Letter to LPC on Social Justice: “New Cosmology” and “The Earth Charter.”

Thursday, July 03, 2008

 Dear Members of the Lay Provincial Council:

           Greetings from the members of the Blessed Margaret of Castello Lay Chapter here in Idaho.  Please visit our beautiful state and our local Chapter.

          As you may recall, at the LPC meeting in 2007, the Blessed Margaret of Castello Chapter in Boise forwarded to the Lay Provincial Council [LPC] a document titled, “On Social Justice Issues.”  That document was authored by the undersigned after much discussion among chapter members, which was unanimously endorsed by the Boise Chapter. 

That document can be found at the following link.[i]  Its purpose was to express concern about some of the social justice issues and causes that the Order of Preachers in general, and the laity in particular, are involved and to call upon the,

lay members of [the Order of Preachers] to responsibly review each social and political issue very carefully so that it reflects the moral order, conscience, issues and efforts so dear and close to the Church–not the whim of ideology and political ideas that benefit from currency or fancy. 

On Social Justice Issues.  This letter is only a primer and will explore and discuss with renewed vigor the goal of a proper and moral approach to key social justice issues the Lay members of the Order of Preachers must face as an ecclesial institute.

          In good faith and with prayers, the undersigned truly and humbly hopes that this letter helps in some small way—with God’s help and your prayers—regarding the defects in the social justice efforts now manifest.

          The Boise Chapter has prayed for and continues to pray for and honors each and every lay promoter and officer of the Lay Provincial Council in thankfulness for services rendered to the lay members of the Western Province of the Order of Preachers. 

          First, this letter will discuss the nature of some of the issues, concerns, and efforts being made by members of the Order of Preachers.  Often the most resourceful place to view these issues is to review the various websites that inhabit the internet. 

          The second aspiration this letter is to review our role, as laity, in our own personal and chapter apostolates—as well as members of a Catholic lay ecclesial institute—in the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic.

          Finally, this letter will review possible alternatives and approaches to this current problem. 

          There are issues we must face as lay members of the Order.

First, let’s take a look at “Dominican Life USA” a resourceful website that rightly dubs itself as “A web crossroads for the Order of Preachers.”  See, www.domlife.org.

That website provides a virtual storehouse of current information regarding the Order.  Also, at the “domlife.org” website is a link to “Peace, Justice, and Creation,”[ii] where a number of links are available to key issues, including:

Global Warming, Africa, Columbia, Death Penalty, Disarmament, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Human Trafficking, Migration, United Nations, and Earth Charter.   

In addition, there is also a link to a Dominican Call to Justice 2007 document.[iii]  That document contains the same issues as noted above. 

At the top of the domlife.org website, it provides a link to the Dominican Leadership Conference [DLC].[iv]  In its own words, the website notes the purpose of,

The Dominican Leadership Conference is the networking organization for elected leaders of Dominican congregations and provinces in the United States. It serves 29 congregations of sisters and four provinces of men. This represents about 6,000 Dominican men and women in the US.

[See, at this DLC link[v]].  On the DLC website titled “Peace,”[vi] it identifies Dominicans doing Justice.  Prominently on that website, it identifies a number of issues and concerns.  These include the Dominican Call to Action, Iraq,[vii] death penalty,[viii] human trafficking,[ix] School of the Americas,[x] global warming,[xi] and our Dominican Family in Iraq. 

          On the page entitled “Dominicans Doing Justice” at domlife.org, it states,

Dominicans see the significance of the New Cosmology as the critical lens from which all preaching needs to flow and all justice action should emerge. It is for this reason that our work for justice and peace is situated within the context of care of creation.

Dominican Life Justice Website[xii] (emphasis on website). The website is void of any explanation of the term “New Cosmology” and how that term became the “critical lens from which all preaching needs to flow.”   

If the “New Cosmology” is the ‘critical lens’ through which the key charism of the Order of Preachers should flow, then a logical question arises, what does the term “New Cosmology” signify? 

As the term appears on a key Dominican website, I examined internet sources regarding the term.   

