Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 20, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Earth Charter, Principle 11 by Sister Clare Pelkey, CSJ

Principle #11 of the Earth Charter states: "Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health and economic opportunity. (A) Secure the human rights of women and girls and end all violence against them. (B) Promote the active participation of women in all aspects of economic, political, civil, social and cultural life as full and equal partners. (C) Strengthen families."

In a 1993 Madeleva Lecture entitled "Women, Earth and Creator Spirit," Elizabeth Johnson names patriarchy as the root cause of the ecocide being perpetrated on Earth whose name is often given as Mother (feminine) Earth. Elizabeth speaks of hierarchical dualism which "divides reality into two separate and opposing spheres and assigns a higher value to one of them." The resulting view is that humanity is detached from and more important than nature; the male is more valuable than the female, and God is transcendent and more significant than the world. Ancient Greek philosophy formed the basis of Western thought in which the masculine was representative of the spirit and, therefore, transcended matter which was representative of the feminine. It isn't difficult to recognize the development and resulting actions from such thinking into our own time and its suppression of women and rape of Earth. Elizabeth calls on feminist and other liberation spiritualities to help bring about elements of contemplation and prophecy in calling patriarchy to conversion and to recognizing the need for engaging in relatedness and equality rather than separation and domination. Contemplation can lead to the recovery of a capacity for subjective communion with Earth. Prophecy "uses nonviolent resistance to halt aggression against the vulnerable," thus highlighting Athe relatedness between the harmony of nature and social justice, typical of Biblical prophets." Her words are relevant for us!
Liberation ethics in our age has come to grips with the plight of poor people, most of whom are women and children, as well as other species and the natural world itself. In her paper, "The Earth Charter as Seen Through the Lens of Médaillan Spirituality," Monica Hartnett, CSJ, of Annecy, tells us that "Our spirituality is a celebration of women and the founding vision found a new way for women to be mystics in the ordinary circumstances of their lives. Since 1650 we have been about fostering women and girls through education and spirituality in our homes and schools and sacred places of gathering. Médaille calls the women weak instruments and knows that they will accomplish great work throughout the world. This is not derogatory speech, but eloquent commendation of their humility and capacity for mystic love."
Our 2007 Acts of Chapter truly came out of contemplation by the members of the chapter who had created the acts. Only from a prayerful place could have come the movement from communion to potential union. When we are one in Spirit, when we not only accept but also embrace other members of creation, whether human or nonhuman, our hearts have undergone conversion, and we are awake to the Divine Presence in all of creation. How can we do other than reverence, respect and have appreciation for the role each plays in the complex web of life? Our province focus on nonviolence echoes also the role of prophecy of which Elizabeth speaks. The Earth Charter and our 2007 Acts of Chapter call us to contemplation and prophecy in our day.
(March 2008)