28 February, 2010

Torture: Conservative and Liberal Catholics Agree!

Torture? Enhanced interrogation? Waterboarding? Most are by now familiar with the arguments over the legality of  these practices.  In a 26 February New york Times  article, Mark Oppenheimer discusses this issue again from a different perspective.

Marc A. Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush was asked by the President to write a speech explaining the CIA's interrogation program. Although in writing that speech, Thiessen says he considered legal issues, the moral dimensions were not in the forefront of his mind.

However in his new book, Thiessen, a Roman Catholic himself, says that, "...waterboarding suspected terrorists was not only useful and desirable, but permitted by the teachings of the Catholic Church."

Oppenheimer proceeds to tell us that immediately Catholic bloggers and writers of both the left and right roundly ctiticized Theissen's argument. In light of the "Catholic Culture Wars" over such issues as liturgical "reform," gay marriage, etc., it is very telling that there still are core beliefs and issues upon which the right wing and left wing can agree.

Oppenheimer does a very good job summarizing the arguments over Theissen's claims. He also quotes or links to  authors on the left and right. Examples of the conservative authors are: Conor Friedersdorf, Marc Shea and Joe Carter. Examples of more liberal authors are: Christopher O. Toollefsen, Paul Baummann, Jean Elshtain., and the self-proclaimed "conservative," author who in this case said that the Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns "...torture which uses physical or moral violence."

It appears that no well known Catholic theologian supports Theissen's argument. When asked which theologians supported him, Theissen mentioned the Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D, associate editor of Living Tradition. At the end of his 2005  twenty-page paper, Fr. Harrison said, "
My understanding would be that, given the present status questionis, the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians. (emphasis in the original).
Theissen's chosen supporter admits that torture in not affirmed by the magisterium. His statement that the issue is still open to discussion by theologians, does not give moral legitimacy to acting upon this opinion in light on nearly universal rejection of it by theologians and Pope John Paul II.

In the end it is good to see liberals and conservatives speak the same word on such a critical issue. We need to formulate questions that get beneath current divisions to a core that all can work from. This has been one example. Deo gratias.

Religion Among the Millennals: Homosexuality (Part III)

Total U.S. population.
On this topic respondents were asked which  statement came closer to their view even if neither was exactly right: Homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society OR Homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged by society.

The American population is split on this issue. Fifty percent agree that  Homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society. However there is wide variation in the response when one looks at the different generations.

Without a doubt Millennials (18-29) are most favorable toward homosexuality. Nearly two-thirds of this generation (63%) take the acceptance stance. This is 12% greater than the generation that comes closest to them, Gen X (30-49) at 51%. Only 35% of those 65 or older hold the acceptance view. 

The Religiously unaffiliated.
As might be expected, the unaffiliated are most likely of any group to support the view that, " Homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society." Almost three-quarters (71%) of the unaffiliated hold this view. Nearly eight out of ten unaffiliated Millennials (79%) accept the liberal view. This is the highest percentage of any age group or sub-group.

Evangelicals are by far (26%) the least likely to hold the acceptance view toward homosexuality. But quite surprising is the finding that a full 39% of young (18-29) Evangelicals do hold the acceptance view. A number of commentators have found this a very interesting finding as it shows the effect of age so clearly.

Overall members of Historically Black Protestant Churches  offer only some support (39%) for the acceptance view. They are more supportive than Evangelicals but less supportive than Mainline Protestants. But it is a real surprise to find that  over half (51%) of young African Americans support the the acceptance view compared to only 36% of those over 30. Homosexuality has been a particularly touchy subject in the Black Community. Many preachers and elders condemn homosexuality and the whole issue has been a difficult one to dialogue about.

Just over half of Mainline Protestants (56%), hold the acceptance view of homosexuality. Again, the 18-29 year olds are the most accepting of homosexuality at 69%. This is fully 15% greater than over thirty Mainliners, showing the position of youth on this issue.