A university in Oakland, California sponsors the Sophia Center located at the Holy Names University, two Dominicans are listed as “Outstanding Scholars and Teachers of New Cosmology.”[xiii]   The first is Sr. Miriam MacGillis, OP, MA, of Caldwell, New Jersey congregation, who is identified as an “earth activist and artist … [co-founder of] Genesis Farm.”[xiv]  She is also a Dominican Sister. 

          The other Dominican listed on that website is Albert Nolan, OP, a founding member of the Institute for Contextual Theology in Johannesburg, South Africa.

That term “New Cosmology” is also referenced at www.earthlight.org, where it records a 2001 conference at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, entitled “Earth Spirit Rising” attended by “author and University of Creation Spirituality president” Mr. Matthew Fox, a past Dominican friar and now Episcopalian priest, and Dominican sister, Miriam MacGillis, OP, mentioned above.   See, here.[xv]

At that website, Mr. Fox related his “’Ten Blessings’ we receive from being awakened by the New Cosmology.”  These new cosmology blessings include “rediscovery of the Cosmic Christ as wisdom,” “redeeming the word ‘flesh,’ as holy and imbued with spirit,” “redeeming of darkness, facing nothingness & emptying,” and “reinventing education to integrate all chakras.” 

          Dominican sister, Miriam MacGillis, OP, whose presentation included her recent trip to Ireland, where she says her, “ancestors communicated both cosmology and faith” to her, and that Ireland, was originally the body of, “the [s]un [g]oddess. … I learned that the early [g]oddess was benevolent. She was about abundance and fertility, and [h]er gift was fire and the renewing cycle of the seasons.” [See, here].[xvi] 

          Sr. Miriam MacGillis, O.P., helped start Genesis Farm near Blairstown, New Jersey.  Genesis Farm’s vision “is rooted in a belief that the Universe, Earth, and all reality are permeated by the presence and power of that ultimate Holy Mystery that has been so deeply and richly expressed in the world’s spiritual traditions. We try to ground our ecological and agricultural work in this deep belief. This Sacred Mystery, known by so many religious names, is the common thread in our efforts.” [See, here].[xvii]

Sr. MacGillis’ “mystical” reference is not to the worship of the Triune God but to a type of scientific and evolutionary mysticism that starts with the beginning of the Universe, 14 billion years ago to the evolution of life on earth, and to human life today. 

The evolutionary “new cosmology” supplants the reality that humankind was created in the image of God, and in denying order puts humans on evolutionary par with all creatures and all of creation, ignoring the centrality of the Gospel, the place of humankind in creation as described in the Holy Scriptures, and the social justice message.  For instance, as it says in Genesis,

Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”  God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26, 27.  See, also, Wisdom 9, Psalm 104.  As stated by a Catholic ecologist, Bill Jacobs, about the “New Cosmology” that

[a]t times, Creation theology involves the worship of Creation more than, or in place of, the worship of the Triune God.  The Most Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is often ignored or denied by the proponents of the “new story.”  This contributes to a grave (and old) anthropological error that is widespread today:  Instead of carrying out humankind’s role as cooperator and co-creator with the Triune God in the work of Creation and Redemption, people set themselves up in place of God, thereby provoking a kind of rebellion on the part of Nature.  In some expressions of Creation theology today, Creation and/or humankind become gods.[xviii]

[Emphasis here]. This “new cosmology” blends a form of neo-paganism with a variety of nature worshipping, Earth-based secular environmentalism, new age, goddess-based, Gnosticism in contrast to the Judeo-Christian religion and the change that Christ wrought to the universe in His Passion and death on the Cross.

          It is true that it is a priority that we must care for people first, and in the order of the world, we must care for creation, recognizing that God created the world and by His Word created it into existence. 

As John Paul II said that as Christians we believe, “that the death and resurrection of Christ accomplished the work of reconciling humanity to the Father, who ‘was pleased … through (Christ) to reconcile to himself ALL THINGS, whether on Earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross’.  Creation was thus made new.” 

