“Climate Crisis Lent”

Carbon-phobia is touted over moral and spiritual reforms

This year my parish re-themed Lent to address the Climate CO2 Crisis. It’s apparently a “wholesale” international push (by Global Catholic Climate Movement, a “collective” of diocesan offices and international NGOs inspired by Laudato Si and Catholic Climate Covenant, the USCCB-related entity) with local “retail” distributors, embodied in miniature in our parish JPICs (Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation groups.)

The word “fractal” must make an appearance here. A fractal is a structure manifesting the same shape over and over at scales of measurement between greatest and smallest. The GCCM (Vatican), the CCC (USCCB), and the JPIC (your parish), are climate crisis activist fractals, all the way down to the good woman kneeling next to you, who provides hospitality with Fair Trade coffee while fretting over the Styrofoam cups.

I find the Catholic Climate Crisis Lent deeply misplaced, but I have no representation at the parish, diocesan, national, or Vatican level.

Well, there is my little circle of Church Ladies, and we talk about these things. What we all agree on is this: when it comes to Lent, we want to follow in the footsteps of Christ, not reduce our carbon footprints. To be specific:

  • None of us is indifferent to the fate of the earth. We understand that one of the first holy Commandments God gave us in Genesis is to care for the earth. This is what humans are supposed to do.
  • God made the earth for everyone, not only for the rich. And not only for the present generation, either, but for the unborn and for all generations to come. We “get” the whole-planet and future-horizon human.
  • As far as Lent goes, there’s certainly nothing wrong with suggesting we turn our thermostats down a notch in the winter, button up our sweaters, hang the laundry out on the line, turn out the lights when we leave the room. Most of us have been doing this, and preaching it non-stop to the kids, for decades.

But here’s where we think the Climate Change Lent goes wrong:

The recommended Climate Actions are way too little (if we accept the premises of the movement itself) and, from a Catholic/spiritual point of view, way off target. Way too little because if we believed what Big Climate Crisis Inc. demands we believe — that the world is becoming increasingly unlivable and we have just 12 years to radically slash CO2 emissions or face an unstoppable chain of disasters — we wouldn’t be putzing around saying, “Hey, wear a sweater, and swap out beef for beans.” That would be akin to saying, “You’re malignantly obese, your cardiopulmonary, renal, and muscular-skeletal systems are catastrophically failing, so… Splenda in your coffee. There you go. Good girl, do it for Jesus.”

No, if we believed in this looming global catastrophe, the action would be giga-big, and now: Start clearing millions of people out of the most endangered Coastal Zones like Manhattan; the San Francisco Bay Area; Miami; and New Orleans; plus, Guangzhou, China; Mumbai, India; and Nagoya, Japan. Ban 99% of passenger air travel, including no more Catholic pilgrimages (unless you walk). And, for God’s sake, machine-gun the flatulent cows!

But nobody really believes that. At least, nobody is acting as if they do.

Just two months ago, the deeply concerned multimillionaires and billionaires of the World Economic Forum gathered at Davos, Switzerland, to take on global climate change as their topmost conscientious priority. They declared to the world:

#1:  it’s a moral imperative to curb hydrocarbon fuels (they said as they were getting off their 1500+ private jets);

#2:  it’s essential for the just redistribution of global wealth (they say as they flee high-tax jurisdictions); and,

#3:  human coastal habitats are going to be wiped out (they say as they buy seaside investments for fun and profit)

Do these Masters of the Universe themselves believe their own moral imperatives based on their own apocalyptic scenarios? Do they practice what they preach? I’ll believe it when I see it.

But now to the most important point, which is that re-theming Lent as Climate Crisis Action Season is, from a Catholic and spiritual point of view, way off target.

There’s a very good reason why Lent calls us to private reflection about Christ’s shed blood, to examination of conscience, and to personal observances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving: because without them, we are supine before the world, the flesh, and the devil — Mammon, Moloch, and the Media, if you will. We only have limited time, attention, and energy. When a ginned-up carbon-phobia claims first dibs, moral and spiritual reforms are relativized as if they are trivial concerns.

Pushed to comment on reforms outlined by Archbishop Vigano concerning the sex-abuse crisis (oh yeah, that other crisis) Cardinal Blase Cupich told NBC News, “The Pope has a bigger agenda. He’s got to get on with other things—of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.” (In all fairness, a couple days later Cupich walked that backHe didn’t mean it like he said it, said he.

It strikes me that at the very moment when we, the Church, are literally dying in body and soul for lack of contrition, lack of atonement, lack of personal penitential tears, and St.-Peter-Damian level, root-and-branch, Church-wide moral realignment, the approved script is: “Do not mention our soul-deep sexual sickness, do not mention lust, (voice rising) absolutely do not mention homosexuality — that has absolutely nothing to do with anything! Let’s talk about, uh, atmospheric gases.”

The Church may be thought of as a fractal, replicated at every scale from Christ the King of the Cosmos to every adoring soul in the state of grace. The Church is not, however, a climate-change entity. It is the Body of Christ, seemingly in the process of being colonized by the Climate Change virus, which is commandeering its resources at every level.


Julianne Loesch Wiley writes from Tennessee.

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