Minnesota, Our Common Home: A Resource for Evangelization

Statement from Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) Executive Director Jason Adkins in Response to Misleading Article Appearing at ChurchMilitant.com

December 2, 2019

We were disappointed to read Church Militant’s misleading and agenda-driven posting about our educational resource, “Minnesota, Our Common Home.” Unfortunately, the post seeks to scandalize and cause division, needlessly attacking the bishops of Minnesota. Instead of informing readers about what the initiative seeks to accomplish, which has been well documented in numerous outlets (Crux, Catholic Ecology, Catholic News Agency), it merely spreads disinformation.

Church Militant did not reach out to MCC staff for comment, nor is it clear that they read fully the materials.

The purpose of the initiative is two-fold: catechesis and evangelization. It is true, as the author asserts, that responses to environmental degradation are, in many cases, religious ones—and often neo-pagan and pantheistic. Such a spiritual response on the part of many underscores that all political questions are ultimately theological ones.

But environmental dogmatism highlights the need for the Church to bring to the conversation the right principles for thinking about these questions, both as a way of assisting Catholics who encounter and consider them, and for others looking for direction. In our experience, Pope Saint John Paul II was correct when he stated that the social doctrine of the Church is a powerful tool of evangelization. And the spiritual impulses of the environmental movement, a major source of concern among young people, needs to be channeled and evangelized.

The framework of “integral ecology” is a helpful way to think about the social doctrine of the Church and highlights its rootedness in the natural law. Minnesota, Our Common Home is an attempt to make it more digestible than Pope Francis’ extended discussion of it in “Laudato si’.” It is a challenge to Catholics across the political and ecclesial spectrum to see the connectedness of the issues, and the need to offer a coherent response—not a seamless garment, but instead a consistent ethic of life rooted in integral ecology.

A couple of factual points need to be addressed. First, the claim that the bishops of Minnesota do not have their priorities correct because the small staff of their shared public policy office puts out an educational resource on a significant matter of public debate (and priority of Pope Francis), borders on the absurd. It’s as though the author believes that the institutional Church cannot do two (or more) things simultaneously, or that until the Church addresses the author’s particular concerns (and to the author’s satisfaction), we cannot do anything else. And this initiative consumed very little in the way of MCC resources, let alone the Church as a whole.

We also note that the resources, including the “Ecological Examen”, were being developed well in advance of either the Amazon Synod or Pope Francis’s statements about adding ecological sins to the Catechism.  We do not know what amendments to the universal Catechism will actually say or address, but the imperative to protect creation is hardly eco-theology; it’s just the plain application of the biblical exhortation to man “to till and to keep” (Genesis 2:15). Church Militant would do well to recall the large corpus of writings from Pope Benedict XVI (The Environment and message for World Day of Peace 2010) and Pope Saint John Paul II on these matters.

As for the accusations that the Minnesota Catholic Conference does not focus on the difficult public policy questions, even the most cursory familiarity with our work in the public arena makes that claim laughable. MCC is on the frontline defending life and dignity in Minnesota. Ironically, in a difficult legislative environment, we have spearheaded the passage of legislation that takes aim at pornography, family fragmentation, and abortion—the very issues on which the author accuses us of doing nothing.

Finally, many of the issues raised in the article are simply off-topic. They may or may not be legitimate issues worth discussing, but most have no relevance to the actual substance of what Minnesota, Our Common Home actually says. The unsigned article is a string of ad hominem attacks and logical fallacies.

If people have complaints about the substance of the resources, then we are happy to receive and have a conversation about them. But again, this article did not engage the substance of the message, which is that “ecological conversion” and a proper vision of creation stewardship rooted in right relationships can be found ONLY when we are in right relationship with God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ. Is Church Militant really against that?

We, too, are concerned about problems and infidelity plaguing the Church today. But imposing the hermeneutics of suspicion on every initiative, filtering it through a partisan lens, and assuming bad faith on the part of all bishops and Church employees, is an incredibly destructive dynamic.

Church Militant often complains about the Church’s catechetical failures, and then when the Church steps boldly into the conversation, they still complain. One could be forgiven for believing that this was just another brand-building exercise instead of an attempt to truly inform. We appreciate some of the work Church Militant has done exposing legitimate corruption in the Church. But in this posting, it has missed the mark.

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