The Death of Life
A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals
Selections From The Ark Number 200 - Summer 2005
The Death of Life: the horror of extinction, by Sean McDonagh SSC. Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Columba, 2005, ISBN 1856074641, £.6.99.
When you have ten minutes, just count up all the species of plants, animals, birds and insects that you can. How many can you total? Five hundred? Now multiply that by twenty-two, and that could be the number of species destined to be extinct within the next century unless the human race does something radical about it.
The facts that Dr Sean McDonagh uses to support this alarming proposition are all scientifically-based and borne out by observation. This may be old-hat to some people, but even for them, Fr McDonagh’s style is compulsively readable, lively and informative – the reason his previous books Passion for the Earth (1995), Greening the Christian Millennium (1999), and Why are We Deaf to the Cry of the Earth? (2001) are such best-sellers. I am grateful to the author for capturing the words of Louis Armstrong’s classic ‘What a Wonderful World!’, as well as those of the Celtic monk Marban.
McDonagh’s vision encompasses the Catechism and pornography, recent conferences and ancient texts. He takes us on a rapid world survey of human depredation, enlivened with accounts such as the homesick ex-pat Brit who introduced rabbits to Australia – and its consequences. He also whizzes us through two thousand years of Christian theological attitudes towards nature. For it is central to the author’s case that the Church has to wake up to what is happening to God’s world and develop areas of life – theology, ethics and actions – to be part of the solution to the problem.
The Church is not being asked to do something new, as ‘creation-centred doctrines are at the core of the Catholic faith’, although in the seven-year formation of the young mssionary, ‘nature was overlooked and forgotten’. McDonagh explains how much of Catholic tradition, the doctrines of incarnation and the sacraments, as well as God’s action in creation, have not been used in making connections with ecological concerns which they could be. He hopes, as do we all, that courses on ecology or ‘creation theology’, will soon appear on the syllabuses of seminaries. One way we can all help to achieve this turn-around in church thinking, is by buying this book, reading it carefully, and using its arguments in promoting a more creation-friendly attitude throughout the Church. Imagine the effect of over a billion Catholics world-wide adopting policies and ideas which would enable the earth and all that lives on it, to flourish. Now here is one priest raising his voice – let us enable it to be heard.
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