Activist says idea of 'ecological sin' boils down to, 'We consume too much'

Activist says idea of ‘ecological sin’ boils down to, ‘We consume too much’

Activist says idea of ‘ecological sin’ boils down to, ‘We consume too much’

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Jubilee USA.)

The director of Jubilee USA Network wants the pope's ecological and economic messages from the Amazon Synod to get more attention.

NEW YORK — In recent years, Jubilee USA Network has won more than $130 billion in debt relief for some of the poorest countries around the globe inspired by Pope Saint John Paul II’s Jubilee Year call to stand in solidarity with the world’s poor.

Now, executive director Eric LeCompte is hoping Pope Francis’s Synod on the Amazon will help further galvanize Catholics in the U.S. to turn their attention to a region he believes has been in part degraded by American policies.

In an interview with Crux, LeCompte described why he believes the focus of the Amazon Synod shouldn’t be on married priests or women, but rather on the pope’s economic and ecological message.

Crux: Much of the focus on the synod has been on married priests and women deacons, but you’re concerned that the pope’s economic and ecological message is overshadowed. How so?

LeCompte: When we see CNN or read USA Today, we are led to believe that the synod was entirely about married priests and women deacons. Married priests and the diaconate are only a small focus in this document.

We should not forget that the synod primarily moves forward an Amazon rite, and like other rites that are in communion with Rome, we see married priests that help fulfill their people’s spiritual needs. There is also an unsaid reality that in the deep, hard to reach places of the Amazon, married priests may already exist.

But in a synod squarely focused on the Amazon, ministerial shifts for the Amazon are in part about servicing people so their economic needs are met and their human rights are protected. We read the final document and of the 33 pages, ministerial shifts are only a few lines.

What we see when we read the document, is a strong focus to protect indigenous communities, human rights defenders and our planet. Perhaps the strongest message in the final document, that the mainstream media kicked aside, is that many of the regional and global challenges we do have in common, is that we are all consuming too much.

The final document has some strong language about ecological sin? What does that mean to you?

We can boil down the synod’s message simply to: we are consuming too much.

Whether we live in the Amazon or the United States of America, we all are consuming too much. It’s a tough message and it may be the closest the Catholic Church has ever gotten to the concept of social sin, that as an entire society – our level of consumption is sinful. Our level of consumption is hurting our planet, depriving the poor and disconnecting us from one another. While this is a regional document, it gets pretty specific on the idea of ecological sin. The document not only encourages us to check our addiction on fossil fuels, but even specifically challenges us to consume less meat.

The final document also calls for new models of “fair, solidarity, and sustainable development.” In what ways do you believe the U.S. is responsible for the degradation in the Amazon?

In the Holy Father’s homily at the closing Mass of the synod, he lifted one of the concepts most important to him. We must stop predatory development models in the Amazon. These are models that exploit the people of the Amazon and take their resources while benefiting foreigners.

Many U.S. corporations are notorious for land grabs and taking resources in ways that do violence to the Amazon’s communities and ecosystems. Trade agreements with the United States protect U.S. corporations when they do harm in the Amazon. The World Bank does development by giving loans for the extraction of natural resources. Some communities in the Amazon participate in these abuses too, some because their lives depend on it and others for exploiting profit.

In what practical ways do you think the synod can help the U.S. Church?

Because we are talking about an Amazon rite, I doubt in the U.S. Church we’ll see married priests as a solution to our priest shortage anytime soon. One of the global aspects though, is that the Holy See is reopening the global conversation on a diaconate that includes women. That conversation could help fulfill some of the religious needs of our U.S. communities.

If we read the 33-page outcome document of the synod, the message ultimately is that we all deserve to live in a world where we have enough, and not too much. It’s this message that can help us in the United States be in closer communion with one another, in solidarity with people fighting for survival in the Amazon and closer to our loving God.

Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212 


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