A Commentary on the U.S. Catholic Conference

A Commentary on the U.S. Catholic Conference

I. Introduction
II. National Religious Partnership for the Environment
A. NRPE Background
B. NRPE Partners
C. NRPE Work
III. Environmental Activities Directly Produced by USCC
A. USCC Department of Social Justice and World Peace
B. Environmental Justice Program
IV Environmental Activities and Programs Supported Indirectly through USCC-Associated Organizations
B. Other Educational Materials
V Conclusions

Part I
The Environment
By Stephanie Block

I. Introduction

This commentary is submitted to the Catholic Bishops of the United States. It is essential to note its limited purpose and scope:

• This commentary is intended for the use of the Catholic Bishops of the United States in their consideration of the issues discussed. However, it will also be made available to other interested parties.

• This commentary endeavors only to set forth facts. It does not call into question the good faith or integrity of anyone involved with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) or the United States Catholic Conference (USCC).

• This commentary is entirely directed to issues of prudence and judgment rather than legality and good faith. The discussion herein is intended merely to raise legitimate questions about specific USCC activities.

• The scope of the Commentary will not directly examine the structure of the NCCB/USCC, but will argue and provide evidence that elements within the USCC manifest serious and disturbing disunity on matters of faith and morals, which therefore require corrections due to the enormous influence of the Conferences.
The elements of USCC activity to be examined for evidence of disunity are:

• Public affiliations of the Conference and its committees;

• Creation of ecotheology;

• Expenditures through the Conference for benevolent purposes;

• Publications associated with the Conference;

• Lobbying and public policy efforts of the Conference.

II. National Religious Partnership For The Environment

The National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRPE) is a formal, ecumenical alliance between the USCC and three other religious bodies: 1

• National Council of Churches

• Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

• Evangelical Environmental Network

A. NRPE Background

Paul Gorman, former Vice President of Public Affairs and Advocacy at New York City’s Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, is the founder and executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. The secretarial office of the NRPE remains at the Cathedral and Gorman is quite open about the influence its “visionary ecumenism” has had on his own ambition to encourage religious ecology “to branch throughout the entire faith community.”2

The cathedral has been home to the Gaia Institute, whose work is to test the Gaia Hypothesis that the planet earth is not simply an environment, but is “in fact a living organism, a self-sustaining system which modifies its surroundings so as to ensure its survival.”3 It has also supported the work of Thomas Berry, professor at Fordham University, and his theological interpretations of this hypothesis. “This re-entrenchment with the earth as a living reality is the condition for our rescue of the earth from the impending destruction we are imposing upon it. To carry this out effectively, we must now, in a sense, reinvent the human as species within the community of life species. Our sense of reality and of value must consciously shift from an anthropocentric to a biocentric norm of reference.”4 Berry’s ideas have filtered into local Catholic parishes by the recommendation of his work in several USCC publications, particularly the first USCC/NRPE parish resource kit, “Renewing the Face of the Earth.”5

B. NRPE Partners

1. The National Council of Churches (NCC): In 1985, Rael and Eric Isaac wrote that “In the wake of publicity about the weakness of the NCC for despotisms of the left in Reader’s Digest and 60 Minutes, the United Methodist Reporter, the largest independent Methodist newspaper, conducted its own study and found that there was indeed a 4-1 disproportion in the number of resolutions critical of non-Communist countries as against Communist countries. Moreover, the Reporter found these figures understated the difference, because criticisms of Communist countries were confined on the whole to narrow issues . . . while condemnations of non-Communist countries were sweeping.”6

A more recent analysis reports: “A 1990 NCC mission study on Central America referred to ‘the success of the socialist revolution in Cuba’ as a model for the rest of Latin America. In 1993, the NCC General Board adopted resolutions calling for an end to the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba and for extending diplomatic relations to North Korea, while ignoring continuing human rights abuses in each. A 1993 mission study on the Caribbean proclaimed the wisdom of liberation theology and the glories of the Castro regime in Cuba.”7
This analysis also discloses various grants given by the NCC, which included $10,000 to a group in Peru for presenting “varied concepts of God.”

2. The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life: The founding statement of COEJL begins with a list of “the most pressing of [ecological] threats,” which includes “exponential population growth.” It identifies part of its mission as “mobilizing our community towards . . . practices which promote environmental sustainability.”8

3. Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN): The EEN was initiated by two organizations. Evangelicals for Social Action, and World Vision, “as part of a growing movement among Christians to respond faithfully to . . . [the] biblical mandate for caring stewardship of God’s creation.”9 It has issued “On the Care of Creation: An Evangelical Declaration.” This document states, among other things: “Many of these degradations [land degradation, deforestation, species extinction, water degradation, global toxification, the alteration of the atmosphere, and human and cultural degradation] are signs that we are pressing against the finite limits God has set for creation. With continued population growth, these degradations will become more severe.”10

This article, A Commentary on the U.S. Catholic Conference is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

Stephanie Block

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