Especially in light of the conservative position of  the hierarchy regarding homosexuality, in deed, sex in general, it is very surprising that 58% of Catholics endorse " Homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society." The Catholic rate of acceptance is higher than any of the Christian groups and only lower than acceptance by the Unaffiliated.

Here again we see a youth effect as nearly three-quarters (72%) of Catholics age18-29 accept the view that homosexuals should be accepted in society. In fact, the only group to score higher than Catholic youth is Unaffiliated youth (79%). Even more than half of Catholics thirty and over accept this view.

The data show a strong age effect. The Millennials clearly increase the overall support for accepting homosexuality in society than older members of their respective religious groups and other generations. For these young people, the "issue" of homosexuality is by and large a non-issue." Among a majority of young people, support for "liberal" view is taken for granted. The only exception is for Evangelical youth, a majority of whom accept the position that homosexuality should be discouraged. Still the 39% who view homosexuality as acceptable for society is startling.

The case of Catholics is very interesting. Sexuality, including birth control and homosexuality, are extremely controversial. Even the issue of abortion is beginning to divide Catholics.There seems to be an increasing gap between what ordinary Catholics believe and do and the official teaching of the hierarchy. One wonders whether or when the Church will come together as the People of God and discover a compassionate, relational ethic in this area. 

25 February, 2010

Religion and the Millennials: Abortion (Part II)

Abortion (Part II) and homosexuality (Part III) are the most contentious issues in the nation's "culture wars" at this time. Here we will take a look at the Millennials'  attitudes toward abortion as found in the Pew Study.

Not quite half of all American adults (47%) agree that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. By age Millennials (18-29), are the most accepting of abortion. No other age group comes closer to them than the 30-49 and 50-64 year old age groups and this is because the older age groups have moved closer to the Millennials.

Affiliated and Unaffiliated
It is no surprise that those unaffiliated with any religion would be more tolerant or accepting of abortion. In fact this is the case as 68% of the unaffiliated but only 42% of those affiliated with a religion are supportive of abortion in all or most cases.

Very interesting is the fact that religiously affiliated young people, 18-29, are more accepting (45%)of abortion than those over 30 (42%) although the difference is marginal. Even more interesting, however, is that the unaffiliated the young (18-29) are less accepting (67%)  of abortion than is its older age group (30+) at (69%). Again, the difference is marginal. If this is not merely a statistical fluke or a one-time event, it will be very interesting to see where the unaffiliated track.

Protestants and Catholics.
This section presents data only on white Protestants and Catholics.

White Mainline Protestants are the most accepting (55%) of legal abortion in all or most cases. And there is no meaningful difference between the young (55%) and older (56%) older Mainliners.

White Evangelical Protestants are by far the least accepting (23%) of legalized abortion in most or all cases. This finding is somewhat anomalous since many conservative denominations traditionally accept or at least tolerate abortion in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

The data do not allow a younger-older comparison for White Evangelicals. It should be noted that other research indicates that the majority of young Evangelical adults oppose abortion but that there is a slight trend toward greater acceptance and, thus, the potential for a greater gap between generations.

Catholics' strict position on abortion holds that all abortion for any reason is always a "mortally sinful." True, The Catholic hierarchy has not emphasized its opposition to abortion in cases of rape, incest, or danger of  death of the mother in order to cement relationships with other conservative groups to marshal forces to put forth a political coalition to get some anti-abortion/pro-life legislation passed. This does not mean that the Catholic Church has actually changed its moral position.

Less than half (45%) of Catholics accept legalizing abortion in all or most cases. They are only 10% less likely than Mainline Protestants at accept abortion and are almost twice as willing to accept legalization of abortion as Evangelicals (45% versus 23%). Of course, as mentioned above, the unaffiliated are much more accepting of abortion in most or all cases.

Young Catholics (18-29) are really no more accepting (45%) than older Catholics (44%) of abortion in all or more cases. Other research shows that a majority of Catholics are willing to support abortion in cases of danger to the life of the mother, incest and rape. With the recent enthrallment with Catholic Identity and a "reform of the reform" of Vatican II, a number of young Catholics are taking a more conservative position on many issues. See: "Young activists adding furl to anti-abortion side"

There is more to abortion than statistics.
Last year Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of  Olinda and Recife, Brazil  publicly announced an excommunication against the mother and doctors who performed an abortion, saying the abortion was "a crime in the eyes of the church."

