The Fargo Forum is calling for the restoration of local zoning when it comes to concentrated animal feeding operations.
This is consistent with the principle of subsidiarity. In fact, the North Dakota Catholic Conference testified against removing local input as far back as 1999.
“This principle recognizes that human dignity requires that persons and communities should possess the ability to exercise responsible self-governance. Subsidiarity means that while larger governments have a role and sometimes a duty to involve themselves in local affairs, they should give deference and due respect to local communities. Specifically applying the principle of subsidiarity to rural issues, the bishops stated that local communities should be allowed to enact land use ordinances to further the common good. House Bill 1397 violates that principle by stripping counties of their rightful position to regulate for the common good of the larger community.”
You can read the full testimony here.
The great thing about Catholic social teaching is that it is timeless and prophetic. The same principles for a good society that applied in 1999 apply to today and will apply seventeen years from now.
“Mercy calls us to always include the common good and the environmental good, even if doing so is not required by the law and even if it means that others will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
In my last column I suggested that a key to understanding mercy is the call to never abandon. Not abandoning also means to be in relationship, including a relationship with the created world.
The environment, however, is not a person. How can we be in relationship with something that is not a person?
The key to understanding this challenge is to recognize that God the Father blessed us with this world and that he wants us to live within it according to his will. In Laudato si, Pope Francis states that Genesis teaches that “human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.” (No. 66.) Sin disrupted these relationships. To walk right with the Lord, to walk in mercy, means to walk again in relationship with all three.
The importance of including creation in this triad of relationships should be apparent. God made us with physical bodies in a physical world. At this very moment you are touching the physical world. Christ became incarnate and lived in this same physical world, breathed the same air, ate the same fruits of the same earth, and walked on the same ground. By his life we learn that our bodies and the material world in which they roam are not just valuable, but also that they are part of God’s will for us. We were made for this creation and it for us. He means for us to be in right relationship with the environment.
Care for creation, therefore, is not just care for creation itself. Care for the human person is central to our care for creation and flows from our acceptance of the Father’s plan. Pope Francis explains that because of this relationship “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.” (No. 49, emphasis is Pope Francis’.) It also means that the “human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together. . .” (No. 48.)
Contrary to portrayals in the news and social media, Pope Francis is not just talking about specific environmental problems, though he has done a little of that. Building upon what already is Christian teaching on creation, Laudato si consists mostly of a call to live with respect to the environment as a Christian. In other words, in right relationship with God.
The rupture which began in Genesis has become so great that it threatens the earth on a global scale and especially the poor of the world. Perhaps more damaging, however, is that it has become so engrained that we do not see the broken relationship in our daily lives, especially our public life.
Our relationships with God, others, and the environment should be an integral, not secondary, part of our economic and public life. Environmental concerns should not viewed as just limits on what we can do.
This is especially true with agriculture. John Cuddeback, a professor at Christendom College puts it this way: “Stewardship issues are not something that place an exterior limit on agriculture, as though we were to say: ‘Do your farming, but remember to be careful and don’t damage the earth too much.’ Rather, true farming is intrinsically environmental and stewardship minded.”
Nor would it be right to say: “I’ve followed all the laws and I’m just doing what I need to do to make a profit” or “we have to do it this way to compete.”
Here is where care for creation and relationship with others relates to mercy. Remember: mercy is about going beyond what required. Certainly, laws should protect people and the environment from practices harmful or detrimental to both natural resources and the common good. The political and legal system, however, often falls short. Mercy calls us to always include the common good and the environmental good, even if doing so is not required by the law and even if it means that others will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
In its testimony against legislation to weaken the state’s anti-corporate farming law — legislation being put to the voters in June — the North Dakota Catholic Conference noted that Pope Francis has called the relationship a farmer has with the land as like the relationship that exists with in a family.
The same principle applies to all economic and social activity. As human persons we are called to be in relationship with God, others, and creation in all that we do. As agents of mercy, we are called to go beyond what is required, just as we do for family.
Question: What do Pope Francis and North Dakotans have in common? Answer: A fondness for cooperatives.
North Dakotans are familiar with cooperatives. The Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives at North Dakota State University estimates that there exist over 500 cooperatives in the state. We have cooperatives involving agriculture, telecommunications, financing, insurance, electricity, and more. The state has often been called the nation’s leader in the cooperative movement.
Like many legal and economic developments, cooperatives often sprung from necessity. Farmers, for example, sometimes had to join forces to reduce purchasing costs. At other times, producers needed to work together to have sufficient bargaining power when dealing with monopolies like the railroads. Cooperatives have also allowed members to access needed resources for investment.
Cooperatives offer local control, direct ownership, and equitable distribution of the fruits of labor. Interestingly, support for these principles, and cooperatives themselves, are found in Catholic teaching.
Although often mislabeled as a document on climate change, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si is really an exploration of what the Christian faith means for the economy. It is worth noting that cooperatives are praised twice in the document, once in relation to agricultural cooperatives and again concerning energy cooperatives — two segments of the cooperative model with which North Dakotans are familiar.
