiveness in getting his message out.  

For this he is negated and attacked even though he is consistent with his predecessors. Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labour) scathingly criticized “unbridled capitalism” for its failure to enable all God’s children life with dignity.

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict affirm and further develop Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio (The Development of Peoples) assertion: “This unbridled liberalism (of the 1960s) paves the way for a particular type of tyranny, for it results in the “international imperialism of money”(PP 26).

We experience this tyranny, called “neo-colonialism,” every time the wealthy don’t pay their fair share of taxes or environmental regulations are dropped to “attract” investment.

Did you know in 2009 Pope Benedict stated: “The church must, above all, protect mankind from self-destruction”? (CV 51). That is “pro-life.”
Given the Knights of Columbus are major funders and organizers of the annual “Marches for Life,” why have not all included calls for the transformation of our development mode to a variety of “non-tyrannical” sustainable ones enabling life with dignity for all since 2009?

I found one example of the Knights being involved, as an organization, in a “March for the Climate.” In the Philippines they were instrumental in getting over one million Filipinos marching in 2015.

Pope Benedict states: “Our duties toward the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other” (CV 52). Yet we allow this.
Through misinformation, we prioritized our duties to the human fetus while enabling the trampling of Earth and inhibiting our shifting to a variety of authentic cultures of life. Pope Francis echoes Pope Benedict’s assertion that our failure to honour God’s gift and use it to enable all life with dignity is the existential threat confronting us.  

Our climate chaos is from less than one degree of global warming over pre-industrial times. Can you imagine what it is going to be like if we allow it to rise to 1.5 — the “target” set in Paris?  

Global warming is one of numerous species-threatening realities generated by our desecration of Creation. Our dominant “unregulated capitalist” development mode and its “justifying” story is at the heart of our grotesque culture of death.

St. John Paul II, while criticizing Stalinist collectivism and types of socialism, clearly distinguished between two types of “free enterprise.” In (1991) Centesimus Annus, he affirmed the right to private property provided its use not threaten the common good.

He warned: “. . . the ecological question . . . accompanies the problem of consumerism . . . (and) ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature. . .” (37).  

He affirmed:“It is the task of the State to provide for the defence and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces” (CA 41). Echoing previous popes, St. John Paul II called for the transformation of our dominant capitalist development mode.  

“Love is made concrete in the promotion of justice; it is not merely a matter of ‘giving from one’s surplus.’ It requires above all a change of lifestyles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies”(CA 58).  

Why do his criticisms of our capitalist form of “free enterprise” go unmentioned when the ones of socialism/communism are repeated? Who benefits and who pays from this?
The lived realities generated by our dominant mode honours neither God’s Creation nor human life at any stage – much less enables life with dignity for all.

American sociologist Arlie Hochchild’s 2016 Strangers in Their Own Land outlines her research project to understand why people in Louisiana, one of America’s poorest and most polluted states, vote for politicians who are anti-government/regulation/tax.

It complements Jane Mayer’s 2016 Dark Money. I recommend this heart-breaking and illuminating read. I had no idea such conditions existed in the U.S.  

Like in most “red” states, governments of both parties and “American Enterprise” have failed Louisiana. These stories need to be told to a vast audience and reflected upon from the perspective of Jesus and our actual church teachings — no cherry-picking.

We need to know about the deaths of whole bayous and horses coated in plastic after brief exposure in a creek downstream from a polymer plant.

We need to know about communities consumed by sinkholes and families sickened due to how some corporations pursue profit.

We need to know that people once self-sufficient on these bayous died due to irresponsible corporate desecration of their lives, family and community. They vote Trump because he is now anti-choice and they are concerned about their eternal souls.

With councils in every parish, the Knights Supreme Council must know these realities and distortion of our teachings. With their wealth, power and means the Supreme Council could tell these stories through the global media networks they subsidize — particularly Salt + Light and those associated with EWTN — the American media conglomerate self-identified as the Global Catholic Television Network.

They could facilitate the new inclusive dialogue for Pope Francis pleads for (LS 14).  

We need to ask why this is not happening in all 142 countries in which the Knights are active — including Canada and the U.S..  

And we need to pray for guidance so each of us facilitates, not inhibits, the mending of all souls on our battered world.

A critical educator, writer and engaged citizen living in Qualicum Beach, B.C., Zarowny is also on the leadership team for her parish’s Justice and Life Ministry.