The abortion was performed  on the woman's nine year old daughter who had been raped by her stepfather and who was pregnant with twins. The incident caused a national and international sensation.

Later last year, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of The Pontifical Academy for Life (appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008), wrote an article about the "Brazilian abortion excommunication" issue in which he did not condemn or argue against the excummnication itself. However, he claimed that the Church's credibility was harmed by a "hasty" excommunication.

Fisichella also said the girl,  "should have been defended, hugged and held tenderly to help her feel that we are on her side." In other words the Archbishop was expressing the compassion of a pastor for a victim of horrible abuse. (Personally, I believe he should be praised and honored for his courageous stance).

Before and during the February 11-13, 2010 meeting of the Academy in Rome, there were internal political issues and dissension on the part of conservative members of the Academy. Some members of the Academy, unhappy over Fisichella's original article and a statement he made during the meeting, pressed that he be replaced as president. On February 16th five conservative members of the Academy (One priest and four laypersons) published a letter asking that Archbishop Fisichella be removed as president of the Academy. Although they were not permitted to reveal Academy business, they published the letter in Rome, and on Feb. 18th an American member sent an email copy to the Catholic News Service here in the U.S.

One of the five signatories, Msgr. Michel Schooyans, wrote an article shortly before the Academy's February' meeting. Quoting Fisichella's article, he called the Archbishop's statement, "bogus compassion."

At this moment my concern is less with the morality of abortion and more with the almost vicious attack on a leader who had the courage to call for personal, direct, pastoral compassion by a cleric. Much too often bishops and priests live in a world of "objective realities," the "letter of the law" and rules. What the People of God need and desire from the hierarchy is a compassionate, pastoral concern.

See: "Move to oust head of Pontifical Academy for Life"  and the five additional links at the end of that article.

21 February, 2010

Religion Among the Millennials: Overview (Part 1)

Introductory comments.
Within the last week the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a new study titled Religion Among the Millennials. This study looks at religion among those 18-29 years old and also compares them to earlier generations when they were 18-29 years old and to the current total population. This is a descriptive study. It does not attempt to interpret or explain what the data mean. That is up to the reader. I plan to report on the findings in a series of posts on this blog. I encourage you to comment on the survey findings and any observations I present.

Who constitute the "generations?"
Exactly what age categories are used to define the various categories and how they are labeled vary somewhat from study to study. But all categories are based when people are born. In this study the following labels and age ranges are used:

Milennials: born in 1981 or later (Also called Gen Y or Gen ME)
Gen X: born between 1965 and 1980.
Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964.
Silent Gen: Born between 1928 and 1945.
Greatest Gen: born before 1928. (Often called the World War II Generation)

It is important to remember that data showing change or comparisons of generations to each other are based on adjusted data so that the respondents are equivalent in age.


Young People are less affiliated with any particular Faith
  • Fewer young Americans (18-29) are affiliated with a faith group than any of their elders, including Gen-X their nearest cohort.
  • The Millennials are less connected to a faith group than than their parents or grandparents when they were in their 20s.
  • In fact, fully one quarter of young Americans born after 1980 are unaffiliated with any particular faith.
  • Young adults attend religious services less often than their elders. 
  • Millennials also less likely than those older to say religion is "important in their lives." 

