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Interview

Father Sean McDonagh

Eco-theologian Father Sean McDonagh, author of On Care for Our Common Home, talks about the Laudato si, which is Pope Francis’s 42000 word encyclical on the need to care for animals and the environment…

Recently Eco-theologian Father Sean McDonagh visited Brisbane, and said the Laudato si would be a good guide for the youth of the 21st Century.
It was written by Pope Francis, published in June 2015, about the need to care for animals and the environment.
He said Pope Francis wrote: “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”.
Pope Francis wrote that people needed a new moral understanding and a new spiritual understanding that other species have intrinsic value, independent of their usefulness to humans.
Just as judges interpret the meanings of words in acts of parliament or congress, the Pope interprets the meaning of words in the Bible. Father McDonagh said that Pope Francis in the Laudato si had interpreted the words of Genesis, where that book of the Old Testament says that man had dominion over nature.
Pope Francis interpreted dominion to mean that mankind must act as custodians of nature. He said people must imitate God’s loving kindness and faithfulness and act as God’s viceroys in our relationship with the non-human component of the earth.
The pope said we must “forcefully reject” the notion of unbridled dominion over animals, such as mile long fishing nets. We needed attentiveness to animals and their habitats, and this should be a new part of spirituality in the church.
Father McDonagh said Pope Francis’s 42000 word encyclical was “the most important to come from a pope in 120 years”.
An encyclical is basically a letter or booklet written by a pope about an issue, which goes out to all the churches. Popes have written them through the centuries, about issues like the rights of workers (Pope Leo XXIII in 1891), and sharing the money from economic development with the poor as well as the rich (Pope Paul VI in 1967).
Father McDonagh’s book On Care for Our Common Home, published by Orbis Books, gives his reflections on the Laudato si and its coverage of issues like climate change, threats to biodiversity, water and food scarcity and destruction of the oceans.
Father McDonagh’s book also tells the history of Catholic theology on creation. And he suggests ways the Laudato Si could be put into action.
In the Laudato si, Pope Francis also wrote that there was a relationship between the poor and a fragile planet. The pope believed there was a scientific consensus that global warming was happening, and that it would affect the poor the most.
Sometimes it seems there is a slim chance of reversing the devastation of the planet. But Pope Francis said “things can change” and that this was central to the Christian message. Just as Zacchaeus a chief tax collector in Jericho, changed his ways, in the Gospel of Luke, so too could people change their ways in how they treated the environment and animals.

-copyright Simon Sandall