With encyclical’s release, Bishop Kettler and other Minnesotans call for education, action

Categories: Around the Diocese,Encyclical


: Speaking June 18 in St. Paul at a press conference on Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’” were, from left, farmers Leanne and Brad Donnay of Kimball, Minnesota Catholic Conference Executive Director Jason Adkins, Bishop Donald Kettler of St. Cloud and Christopher Thompson, academic dean at St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. (Joe Towalski/The Visitor)

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

In his new encyclical, “Laudato Si’- On Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis urges “every person living on the planet” to enter into a dialogue about how to better treat all of God’s creation with respect.

Bishop Donald Kettler wants people in the Diocese of St. Cloud to begin participating in this dialogue by learning more about the topics and themes the pope writes about in his letter and sharing what they learn with others.

“We have to start somewhere,” Bishop Kettler said at a press conference June 18 in St. Paul marking the letter’s release. “We have to start talking about this in our homes, in our parishes. Getting the word out is the biggest part and then getting people to see how it relates to our world and our parishes.”

Bishop Kettler identified three important challenges Pope Francis issued: the need to lessen pollution, reduce waste and oppose a “throwaway culture.”

“We have to think about what these issues mean and how they affect everybody,” the bishop said. “[Pope Francis] says we have lost a sense of responsibility for our fellow human beings and the common good. We need to be sensitive to them, to others.”

The pope talks about this as part of a concept he calls “integral ecology.”

“It means that basically there is a fundamental relationship of every human being with God, with oneself, with other human beings and with creation itself,” Bishop Kettler said. “Should you separate any of these groupings and people, you’ve got difficulties … and challenges.”

In addition to Bishop Kettler, the press conference at the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s offices included Christopher Thompson, academic dean at St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity; farmers Brad and Leanne Donnay of Kimball; and MCC Executive Director Jason Adkins.

Thompson, who specializes in rural ministry and theology of the environment, said the encyclical’s references to climate change may be getting the most media attention, but the letter’s focus extends well beyond the issue.

“This is a call to a profound examination of conscience on the part of [people in Western culture] to look deeply at their attitudes toward nature and creation in matters of their habits of consumption and matters of technology,” he said.

“That is not a trivial observation,” he added.

Thompson said there are practical ways — spiritual ways — that people in the pews can begin making positive changes. Practices like tithing, fasting and abstinence can be done in more thoughtful ways that benefit the community. And, he suggested, parishes can look at how they use resources.

“The parish is a sizeable community and exercises significant economic impact in various areas,” he said. “Maybe we can foster in the parish communities — at the parish council level, at the pastor level — [beginning] to think about habits of how we purchase goods and services, and how we are using parish resources.”

Brad and Leanne Donnay, owners of Donnay Dairy in Kimball, operate a certified organic dairy goat farm that specializes in producing handcrafted goat cheese. They said they are pleased how their way of life parallels the principles outlined in the encyclical. They don’t use dangerous chemicals and care for their land while working together as a family.

“Every little bit that each one of us does — being more sustainable, recycling, planting a garden — every little aspect helps the big picture,” Brad Donnay said. “If we all just do a little bit, we can really do a lot.”

“It is important to note, too, that we have a pope who not only ‘talks the talk,’ but also ‘walks the walk,’ ” Adkins said, noting that as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the pope often took public transportation. “He is not just an effective teacher but also an effective witness.”

In the public square

Adkins said the encyclical is not limited to issues of public policy, but it has public policy implications that require action on behalf of the common good.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference will explore increasing the state’s renewable energy standard, which requires 25 percent of power in Minnesota to come from renewable energy sources by 2025, he said. The MCC also wants to facilitate conversations on the environment that involve a wide range of stakeholders and develop policies that promote small agricultural operations like Donnay Dairy.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is currently engaged on three policy issues that relate to the encyclical’s teachings:

  • The bipartisan Nonprofit Energy-Efficiency Act (S. 600), introduced by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, would provide matching grants of up to $200,000 to help nonprofits, including parishes, schools and hospitals, to make energy efficient improvements.
  • The USCCB will continue its call for a national standard to limit carbon pollution from power plants.
  • And, the bishops will continue to support the international Green Climate Fund. This fund will help developing nations, particularly the most vulnerable nations, to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Ongoing education

Bishop Kettler emphasized the need for respectful dialogue on the issues raised by the encyclical and finding effective ways of bringing this message to people in the pews, especially young people.

“There is within young people a concern about the environment,” he said. “On the other hand, they are very influenced by the throwaway culture of waste. It is imperative that we teach them to connect their concerns with their daily practices.”

In the letter, Pope Francis lauds youth for their interest in “ecological sensitivity” and their “generous spirit” but says that, at the same time, they are living in a consumer culture, which “makes it difficult to develop other habits.”

Bishop Kettler said this makes it even more crucial to provide educational opportunities for youth and for the pastors and catechists who teach them.