In some ways young adults under 30 are somewhat more "traditional."
  • Millennials are just about as likely as those who are older to believe in the existence of heaven, hell, and miracles.
  • Young adults today pray  less than their elders today, but they are more likely to pray than the elders did when they were in their 20s during the 1980s or 1990s.
  • Today those 18-29 less likely to believe in God than those who are older, but they say their "absolute certainty" of belief in God is just as strong as their elders when they were in their 20s. 
With regard to social and political views, young adults are a mixed bag but mostly "liberal."
  • Millennials are more likely than any age cohort to say society should accept abortion in all or most cases.
  • Millennials are most accepting of homosexuality, 63% versus 51% for Gen Xers.
  • These 18-29 year olds are the most accepting of evolution as the best explanation of human life
  • These young adults are least likely to believe that Hollywood threatens the moral fabric of society
  • Millennials are the age cohort most likely to support bigger government and more services
  • Millennials are no different in accepting that there are absolute moral standards than their elders.
  • Millennials are more likely than their elders to accept the idea that government should do more to protect morality.
  • Those 18-29 are the most likely to agree that houses of worship should speak out on social and political issues
  • Those 18-29 Millenials are the least likely to believe that pornography should be illegal for people of all ages
  • Young Americans are the most likely to oppose Bible reading and the Lord's Prayer in schools
What comes next?

Characteristics other than age  of people influence their beliefs, attitudes and behavior. Future posts will, in particular, describe how various types of religious identity affect overall results. Three important groups to watch for are the Unaffiliated (16% of the US population and growing in number), Catholics (24% of the American population and recently slightly decreasing except for increasing numbers of Hispanics), and Evangelical Christians (22% of the American population and barely holding their own)

An underlying issue that must be dealt with is whether or not the differences between Millennials and older cohorts is "merely" "generational' in nature or will endure throughout their lives. Many Christian parents and clergy have remarked through the years, "We all know the youngsters explore and often "leave the church," but when they get married, turn thirty, and have kids, they return to the Faith and church, for the sake of the children." Research so far tentatively indicates that this may no longer be the case. We shall see.

    19 February, 2010

    Could Jesus be gay?

    The headline in the Guardian  read, "Jesus is Gay, Says Elton."  Regardless of who said it, this presents us with an opportunity to reflect on both Jesus and gays.

    Sir Elton John, 62, in an interview with Parade Magazine, said  he believed Jesus Christ was a "...compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems."

    He also said, "On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wants us to be loving and forgiving. I don't know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East - you're as good as dead."

    There  was immediate negative response from Bill Donohue, a reactionary, self-proclaimed "protector" of what he thinks is "orthodox Catholicism," He said, "Jesus was certainly compassionate, but to say he was 'super-intelligent' is to compare Jesus the son of God to a successful game-show host."

    He continues, "More seriously, to call Jesus a homosexual is to label him a sexual deviant."

    Even more theologically wrong-headed was the statement made by Stephen Green, Director of the right-wing Christian group "Christian Voice." He said, "Jesus was without sin and that rules out homosexuality."

    Even from the conservative, official, Catholic teachings these statements are false and can be refuted.

    Being homosexual is never in and of itself sinful just as being left-handed or blue-eyed is not sinful. The Church teaches pure and simply that there are people who are homosexual and who cannot "change." In fact for a gay to deny who he is in God's plan  and try to change his very being would be sinful.

    As for Donohue, he confuses the Church's teaching that homosexuality is an "objective disorder" (which I do not accept), with a moral evil when he says that if homosexual, Jesus is a sexual deviant. Bill ought to be more careful. Even in the View of the Vatican, if Jesus is homosexual he could only be a "sexual deviant" in the Church's eyes if he engaged in homosexual behaviors. If Jesus were gay the institutional Church would "require him to carry the cross of celibacy."

    If Jesus is like us in all things but sin, even by the Church's teaching this allows for being homosexual, just as it would allow for Jesus to have a spontaneous erection when an attractive person came by. The real issue for Jesus and a Christian is "What is God's will for me to do here and now?"

    Much of what Elton John said about Jesus' compassion and message of love seems not to have been heard by Donohue or Green. Perhaps they should listen to all that others say.

    On the other hand, a spokesman for the Church of England was much more moderate. He said, "Sir Elton's reflection that Jesus calls us all  to love and forgive is one shared by all Christians. But insights into aspects of the historic person of Jesus are perhaps best left to the academics."

    It may be true that professional theologians have much work to do. But in raising the question of Jesus' orientation and linking it with his compassion, love, and forgiveness, Elton John may have accomplished two things: First, to raise serious theological questions with which we must now deal and, second, to point out to everyone that we must look upon LGBT people with greater compassion, acceptance and love.  

