Life First

‘To hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’

By Fr. Don Braukmann / Retired Priest of the Diocese of Crookston

It was interesting this winter to hear people say, “So much for climate change!” Schools were closed, and folks stayed close to home and heat. How could climate change be real given the fact it is based on global warming, not global cooling? After the winter we just survived, wasn’t the notion of climate change debunked?

But, as with most things, there is more to the story.

Remember how temps in Alaska and the Arctic were warmer than our temps more than once over the past months? A major cause of such a realignment was the fact the jet stream shifted. Colder weather was pushed south as a result and warmer air slipped in behind it. So, it could be said the cold winter supported those who believe the climate is changing and global warming is real!

Friends who knew I was going to bring up the issue of climate change in my “Life First” column cautioned me against it because of the controversy it would bring. Yet, it was a friend who challenged me on what it meant to be pro-life given Pope Francis’ linkage of the climate change discussion to a consistent Catholic pro-life position. My friend was right.

The scientific community is overwhelmingly convinced the climate is changing. They are scientists, that is what they do. The same scientific community has also overwhelmingly shown it is human life, not simply a glob of cells in the womb during a pregnancy.

How strange (and sad) that polls show many who believe the scientists on climate change do not believe them when it comes to the truth on human life. And, of course, how odd to have those defending science when it comes to life issues refuse to accept evidence proposed on climate change.

Here is my point: What does our “Amen!” at Communion on Sunday mean the rest of the week?

We receive the creator of all life, of all creation. Is our loyalty to Jesus Christ or is it to a particular party or cable news channel? When the unbelieving world looks at us as followers of Christ, will they see integrity or hypocrisy?

Whether you believe climate change is happening or not; or believe humanity lends to it or not, can we at least have an honest discussion given the fact it is a matter of life and death to the poor and discarded among us?

The same is true on the abortion issue: hate is so strong there is no room for discussion, for understanding, for “hearing” one another. Truth is, we may change the laws but if we don’t change hearts, we are living a pipe dream. To change hearts, we must be seamless … pro-life womb to tomb; on every issue that deals with life and death … which most issues do.

I have said many, many times in this column over the years that I would never ever vote for a political candidate who believes a child must die so we can live as we wish. And, I have said a candidate who claims to be pro-life on abortion but does nothing to support and defend that life once she is born, will not get my vote. The claim “lesser of two evils” only dumbs us down politically and we settle for hypocrisy.

In case the reader is worried I have been drinking the CNN or MSNBC Kool Aid, my inspiration is Pope Francis himself.

In 2015, Pope Francis released his encyclical letter, “Laudato Si (Praise be to You)”. In the encyclical, Pope Francis addresses his desire to, “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (LS 3), and he appeals to all of us to enter into “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” He states that, “We need a conversation which includes everyone since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (LS 14).

He added, “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (LS 49).

In chapter four, Pope Francis lays out the idea that everything is closely interrelated.

“When we speak of the ‘environment’, what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. ... Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (LS 139)

Finally, President Ronald Reagan provided an interesting perspective on this discussion. He was not always pro-life on abortion but came to the profound conclusion “What if I’m wrong?” His “pro-life” stance was based on making sure we don’t do something as a society we can’t take back. So, when it comes to ignoring the issues raised in the debate on climate change and we say it is a “conspiracy, fake news, conjured up by environmental whack-o’s” … what if we’re wrong?