Pope Francis has repeatedly hailed cooperatives. Speaking to an audience in Rome, the pope said: “Cooperatives should continue to be the motor that raises and develops the weakest part of our communities and civil society.” In Bolivia he spoke of how he has seen how cooperatives “were able to create work where there were only crumbs of an idolatrous economy.” He has often spoke about how he developed an enthusiasm for cooperatives when, as a teenager, he heard his father talk about “Christian cooperativism.” Indeed, Paul Hazen of the U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council, has dubbed Francis, the “co-op pope.”
Pope Francis, however, is not unique when it comes to expressing the Catholic preference for cooperative models of ownership and production. Catholic monasteries have operated as cooperatives for centuries. Cooperatives got a significant boost in popularity after Pope Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum in 1891. It was the first “social encyclical” and rejected by unbridled capitalism and state socialism. Cooperatives provided an alternative. As Pope Francis puts it: cooperatives “are the concrete expression of the solidarity and subsidiarity that the social doctrine of the Church has always promoted between the person and the state.” Nearly ever pope since then, especially the last five, has promoted cooperatives as an alternative to systems where all the economic power is held by those who own the capital, rather than the workers, producers, or consumers.
Catholics have been putting the cooperative alternative into practice.The first credit union in the United States was founded by New Hampshire French-speaking Catholics in 1908. The world’s largest network of worker-owned cooperatives was started by a Catholic priest in Spain. Dorothy Day, one of the four “great Americans” mentioned by Pope Francis in his address to Congress, promoted and founded cooperatives in the United States as an alternative to communism and a form of uncaring, detached capitalism. Even today, Catholic bishops, aid organizations, and lay groups promote and create cooperatives around the world.
Several themes run throughout Scripture and the church’s social doctrine that make cooperative models and worker ownership appealing. As already noted, they can be an alternative between collectivism and individualism run amuck. They also represent ways to respect both solidarity and subsidiarity, stewardship of the land, the dignity of labor and workers, respect for private property and the universal destination of goods, and the ecological integrity Pope Francis discusses in Laudato si.
Cooperatives may not work in every situation. Pope Francis warns that cooperatives, like other types of ownership can succumb to the temptation to put profit before people and thus become “false cooperatives.” Nevertheless, our experience with cooperatives might place North Dakotans in a better position to help create what Pope Francis calls a “healing” “economy of honesty.”
USCCB Committee Chairs Welcome Congressional Initiatives Responding to Pope Francis’ Call to Care for Creation
“The bishops welcome the various initiatives to protect the environment and address climate change that have recently emerged in Congress,” said Archbishop Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “Such efforts help respond to Pope Francis’ call in his encyclical Laudato Si’ for ‘courageous actions and strategies aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care.’”
These recent legislative initiatives include: a Congressional resolution introduced by Congressman Chris Gibson and several Republican House Members promoting environmental stewardship and efforts to address climate change; the American Energy Innovation Act of 2015 unveiled by Senator Maria Cantwell along with many Senate Democrats; as well as bipartisan efforts in the Senate and House including The Super Pollutants Act of 2015 introduced by Senators Chris Murphy and Susan Collins and the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act introduced by Congressmen Matt Cartwright and Robert Dold in the House and Senators Amy Klobuchar and John Hoeven in the Senate.
“These efforts by government leaders are positive actions that respond to Pope Francis’ call in his encyclical, Laudato Sí, to ‘redirect our steps’ and to act together to protect our common home,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace. “We encourage these initiatives because they will stimulate greater dialogue in seeking sustainable solutions that can lead to real and lasting change.”
“The U.S. bishops stand united with the Holy Father in his call to protect creation,” said Archbishop Wenski, who also affirmed Pope Francis’ appeal in his encyclical for a new and honest dialogue. “As Pope Francis said, ‘We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.’”
- Care for God’s Creation
- Call to Family, Community, Participation
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person
- Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
- Rights and Responsibilities
The pontiff is imploring all members of the Catholic Church to unite in three prayerful activities this Wednesday. These include: 1) thanking God for the “marvelous works” He has given us, 2) invoking His help in protecting creation, and 3) asking for His Divine Mercy in forgiving the sins we have committed against the environment. Pope Francis is also asking for the prayerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to assist the faithful with these three intentions.
You may also want to access the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ reflection aids at Prayers for the Care of Creation
Prayer of Petition
For the Care of Creation
O Lord, grant us the grace to respect and care for Your creation.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Lord, hear our prayer.O Lord, help us to end the suffering of the poor and bring healing to all of your creation.
Lord, hear our prayer.
O Lord, help us to use our technological inventiveness to undo the damage we have done to Your creation and to sustain Your gift of nature.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Reflections for the Care of Creation
- How are we called to care for God’s creation?
- How may we apply our social teaching with its emphasis on the life and dignity of the human person, to the challenge of protecting the earth, our common home?
- What can we in the Catholic community offer to the environmental movement, and what can we learn from it?
- How can we encourage a serious dialogue in the Catholic community—in our parishes, schools, colleges, universities and other settings—on the significant ethical dimensions of the environmental crisis?