    17 February, 2010


    I went to see Avatar six days after it was released. The theater was packed and the audience intense as the movie unfolded. I was gobsmacked  at the action and the out-of-this world special effects.

    Partial Synopsis.
    It was also, as many have commented, a "Good versus Evil" film, especially for those left of center. It was pro-environment, as seen in the way the Na' Vi,  people lived  in harmony with their planet, Pandora.  The "bad corporate guys" (Parker Selfridge) arrive with the military (really a private security force led by Col. Miles Quaritch, a retired Marine) to do the bidding of the capitalist exploiters (RDA Corporation). The search is for "unobtainium," (un-obtain-ium), a rare mineral, worth two million dollars a kilo. As Adriana Barton of the Globe and Mail says, "...many terrible things are [unleashed on Pandora]: greed, brutality and a bewildering array of savage beasts, not to mention a biotech means of going native..."

    Jake Scully, an ex-Marine paraplegic, is recruited and agrees to undergo a new bio-tech process  that combines his DNA with Na' Vi  DNA to produce an "avatar" that is physically identical to the Na' Vi  but controlled by a genetic link to Jake. Jake is recruited by Col. Quaritch to spy on the Na' VI and report back the best means to defeat the Na' VI. As his avatar, Jake infiltrates the Na' VI.

    At first Jake tries to fulfill Quaritch's orders to find the Na' Vi's weaknesses. After being  there for awhile and, especially after being saved from an attacking animal by Neytin, his eyes and heart are opened to the beauty of the Na Vi, their peacefulness and harmony with their planet. In religious terms he is converted.

    There's no question but that the Na Vi are deeply connected to the natural elements in their world. In fact they communicate and receive energy by touching the ends of their long tails to fronds of the native vegitation, a practice that also connects Na Vi to each other. There is also no question that the tree over the deposit of unobtainium is sacred and alive, in a way similar to the ent Trees in LOR. This film has a spiritual/religious theme and message. So too, the "Force" in Star Wars ("The Force be you" reminds Catholics of  "The Lord be with you" spoken at every Mass). Jake's need to decide whether he will stand against or with the Na Vi, is similar to choosing the red or blue pill in 1999's The Matrix. Comparisons to other religiously themed modern movies is entirely appropriate.  Is Avatar exhibiting a pantheistic spirituality? Does it "preach" a fringe, extreme eco-religion?

    Vatican criticism of Avatar.
    Apparently that is what the Vatican thinks. Gaetano Vallini, writing in L'Osservatore Romano (the Vatican's official paper) expressed neither outrage or enthusiasm over the film in general. He did, however, strongly suggest that Avatar portrayed a form of nature religion or "pantheism." Immediately blogs began debating how "religious" or "spiritual" the film is.

    There should be no debate as to whether the film has a definite religious/spiritual message, whether intended or not. It does, and many, many in the audiences perceive a religious theme. But they differ on what it is. [See other article links at the end of this post].

    The divinization of man [sic] and universal consciousness.
    Why has the Vatican seen pantheism in the film? Isn't this a matter for dialogue? Christians, at least Catholics, appreciate Francis of Assisi's  view of a sacral quality of nature in his Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. True, Francis distinguished between God and creation/creatures. But one can not deny that for him, creation/creatures are sacred.

    The Church, especially the Eastern Church has always emphasized the "divinization of man [sic]," humankind progressively participates in divine life-- we "become gods."  In the Twentieth Century Roman Church, Tielhard de Chardin speaks of Christ as the Alpha and Omega and the evolution of all of creation to consciousness. De Chardin was a visionary French Jesuit priest, palaeontologist, biologist, philosopher, and theologian. His major works are:
    The Phenomenon of Man,
    The Divine Milieu, and
    Toward the Future.Is this"pantheism?" Let's dialogue over it.

