Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 15, No. 9, September 2019
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Seeking New Paths for Humanity and for an Integral Ecology

Luis T. Gutiérrez

September 2019

"There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology." Pope Francis, Laudato Si' #118

The forthcoming synod of bishops on "Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology" to be held at the Vatican, October 2019, will be an opportunity to discern the root cause of the impending ecological crisis. Since it is a synod of bishops, women and other lay people can only pray, observe, and at most offer some advice. So here is some unsolicited advice from a concerned layman: stop messing around with social/ecological symptoms, and focus on liberating the church from religious patriarchy, thereby giving a good example for all human institutions to seek the same kind of liberation; for just as energy and other biophysical resources are indispensable enablers for an integral ecology, the patriarchal culture is the most crucial disabler.

Patriarchy is not natural law; it is an artificial culture, the immediate and most universal consequence of original sin (Genesis 3:16), whence all other forms of social/ecological justice derive. Religious patriarchy is not divine law; it is ludicrous to keep insisting that, in today's globalized church, Jesus would choose 12 males to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel, as he did while engaged in his temporal mission. After the resurrection, starting with St. Mathias, all choices for apostolic succession have been made by the church, consistent with the authority given to her by Christ (Matthew 16:19; Catechism 1598). To claim that the church can forgive sins, but cannot ordain women, is a pathetic doctrinal rationalization of 2000 years of man-made ecclesiastical patriarchy.

Patriarchy has been around for millennia, but now we are on the threshold of a radically new global reality: the patriarchal drive that undoubtedly motivated the development of human civilization, by implicitly assuming that natural resources are free and infinite, is now in overdrive and threatening to suffocate the biosphere that constitutes the human habitat. The "great acceleration" induced by the industrial revolution cannot possibly go on forever. Sooner or later, biophysical limits will constrain further growth in population and consumption. There is evidence that we are already in overshoot relative to the planet's carrying capacity, which is not fixed but certainly not infinite. There is also evidence that we may not want to burn the remaining reserves of fossil fuels if the planet is to remain habitable; and it is doubtful that "clean" energy sources can deliver enough net energy to sustain the current rates of power usage:

Net Energy Cliff with Degrading EROEI ~ Source: Wikipedia Commons

Tropical rainforests have been aptly described as the "lungs of the planet." The greedy frenzy of patriarchal capitalism is also threatening to destroy natural resources that are critical for a healthy planetary ecology, such as the Amazonian rainforest:

Wildfires in the Amazon rainforest are now intensifying due to deforestation,
logging, and grazing. Source: Natural Reactions, Creative Commons License

Nevertheless, globalized patriarchal capitalism keeps charging ahead in an apparently unstoppable frenzy driven by short-term financial incentives without the slightest regard for the well-being of future generations of humans, let alone the ecological integrity of the planet that is our home; and patriarchal socialism is but patriarchal capitalism turned inside out, as evidenced by the same behavior pursuant to accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of vulnerable nations and the entire community of creation. A massive grassroots mobilization of "global citizens" would be required to get the attention of the global elites. This may come to pass in due time, as millions (billions?) are driven to despair. It would be helpful is some influential global institutions denounce the current ecological insanity, but they must also "walk the talk" by reforming their own behavior and renouncing patriarchal legacies that no longer serve the common good.

With the publication in 2015 of the Encyclical Laudato Si' on Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis has provided some good guidance for humanity to engage in dialogue about global issues of social/ecological justice. However, many Catholic churches and facilities continue to use air conditioners and other carbon-driven artifacts, bishops are patriarchs in their dioceses, priests are patriarchs in their parishes, and women are still excluded from ordination to the ministerial priesthood and the episcopate, and therefore excluded for sacramental ministry, even though there is no dogmatic impediment. In such a toxic patriarchal environment, no wonder most Catholics keep using artificial birth control, keep burning fossil fuels for comfort, and keep seeking individualistic financial gain with minimal concern for the common good -- in other words, "business as usual."

The Catholic Church, with over one billion members, is arguably one of the most influential institutions in the world. As such, in dealing with the social and ecological justice issues of our time, it must choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. As patriarchal gender ideologies become obsolete and rightfully discredited, it is time to recognize that the church is "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic," but not necessarily patriarchal; and it is time to act accordingly by ordaining women to enrich apostolic succession. Rather than ordaining more married men, celibate women should be ordained. Jesus was celibate by personal choice, but would he, in today's globalized church, choose 12 males to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel? No, of course not; and issues of human sexuality are intrinsic to social/ecological justice.

The anthropological foundation for healing culture from patriarchy is clear:

SAME FLESH ~ Genesis 1:27, 2:23 ~ Theology of the Body

It is also clear that patriarchy is incompatible with social and ecological justice:

INTEGRAL ECOLOGY ~ Art by Mary Southard, CSJ ~ Ministry of the Arts

It is crucial to recognize that patriarchy is a cultural/social pathology that conditions people (especially men) to dominate other people (especially women) and the entire community of creation. Seeking new paths for integral human development, and for an integral ecology, is an exercise in futility as long as this pathology is not mercifully healed in both secular and religious institutions. Let us pray that discerning New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology leads to rediscovering the original unity of man and woman, restored by the redemption, in this Season of Creation.


Luis T. Gutiérrez is the owner and editor of the Mother Pelican Journal.

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