Synodality, the Parish and Climate Change: Sean McDonagh – Jan 27th, 2022

Jan 27, 2022 | 14 comments

Synodality, the Parish and Climate Change

Seán McDonagh SSC

Supported by the Association of Catholic Priests

View Video of Zoom event from Jan 27th 2022 .

As the global climate crisis deepens, so does the crisis of the Irish Catholic church – intensified unexpectedly by a viral pandemic.

Faced also with understanding and implementing synodality – a new relationship centred on communion, co-responsibility and mission – Irish parish clergy and lay people are challenged by the understandable indifference of younger generations, who are often more alive to the global climate issue.

Meanwhile Pope Francis complains about the fixation of too many on issues of sexuality – while he is also the first pope to appreciate the full importance of the environmental crisis. Advised on the topic of biodiversity by the globally recognised expertise of Columban father Sean McDonagh, the pope’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ is now a landmark in church teaching and climate awareness.

Could a parish focus on the climate issue now also be a key part of the solution to the synodality conundrum in Ireland – to convince younger generations, and clergy, that faith and climate justice need one another?

Convinced that parishes can play a key role in meeting Ireland’s carbon reduction targets in the 21st century – and that climate concern needs to be a vital focus of the Irish church – Fr Sean McDonagh will Zoom on this theme on January 27th, 2022, at 8.00 p.m. 

Click the link below to join the discussion on Jan 27th at 8.00 p.m.

Meeting ID: 830 0771 7613
Passcode: 298337


  1. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Hope this will be available for out-of-towners…

    In local news, it looks like the environmental cover-up in my region is so deep, it will require an official complaint to be filed with the Dept of Fisheries and Oceans – elders from an older community have already warned that any formal complaint interfering with the livelihood of those fishermen will result in
    civil war-like conditions here…

    Oh well – you know what they say…when in Rome…

  2. Nessan Vaughan

    Many people are interested in viewing a recording of last night’s webinar. Do you know when it will be available and how it will be able to be accessed?

    Many thanks.

      • Nessan Vaughan

        Thanks so much, Soline. I have shared it on my various social media platforms and via email.

    • soconaill

      Our ‘techie’ hopes to have the full video recording available here by Monday coming. It is apparently a time consuming process to get this right.

      In the meantime all who are deeply concerned about the likely consequences of delay in meeting the climate change challenge will draw comfort from the Gospel of Sat 29th Jan. We are all accompanied by the calmer of storms. We merely need to wake him, and do what he tells us.

      The scale of the climate problem is way beyond any one of us, but all will awaken as the storm rises, to play their own part in calming it. It will take sacrifice, but we have been taught how to do that – by the one who calms the storm – and we will cope.

  3. Kathleen Faley

    Having attended the Zoom Presentation on Synodality, The Parish & Climate Change by Fr. Sean Mc Donagh on Thursday 27th January at 8pm in which he emphasized the urgent need of getting the Catholic Church involved in participating in Climate Change initiatives in the parishes within the Dioceses I hope the following thoughts may help:

    The word Parish signifies both local geographical boundaries within the County territory and it also signifies religious boundaries within the Diocesan territory. While parishes in the present day do not have tribal leaders from the secular standpoint they do have Religious Leaders from the religious standpoint i.e. Parish Priests and from the Diocesan Standpoint Overall Religious leaders i.e. Bishops. For this reason Catholic Church involvement in Climate Change must be spearheaded by the Parish Priest at Parish level and by the Bishop at Diocesan level. The enormity of the task of spearheading Climate Change Activism in their local Parish which may seem beyond them is not so enormous as there are ways in which it can be started.

    Begin with school children who in time will be the students in Secondary schools and Colleges in future years and adults in future decades. They will have grown up with the sense of responsibility for the environment, ecology and diversity instilled into them through their education and projects done in class and entered in such events as Science Week etc.

    Bishops and Parish Priests must move away from the mindset of thinking that the groups of children and young people mentioned above must be Church going because that is their particular area of expertise, Eucharist, Sacraments and Religious Instruction in order for the Catholic Church to engage with them. Just because these children and young people are missing from the Church Pews it is no longer acceptable to think that they should not engage with them.

    When Jesus spread the Good News he did not confine it only to those who went to the Synagogue or to the Temple. No! Jesus went out and engaged with people from children to adults in the highways and byways to spread the Good News and they gathered to listen to him.

    Every parish has a Parish Hall or Community Centre where all the parishioners, young and old and of different denominations (ecumenical) are more likely to gather voluntarily. Invited speakers on Climate Change, Biodiversity,and Sustainable living in all areas of their lives could give Talks on their particular area of expertise and inspire Parishioners to make their own changes in their homes and living environment.