    There certainly are forms of religion and spirituality that deny a transcendent God, but accept a transcendent universe. Others deny any transcendence to a this-worldly existence. We often apply "pantheism" to each of these. It seems to me that the Vatican too quickly assumed too great a gap between traditional Christian views and a vague reference to "nature religion." Why can't there be dialogue between those who view things differently. The "fault" or "blame" if there is any in this lack of dialogue, falls on both/all sides.

    Why is the "Church" so often critical?
    My concern is with my own Catholic community. So very often official or semi-official statements are very critical and seldom praise ideas, events, behaviors and modern worldviews. The "Church" often looks upon contemporary culture and sees only a glass  half-empty. If the hierarchy would assume that modern culture is essentially good, at least a glass half-full, there could be a rapprochement with seeming opponents.

    In the case of Avatar, why not speak positively about the film and offer dialogue over "religion" and "spirituality?" Instead of acting in a defensive mode, it might be better to raise questions and enter into dialogue, even debate, over how to grapple with the questions in a search for truth.

    Very many modern films have religious/spirituality themes. The Church would be wise to take them seriously and grapple with the issues they raise. Yes, there is a spiritual hunger out here, especially among the young (True a small number are trying to identify with  Christianity and Catholics  through rather superficial identity markers) who find "religion" irrelevant to their search for meaning  and life.

    Can we reach out to the other?
    In the end all I can say is, "Let's give the 'other' the benefit of the doubt and assume s/he has something worthwhile to offer. Let's not assume that the 'Church' is always right and only needs to repeat and repeat it's position and that others will accept and follow along. The People of God have never validated Paul VI's position on birth control. More than half of all Catholics accept the legitimacy of being gay and support at least civil unions. There is overwhelming support for married clergy and strong support for ordination of women. The Vatican says these are un-discussable issues. Doesn't this illustrate extreme defensiveness and, maybe, a fear that much of the logic of their argument is unsound?

    Questions for you, my blog readers!!
    Is the Church speaking a language you can hear and listen to?
    Do you feel that the Church listens to people like you? 

    On Avatar see also:

    06 February, 2010

    The environment, Religion (and gays again?)

    Although Christians have been given a bad rap because of the translation of  "subdue the earth" in Genesis, they might more accurately be criticized for accepting and reinforcing exploitative Capitalism. Be that as it may, there are many examples of Christians caring for our world, (E.g. St. Francis of Assisi). These days even Evangelical Protestants are very involved in "stewardship of the earth" (E.g. Sojourners, Jim Wallace).

    Benedict's Action, not just words
    Pope Benedict XVI has become extremely interested and active in environmental issues. On 26 November 2008  the Vatican began operation of a solar system (powered by 1,000 solar panels atop a major building in Vatican) for heat, lighting, air conditioning etc. Digital displays were installed  in the building so that visitors could visually see the energy savings.

    Shortly after this project was in operation, The Vatican created a climate forest on a very large tract of land in Hungary. Enough trees  were planted to make up for all the carbon dioxide emitted in Vatican City State. The Vatican's aim is to make itself the first "carbon neutral" state in Europe. None of this could have been accomplished without the support and urging of Pope Benedict. "The [solar panel] project received the 2008 Euro Solar prize, awarded by by the European Association for Renewable Energy, a secular body." (See Allen, page 298).

    Benedict's words support the cause of environmentalism
    Although many religious leaders, especially popes are noted for using lots and lots of words, here is an example of action to be a good steward of creation and promote environmentalism. However, following upon JP II, Benedict has spoken and written much on protecting the environment. Without discussing each, I will merely list some of the "environmental issues" important to Benedict:

    Climate change and global warming
    Degradation and loss of productivity in vast agricultural region
    Pollution of rivers and aquifers
    Loss of biodiversity
    Increase in extreme weather
    Deforestation of equatorial and tropical areas
    Displacement of populations and "environmental refugees"
    Conflict over natural resources
    The global economic crisis (E.g. the selfish activities of the investment industry)
    Benedict also proposed strategies to begin work toward protecting the environment:
    1. A new mode of calculating the cost of economic activity that would factor in environmental impact
    2. Greater investment in solar and other forms of energy with a  reduced environmental footprint
    3. Strategies of rural development concentrated on small-scale farmers and their families
    4. Progressive disarmament, including a world free of nuclear weapons

    Praise and criticism of Benedict's position
    A wide variety of environmentalists, whether religious or secular, have praised and supported Benedict's efforts. However, there are many who also disagree with his position. Some secularists are generally uncomfortable with Benedict's emphasis on the role he allows for a creator-god, natural law and the defense of human life (E.g. his anti-abortion stance and belief that population control is not acceptable).