The highest point of the work of creation ends in the greatest work of Redemption.  For an excellent discussion on conservation of creation grounded in Catholic thought and culture, see, “’Peace with God—Peace with all of Creation’: A Reflection on the Holy Father’s 1990 World Day of Peace Message,” or “The Ecological Problem Today: the Relation Between the Human Person and the World,” both by Sr. Marjorie Keenan, RSHM, Member, Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice. [See, here].[xix]


Plainly stated, the “old cosmology” is the story of creation as set out in the Scriptures.  The “new cosmology” is mulled-over man-centered Gnosticism. 

          The Dominican Life USA and the Dominican Leadership Conference websites identified above, also have links to “The Earth Charter.”  The charter can be found at http://www.earthcharter.org/.   

          The Earth Charter has published a book that explains the Charter purposes and goals.  It is called “Toward a Sustainable World: The Earth Charter in Action” published by the Royal Tropical Institute (2005 The Netherlands).[xx]

          The Earth Charter presents a great concern.  At first impression, the Charter and its goals looks quite impressive.  It’s preamble notes that humanity stands at a critical moment in Earth’s history and that “[w]e must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.”  Toward a Sustainable World, The Earth Charter in Action, Preamble. 

          However, the authors of The Earth Charter admit that the challenge of the Charter is to make it “an effective instrument of global governance, and international law …”  Toward a Sustainable World, The Earth Charter in Action, History and Provenance of the Earth Charter. 


          In 1987, the U.N. Commission on Environment and Development called for a document that would set forth fundamental principles for “sustainable development.” 


In 1994 and thereafter, Maurice Strong, Steven Rockefeller, and Mikhail Gorbachev worked together to draft The Earth Charter.  It was released in A.D. 2000 and is hailed as a “declaration of fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st Century.” 


As noted by Mikhail Gorbachev at his founding speech of “Green Cross International” at Kyoto, Japan on April 20, 1993, “The emerging ‘environmentalization’ of our civilization and the need for vigorous action in the interest of the entire global community will inevitably have multiple political consequences.  Perhaps the most important of them will be a gradual change in the status of the United Nations.  Inevitably, it must assume some aspects of a world government.”  (Emphasis added). 


The authors of the Earth Charter also note that in order to obtain their goals, that “multiple ways of looking at global governance are necessary and imminent.” 


This is not a faint claim.


          The Earth Charter document does not acknowledge God as the author of life and of creation.  It seeks a type of evolutionary state that will seek the redemption of the environment by all peoples yielding to global government and the necessity of saving creation through tough environmental regulation and a type of forced sustainable development.


In reality, the earth cannot be healed—redeemed—without God.  There is no number of men and women, commissions, committees, corporations or global government that is able to change the nature of humankind without the Redeemer. 


In addition, the Earth Charter provides no protection for unborn children.  In fact, the population is seen as a burden upon society and the environment.  Toward a Sustainable World, The Earth Charter in Action, Preamble. 


If the Earth Charter makes a plea for justice, what justice can there exist if the most innocent people among us, who are surely blind, have no choices, and have neither experienced love nor life in full, are not protected by operation of law?


          Unlike the Declaration of Independence of the United States, the Charter does not recognize that God is the author of life and liberty.


          Lastly, the Earth Charter should not be used to supplant Catholic Social Teaching, which is based upon objective truth, inalienable rights derived from our Creator, and in His Word as revealed in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition. 


           As the foregoing demonstrates, the ideas of a “new cosmology” and the “Earth Charter” have woven their way into the Dominican Order.  In addition to examples above, you may see, as an example, Preacher Exchange.[xxi]  These concepts present serious questions.


It requires prayer, discernment, and care, but also love for the charism of St. Dominic in the work of the Order, his friars, religious, and laity, and the love of our Father in Heaven, to work through this serious matter with clarity and with profound charity. 


