From Aug. 10 – 15, 2020, The National Council of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada was to host their 100th anniversary celebration of the League at its annual convention and AGM. Because of pandemic restrictions, the convention was postponed to 2021 and guest speakers for the convention were recruited to present to thousands of members and interested people through a webinar series called Summer Speaker Series. Today, I present to you my summary of our first speaker, Dr. Cory Andrew Labrecque, Associate Professor of Bioethics and Theological Ethics, University of Laval speaking on "Speak to the Earth and it Shall Teach You: On the Christian Vocation to Tend, Guard, and Heal." For more information on Dr. Labrecque check the end of this article. Summaries of the other webinars will be highlighted later this week.
"The Catholic Women's League of Canada's Summer Speaker Series
with Dr. Cory Andrew Labrecque.
Labrecque began with the quote: “Rise! Let us be on our way.” (Mark 14: 42) These words were used by Jesus when Judas betrayed him to the authorities. ‘Betray’ infers a position that allows the betrayer to treacherously place the victim in a harmful situation. Labrecque believes that humankind has betrayed the earth. However, he sees the words of the quote as an invitation to continue and to do better after we’ve stumbled or failed. With the earth and with the poor, we must continue and do better.
Dr. Labrecque spoke of the variety of pollutions and harsh realities that humankind has created: industrial, air, water, agricultural, and land pollution; overpopulation; over-consumption; deforestation; resource depletion; widespread destruction of species; loss of biodiversity; and global climate change. The encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis says that our mother, earth, “groans in travail.”
Labrecque invited us to think about our own homes – Would I throw garbage throughout my home, leak chemicals there, put toxins in the drinking water or bulldoze all the grass and trees in my yard? He asks us now to think of the earth as ‘our home,’ and he wonders why we would do all those things to ‘our home.’
Who is to blame? Labrecque referred to an article called ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis’ (1967) by Professor Lynn White, Jr. White suggests that religion, particularly Christianity, is an important, and possibly the only factor in how human societies relate to the natural world. It puts humans at the centre – the earth serves humankind; earth is considered valuable only because humans can use it. At the end of his article, White writes: “Saint Francis, proposed what he thought was an alternative Christian view of nature and man's relation to it; he tried to substitute the idea of the equality of all creatures, including man, for the idea of man's limitless rule of creation. He failed. Both our present science and our present technology are so tinctured with orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature that no solution for our ecologic crisis can be expected from them alone. Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not. We must rethink and re-feel our nature and destiny. The profoundly religious, but heretical, sense of the primitive Franciscans for the spiritual autonomy of all parts of nature may point a direction. I propose Francis as a patron saint for ecologists.”
Labrecque presented the two accounts of Genesis: the first account involved the creation of the universe which Labrecque presents in a unique way.
Environment – days one to four
1st Day: Light
2nd day: Sky and Sea
3rd day: Dry Land
4th day: Vegetation
Inhabitants - corresponding to the first four days are found in days five to eight.
5th day: Sun, Moon and Stars
6th day: Birds and Fish
7th day: Animals
8th day: Humans
God saw everything, and it was very good. He didn’t just see humans; all of creation was good.
Fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over fish, bird, every living thing, and every green plant. Dominion can be despotism where we exploit and toss aside things or it can be stewardship where we look after everything because everything is very good. God asks us to be stewards, not despots.
God’s creation of humans is one event among many events of creation. We were created in God’s image, and we need to be able to see that “everything” that God created was very good, not just us. Don’t be deluded that “the land is mine”; it is God’s and he wants balance and harmony
There is a Sabbath, Shabbat (Jewish), a day of rest, for everything, not just for humans. Environmental rest is needed - 7th day, 7th year, 50th year (the year after 7 sets of 7 years.) We have stopped practicing this time of rest. Perhaps this pandemic we are dealing with today is the earth crying out for a time of environmental rest. Since the start of the pandemic, air pollution and toxic emissions have decreased. Carbon dioxide has been cut down.
Labrecque moved on to the Second Creation: In the Garden of Eden, Adam was given the authority and responsibility to name the animals; Adam and Eve were commissioned to tend and to till. Their disobedience caused a strain between humankind and the earth. Labrecque points out that the main character in this story is the “garden” not humankind. Humankind was created from the earth, for the earth.
There are several environmental themes in Catholic Christian Tradition:
Questions to think about:
What are the challenges/obstacles for people?
Does care for creation lead to nature worship?
How does making reference to ‘the environment’ as ‘creation’ impact the way we approach the issues at hand?
How are we called to act?
Dr. Labrecque praised the Catholic Women’s League of Canada for their work on social justice issues through their resolutions. He encouraged The League to continue to “Rise! Let us be on our way.”
About Dr. Cory Andrew Labrecque, Ph.D., is an associate professor of bioethics and theological ethics, and the inaugural chairperson of educational leadership in the ethics of life at the faculty of theology and religious studies at the University of Laval in Quebec City, where he also directs the program in applied ethics. Previously, he served as the Raymond F. Schinazi Scholar in bioethics and religious thought, and the director of the graduate program in bioethics at the Center for Ethics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned a bachelor of science in anatomy and cell biology, a master of arts in religious studies with a specialization in bioethics, and a doctorate in religious ethics at McGill University in Montreal. Dr. Labrecque’s teaching and research examine how the Abrahamic religions—with a focus on the Roman Catholic tradition—approach ethical issues in medicine, biotechnology and the environment. He is especially interested in ethical issues at the end of life and understandings of human personhood. He was recently appointed vice-president of the National Committee for Ethics and Ageing by the province of Quebec’s minister for seniors and was recently named corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Hi! My name is Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI and I am the pastor of the Meadow Lake Cluster. I serve the faith communities of Our Lady of the Smile, Waterhen, St. Jude's, Green Lake and Our Lady of Peace, Meadow Lake. I arrived in the cluster on August 15th, 2019. You can see more information about me on the home page!