Martyr for the Environment

There have been hints that respect for the environment will take a more prominent place in Catholic social teaching in the years ahead.  Certainly Pope Benedict has mentioned it a few times

If it does, we may be hearing more about Sr. Dorothy Stang.  In fact, it’s not difficult to imagine her invoked as a sort of patron of the teaching and the cause.

Sr. Dorothy, a sister of Notre Dame de Namur, is considered by some to be the first Catholic martyr who died for the cause of respect for the environment.  She was murdered in 2005 in Brazil, after receiving many death threats, because of her opposition to deforestation around the Amazon. 

Earlier this month, on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Sr. Dorothy was posthumously awarded a major United Nations human rights award.

Now Sr. Dorothy is mentioned in a new New York Times article, reporting newly proposed legislation in Brazil aimed at reducing deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions.  The article, which features more prominently another martyr for the deforestation cause, notes:

The killings of Mr. Mendes and of Sister Dorothy Stang, a 73-year-old Catholic nun who was gunned down in 2005 for speaking out against logging in the Amazon, ratcheted up international pressure on Brazil to find ways to limit forest clearing without sacrificing development.

“Brazil was always on the defensive when it came to the question of climate change,” said Carlos Minc, Brazil’s environment minister. “And now it has completely changed, passing a bolder plan than India and China.”

Mr. Minc said the plan would help meet a demand of some of the more developed countries, including the United States, which has said it would not agree to firm emissions targets until less-developed countries that produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases do the same.


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