For example, there is irony in these issues of the “new cosmology” and the “Earth Charter,” as it reveals a profound naiveté, if not foolishness, with regard to the truth of Original sin.  The goals of the “new cosmology” and the “Earth Charter” with regard to peace and security, while commendable, are not obtainable without the Redemption of humankind through Jesus Christ


This is not a new problem.  It is as old as human history where humankind seeks to displace God with its own knowledge, its own idols and its own objects of worship.  It’s been tried repeatedly with great failure.  Collaboration with this ancient rebellion has occurred. 


As St. Catherine of Siena succinctly states in The Dialogue, “You cannot imagine how great is people’s foolishness.  They have no sense or discernment, having lost it by hoping in themselves and putting their trust in their own knowledge.” 

The Dominican Laity plays a role in restoring right order, reasonableness, and priority to the justice and peace agenda.  First, please pray. 

Please pray for the Order, that St. Dominic’s charism and traditions set down before us be renewed and held in honor.  The Adaptation and Renewal of Christian Life (Perfectae Caritatas), para. 2(b) (October 28, 1965).

The laity must live in holiness.  This will help tend the seed bed of the Word of God.   We must seek to organize temporal affairs in accord with Christ’s mind, to bring praise and glory to the Father and His Son.  [Lumen Gentium 31]. 

          Further, as John Paul II said in Christifideles Laici,

Charity toward one’s neighbor, through contemporary forms of the traditional spiritual and corporal works of mercy, represent the most immediate, ordinary and habitual ways that lead to the Christian animation of the temporal order, the specific duty of the lay faithful. (No. 41).

The exercise of these virtues are a sure way to help reform the temporal order, by exercising virtue, prayer and fasting, and working consistently for right order in our own lives. 

The Laity can be real witnesses to Christian religious principles in society, where religion is a private practice but also where religious principles of truth, humility, character, and integrity are a public practice.

The exercise of the spiritual works of mercy are especially connected to St. Dominic, as preaching is the key charism of the Order of Preachers as Dominicans can help to convert, to instruct, to counsel, and to comfort others. 

This call to evangelization is for the Laity, especially in our own lives, whether in our home, business, government, or elsewhere.  

Thank you for the opportunity to present this to you.  I hope that it aids in the effort by the LPC to focus on true justice and peace issues that plague our world including the aid and help of the poor and for protecting and preserving life from conception to natural death. 

Please pray for me as I pray for all the members of the Lay Provincial Council.

                                                Peace & faith,



                                                John Keenan, J.D., O.P.L.

                                                LPC Representative

                                                Blessed Margaret of Castello Chapter



[ii]               http://www.domlife.org/Justice/index.html

[iv]              http://www.domlife.org/DLC/default.htm

[xiv]             http://www.genesisfarm.org/

[xix]              http://conservation.catholic.org/index.htm       






10 thoughts on “Letter to LPC on Social Justice: “New Cosmology” and “The Earth Charter.”

  1. Thanks. This documentation helps to articulate my objections to parts of the social justice movement in the Catholic Church.

  2. Thanks for this excellent articulation of the problems with much of the agenda of the “peace and justice” crowd within the Church and some Dominicans. I’m quite familiar with Fox and his followers. I’m currently discerning a vocation within the Lay Dominicans, and after nearly a year, my only reservations are from the agenda items coming out of the “peace and justice” crowd at the Western Provincial level. They are NOT life-centered and do not reflect the mind of the Church, as indicated above. I’m happy to read that I’m not the only person who finds this commission unorthodox. As always, all efforts of peace and justice in the Church must put abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and “gay marriage” prevention above all other issues. These were not even among the agenda items of the 2008 commission… and in an election year, in which the priorities of correct Catholic voting practices needed to be taught universally, especially by those committed to VERITAS! As for environmentalism, our Holy Father stated that the environment most in need of protection is that of the womb! Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta told us that abortion is the top blockade to world peace. Dominicans, like all orthodox Catholics, need to center their “peace and justice” agendas on the life issues.

  3. The new cosmology offers theologians an opportunity for deeper reflection on the nature of the cosmos and the role of the human in the wide web of life. The evolutionary process is not contrary to the role of the Creator. Salvation/redemption is still very necessary but may be expressed using a different formula.
    The Earth Charter is a non religious document and ought not to be taken to be anti religion.
    You may have done a great disservice to the Dominicans whose namee you mentioned in this context.