Creating sufficient, decent work that honors the dignity of families is a necessary component of the challenge facing all Catholics, and it is the Catholic way, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami cited the importance of work in supporting families in the 2015 Labor Day statement, which drew on Pope Francis’ June encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’.
“We must not resign ourselves to a ‘new normal’ with an economy that does not provide stable work at a living wage for too many men and women,” Archbishop Wenski said. “We are in need of a profound conversion of heart at all levels of our lives.” Archbishop Wenski challenged Catholics to “recommit ourselves to our brothers and sisters around the world in the human family, and build systems and structures that nurture family formation and stability in our own homes and neighborhoods.”
Archbishop Wenski noted that even though work is meant for the sake of family, “Wage stagnation has increased pressures on families, as the costs of food, housing, transportation, and education continue to pile up.” He added that “the violation of human dignity is evident in exploited workers, trafficked women and children, and a broken immigration system that fails people and families desperate for decent work and a better life.”
Archbishop Wenski said that, in Laudato Si’, Pope Francis challenges people to see the connections between human labor, care for creation, and honoring the dignity of the “universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect.”
The full text of the 2015 Labor Day statement is available online.
Natural and Human Ecology:
a discussion on Laudato Si’
The encyclical Laudato Si’, released earlier this summer, continues to be a hot topic of discussion for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Join the Catholic bishops of Minnesota, along with many others, on September 9 to delve into some of the encyclical’s themes and to consider ways in which Minnesota Catholics can put them into practice within our families, parishes, and broader communities.
An engaging line-up of discussion panelists will join us, including:
- Cecelia Calvo, Project Coordinator of the Environmental Justice Program, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Fred Callens, owner of Callens Honey Farm, St. Leo, Minn.
- Dr. Daniel Finn, Clemmens Professor in Economics & Liberal Arts and professor of theology, St. John’s University
- Dr. Christopher Thompson, Academic Dean, The St. Paul Seminary
The event is free and open to the public.
The event is co-sponsored by Minnesota Catholic Conference, Catholic Rural Life, and the University of St. Thomas Center for Catholic Studies.
Environmental stewardship is central to the moral roots of our faith. Care for God’s creation is the responsibility of all human beings as outlined by our Holy Father in his encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home.”
A change of heart that Pope Francis is asking of us will be a chance to witness our faith and begin to reverse the tide of global destruction. We have an extraordinary opportunity to drive this change from our energy resource-rich state. Everyone’s actions matter from in-home recycling to advocating for responsible harvesting of natural resources in our state’s coalmines and oil fields.
Pope Francis is calling for radical change to our “throwaway culture.” In his document, he challenges each of us do our part to preserve God’s gifts for future generations and prevent the poor from suffering the worst effects of industry-induced environmental degradation.
All of what Pope Francis is saying is premised on the unique and inviolable dignity of the person to whom God has entrusted the care of His creation; and all of creation is a gift from God to us not to be abused, but to be used in such a way that it helps us save our souls and the souls of others.
Let us prayerfully respond to Pope Francis’ plea for a change of hearts and call to action.
Archbishop Kurtz Welcomes Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’
June 18, 2015
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, June 18.
Full text of Archbishop Kurtz’s statement follows:
Statement on the Occasion of the Promulgation of Laudato Si’
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
With an open heart and gratitude I, along with my brother bishops in the United States, welcome Laudato Si’. In this beautiful and extensive treatment on care for our common home, the Holy Father calls all people to consider our deep and intertwined relationships with God, our brothers and sisters, and the gifts that our Creator has provided for our stewardship.
Drawing extensively from the teaching of his predecessors, the Pope teaches that care for the things of the earth is necessarily bound together with our care of one another, especially the poor. This interdependency extends from the deep respect due every human person to all living beings and to the earth where we make our home. “Each creature has its own purpose…and the entire material universe speaks of God’s love.”84 The Pope uses the term “integral ecology” to draw our attention to a rich treasury of thought that people of faith bring with them to conversations about the human person and our environment. He states, “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”229
In Laudato Si’, the Holy Father invites us to reflect deeply on all points of human activity, whether we consider care for creation at the level of our individual choices or in the public square. The need for urgent action is clear and he appeals to us to become “painfully aware” of what is happening to the world and “to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.”210 The Holy Father makes it clear that we were given the earth as a gift from our Creator. It is our responsibility to avoid contributing to a culture of acquisitiveness, individualism, or exploitation.
Pope Francis repeatedly urges us to renewed and urgent action and honest dialogue about our environment – both social and ecological. “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together”48, both of which disproportionately affect our poorest brothers and sisters. Reflecting on inner city slums, lack of clean drinking water, and a consumerism mentality, Pope Francis asks “what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?”160 This question is at the heart of this encyclical and rightfully calls us all to work harder against the challenges the human family faces today.
Genuine efforts to true dialogue will require sacrifice and the confronting of good faith disagreements, but let us be encouraged that at “the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us…he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward.”245 May we help answer Pope Francis’ call in this encyclical, receiving his message and growing in responsibility towards the common home that God has entrusted to us all.
Numbers are reflective of the paragraph numbers in Laudato Si’.