    Interestingly there are a large number of influential conservative Catholics who oppose the pope. Only two examples will be mentioned. An American deacon, Kieth Fournier, who fears that Benedict it too closely aligned with eco-centrists and bio-centrism is worried that the pope or Church may, "open the way to a new pantheism tinged with Neo-paganism, which would see the source of man's [sic] salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms." Tom Roeser, a Chicago "Catholic, recently wrote that Benedict's call for new government controls on the environment in his World Peace Day message 'reflects a Bismarkian view of the big state, versus appreciation of the value of entrepreneurism'." (See "Eco Skeptics)

    Progressive Catholics can support Benedict, but how far?
    It seems that Vatican II Progressive Catholics might find common ground to dialogue, support and work with Benedict on the environment. However, the greatest furor with the  most publicity related to Benedict's brand of "green environmentalism" relates to the way he expresses, uses, and exemplifies, the valid Catholic position that the human person is central to all life.

    In the fourth paragraph of his speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the  Holy See, Benedict says, "...this concern...for the environment should be situated within [a] larger framework...how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn." This is the only mention of the right-to-life controversey.

    Why bring up "the Gay Issue" here? Why bash Gays?
    The tenth paragraph of the speech begins, "To carry our reflection further..." However what follows has no immediate and direct connection to the previous paragraphs. The pope goes on to say that,
    "...the problem of the environment is complex....Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered in different ways....One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes. I am thinking, for example, of certain countries in Europe or North and South America. Saint Columban stated that: 'If you take away freedom, you take away dignity."....Yet freedom cannot be absolute, since man is not himself God....For man, the path to be taken cannot be determined by caprice or willfulness, but must rather correspond to the structure willed by the creator. (emphasis added).

    My reading and my interpretation
    Gay individuals, gay organizations, and heterosexual individuals who support human rights erupted in vocal opposition to these words and the message they send. A few immediate observations: Why use such a strong, aggressive word, as attack, here? Why is it necessary to fight  proposals designed to end discrimination? So is the attack necessary to fight against those who (in God's plan) are born homsexual? That can't be! Is Benedict implying that homosexuals take the path they do because of caprice or willfulness?

    I think Benedict's statements in the tenth paragraph are a gratuitous, unnecessary insertions of the institutional Church's current understanding of homosexuals and homosexuality, primarily to make a point.These words were not necessary to make the argument about environmentalism.  It certainly makes one wonder whether the pope and "the Church" can even  comprehend that gay people are real individuals with the same needs and wants as every individual. (BTW, I don't think "the Church" appreciates that there are thousands and thousands of gays just in the U.S., who are or "were Catholic" and who could respond to the Church, as the People of God, if the People of God offered  an open hand of repentance, acceptance and love.

    Conclusion: Where he's on target. Where he's off-base
    In the end, Benedict XVI has made tremendous practical strides on environmental issues; all Catholics, at least moderate and progressive Catholics, can accept, support and further these changes. This is good. It may open a crack through  the door of collegial cooperation for the sake of the Gospel. A lot of work remains for us. We must nurture and support a love of the world and its culture as it is now. We must see the glass of modernity and post-modernity as, at least,  half full rather than half empty.

    Finally, we must pry open a real, compassionate dialogue between LGBT people and the hierarchy (as well as well as in the local parish and neighborhood), lest the discrimination, harassment and unwillingness to support gays in their love and its human expressions........lead us become another Uganda and waste so many lives of God's children.

    Another resource:
     "For Pope Benedict, a Different Shade of Green."