    • Thank you for your post! Discussion here is welcome!

      How do you define the “new cosmology?” How does it create an “opportunity for deeper reflection?” I am very much aware that evolution is not contrary to the Creator. However, in the order of God’s creation, the material cosmos is not one the same level as the creation of humankind. Although subject to stewardship and conservation in the true sense, creation was made for humanity and a reflection of God’s divinity and power. Romans 1. In addition, much of the discussion around a “new” cosomolgy is wrapped in new age-speak.

      The failure of the earth charter is that it ignores human nature, placing government and systems as the ultimate solution to human problems. Ultimately it is a gnostic trap. The earth charter should concern people because it looks to set up global governance to govern human affairs, regards population as a problem, and it does not protect for unborn children. The earth charter has some serious deficiences.

      There is no disservice in discussion. The Dominicans engage in dialog with the focus to discuss and debate with the objective of the Truth. In dialog, we pursue the truth; in that we way we make no assumptions or live in prejudice. Thanks.

  4. Thanks for this dialogue. the new cosmology may be defined as the ” origin and development of the universe and the role of the human specie therein”. It is based on the concensus of science ( phusics and biology). As a part of the web of life the role of the human species can be derived by reason (e.g. the need to contribute to the good of the whole).

    A scientific analysis of the governing principles of the universe (Thomas Berry) differenciation, interiority and communion sets the stage for an ethic for human living. Reflection on these principles provide an inght into how humans treat variation, the inherent worth of other species and the promotion of union among all creation.

    Interiority indicates that, although creatures may have a usefulness for humans, their primary function is ‘to be’ and to contribute to the well being of the whole. Creatures therefore do not have a purely utiltarian function. it is truer to say that God created creatures for their own sake and for his glory rather that for human consumption.

    Pope John Paul II, in an address to Flemish- speaking Youth, Diocese of Osanbruch, Germany, 31 March 1989, highlights the dignity of created reality. He says “In the transfiguration of the risen body of Christ begins the transfiguration of every creature, the ‘new creation’ in which all creation will be transformed…. All nature that surrounds us is a creation like us, creation with us, and shares a common destiny with us in God himself .. live out the vocation of all creation to eternal participation in Christ’s resurrection and glory”.

    This does not negate differences between humans and the rest of creation. But it does highlight the fact that all creation is destined for God.

    Like any human document the Earth Charter cannot be free from deficiiencies. It is an international, non denominational document setting forth 16 fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society. Catholics may have problems with #7, e. I do not see where it ignores human nature. As far as I am concerned it is a most useful tool for interreligious dialogue and action. There is no doubt that it can be improved.

  5. Thanks for your response. I have no problem with treating any species humanely and I believe that all living creatures serve a purpose in God’s eyes aside any utilitarian purpose. In addition, all creation groans for the redemption, as Scripture states. There is an obvious dignity to all of creation, be it living or not living, as it states in Romans 1, in discussing those people who would exchange the Creator for creation and how they prove themselves in their perverted acts, St. Paul interestingly notes that the power and glory of God can be seen in creation. While all creation is destined for God, humanity is the only part of creation that can and does share in His nature and in the Beatific Vision in Heaven.

    While all species should be respected, that does not mean they equate with the dignity of all humanity. Further, when I see the new cosmologists uphold life and condemn abortion as a terrible strike against the dignity of humanity AND all of creation, then my ears will be perked and this new cosmology concept will become relevant to the modern mind. Otherwise, it is simply millenia-old concepts ground up and re-wrapped to appeal to 21st Century human mind.

    As to the Earth Charter, is falls short in many ways, not simply poor draftmanship and grammar. It fails to recognize the fallen nature of humanity, e.g., sin, and it looks to world governance to satisfy the problems it proposes that exist on earth. This can only lead to totalitarianism at the hands of despots and do-gooders. The essential element to good government is to understand limited government based on human nature and its frailties. See, Federalist Papers Nos. 10 & 51. More government–especially world government–is not the solution! Again, like above, when I see the earth charter truly recognize the dignity of humanity by recognizing the right to life in all its human forms and condemn abortion in all its forms, then the earth charter will become relevant beyond the fantasy of a few people.

    You speak of building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society [and I too believe in building a just and peaceful world]; yet Gorbachev speaks in the charter of using world government force to achieve the charter’s ends. It is almost comical in the way it misses the point. A truly free society is necessary, with a free people, governed by a limited constitutional government in scope and breadth, with a vigorously free judiciary is able to govern a free people. People will not live under the pander and oppression of such governance willingly.

    Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the answer. His is the mission and the redemption of humankind and all of creation in right order.

  6. Many thanks for these insights. Re the Beatific Vision. it is not clear exactly what this involves apart from enjoying intimacy and fulfilment with God. It is true that humans are the only creatures with a reflective consciousness and so will enjoy intimacy and fulfilment with God is accordance with their form of consciousness. But all of creation is destined to enjoy intimacy and fulfilment with God in accordance with their particular form of consciousness.

    The new cosmology highlights the inherent value of all life. As such I cannot see how it would not be opposed to abortion. I have not read anywhere where proponents encourage abortion.

    The concept of’ ‘the fallen state of humaity’ . If you refer to an ontological and objective woundedness of human nature as a resulf of the sin of Adam and Eve, we seem to have a problem. there is no evidence of such an historical phenomenon. Certainly Genesis 3 needs a reinterpretation. The human family does, from the very beginning, have difficulties in coping with their own limitations and those we find in creation. Sin emerges from the free choice of humans. Creaton from the very beginning has been in a limited state.

    I am not sure what Gorbachev has to say re the Earth Charter. I do not recall reading in the Charter itself any reference to the establishment of a World Government that would interfere with human freedom.The Charter proposes ethical principles that encourages all humans to adopt freely.

    Since the Charter is a non-religious document ( it applies of all religions and people with no religions) we cannot expect to find reference to Jesus. The Christian does see the need for Jesus to show us the way, to call us to conversion and to bring us new life. The new cosmology, at least as Christains are concerned, cannot be oppose to this interpretation.

  7. Thank you for posting your thoughts. The Beatific Vision is where the Blessed are able to see the Face of God. It is more than intimacy and fulfillment, it is worshiping God before his very thrown as described in the Book of Revelation. The soul of mankind is immortal\ and living in Heaven is our destiny. The souls of animals are not immortal.
    I welcome your prolife perspective. If it is shared by others who promote a new cosmology, all the better. I have not seen it except here that that is welcomed.
    Oddly, you state there is no evidence of Adam and Eve; yet science has revealed as a few years ago that humankind derives from one woman. The story of creation in Pentateuch includes such a story and with its historical, traditional, and deeply engraved study in the would of Western society, it speaks for itself, that whether Adam and Eve are true is irrelevant. What is relevant is the story of sin and how we have fallen short of the Glory of God; the want for justice due to sin and the fallen nature of mankind; the need for a Savior, and the glory of God in Christ our Lord. I also find irony in the statement you say there is no evidence of such a phenomenon. It is not historical. It is around you. . . everywhere. The fallen nature of creation and all of humanity speaks for itself; for it is in the nature of sin we are born and live. Genesis 3, in fact of all of Genesis, needs no re-interpretation because the Church has interpreted it well. It needs to be lived in the light of Christ—not some new consciousness.
    Gorbachev gathered the people who wrote the Charter and helped write it himself. His call for a sustainable society, economic justice, and a culture of peace is nothing more than newspeak for a society based on the environment first, then an economic justice which is another word for socialistic society. His call for peace is utopian in that the fallen nature of humankind must be tempered by the Gospel of Christ, not brought on by the systems and workings of mankind.
    I reject any such charter that would deprive humanity of individual, political, and economic freedom. Of course, I do not expect any rote reference to Jesus in the earth charter; but it cannot ignore the Fall or the nature of mankind as each are born in this world in original sin.

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