    A Diocesan Seminar could be organised to promote a larger scale of the Parish Gathering that could possibly have a greater reach and where parishes could come and inspire each other and return home with new ideas and fresh inspiration.

    Dioceses and Parishes should have a Climate Change Person in each Parish just as there is currently a Child Safeguarding Person in each Parish. This Climate Change Person should have a contactable Mobile Number just as the Child Safeguarding Person has.This is an urgent necessity NOW and not an Optional Extra that can be casually dispensed with.

    As things stand each parish has a GAA Club, Tidy Towns Committee so likewise in future years each parish should have a Climate Change Team of committed volunteers.

    This is the future if our Green & Blue Planet and our Humanity embracing both Human Beings and plants, animals including the Fish of the Seas and the Birds of the Air if Climate Restoration is to take place to avoid edging towards total destruction.

    Recommended Reading for Parishioners: Pope Francis’ Encyclical – Laudato Si.

    • soconaill

      Brilliant thinking there, Kathleen. I’ll be re-reading this in prep for my role as Contact person re Synodality discussions in this parish.

      • Kathleen Faley

        Thanks Sean,

        Going back to the beginning of God’s Creation of the Universe and his entrustment of the Earth to mankind to fill the earth and care for it means that the Catholic Church has a moral duty to lead by example especially as our highest Catholic Church Leader, Pope Francis is endorsing Climate change as necessary through his Encyclical, Laudato Si.

        The Church leaders in parishes and dioceses have no excuse such as waiting for permission from Rome as Pope Francis has been entreating Church leaders worldwide to begin Climate Change initiatives since early on in his Papacy and which must begin locally.

        Bishops and Parish Priests should encourage their parishioners to either download or buy Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato, read it and discuss it with each other and create an awareness of Pope Francis’ exhortation to care for our common home.

        • soconaill

          Because of an unbalanced moral theology, developed over the centuries since St Augustine of Hippo, Catholic clergy are generally totally at sea when it comes to climate immorality. As you say Kathleen, it behoves all in the ‘morality industry’ to make these connections.

          Is it truly so difficult to see the connection between rape of the environment and the deadliest of the seven deadly sins – pride and covetousness? Clerical reticence on the depredations of the ruling classes set in very soon after the Constantinian patronisation of Christianity in the early 300s – and from then on it was the 6th commandment that almost exclusively preoccupied the clerical moralists. Still today clergy will batter on about ‘materialism’ and ‘consumerism’ without identifying the precise sin that fuels these – copying the desires of others, aka covetousness.

          And when it came to European expansionist imperialism from the 1400s, instead of seeing any pride or greed in that, popes blessed it as an expansion of Christendom. It wasn’t only the environment that suffered as a consequence either. Later this year Pope Francis is due in Canada, to try to make good the devastation caused to first nations there.

          Why are our clergy so slow to gain a basic overview of the catastrophe of an historical moralism that could so seldom see past sexuality – and got that tragically wrong too in so many aspects?

  4. Kevin Walters

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”

    This statement answers “The fundamental questions, the ones that have provoked the spiritual search since humans first walked on this earth” as it confronts the ultimate reality of each individual’s short physical appearance in the cosmos, which ends in death.
    As Jesus is saying I myself am the Truth that leads to life the ultimate reality of eternal life in our Creator.

    The future of the planet is ongoing we are not to worry as “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”
    Within all of us is a divine spark so small yet encompasses all including cosmology and quantum physics this divine spark is the essence of our individual spiritual reality.
    And is ignited when we honestly confront His living Word (Truth) within our hearts and when embraced induces us to acknowledge our human weakness (Humility) before Him which will cause the divine spark within us to be amplified as in at that moment in time we harmonize with our Creator (Truth the essence of love) and in doing so we receive the reciprocal love of His Holy Spirit permitting us to penetrate the fog of deception (Sin).

    We as Christians need to be seen by mankind in being honest with ourselves by acknowledging openly our warts and all, in doing so we will be seen to be walking in obedience to the Truth (Way) if we do this His Light/Breath will dwell within us manifesting itself as humility a disarming action in the simplicity of being honest, as His Holy Spirit now dwelling within us will encompass those we encounter along the Way, leading them also to follow His Way of Truth/Love onto the pathway of humility as they drink also from the new wine (Truth) of His Holy Spirit then they too will become the new skins for Him to dwell within.

    Only then will it be possible “to put aside historic attitudes of Misogyny, bitterness, condemnation, even wars” as all these sins commence from the war/discord/conflict of contamination within each individual heart which is reflected in the contamination of our planet

    I have made the statement below which bears witness to the Truth on this site and many others several times over the last two years no one ever responds whereas frivolous (words without action) questions are debated endlessly.

    “A humble heart (Church) will never cover its tracks or hide its shortcomings, and in doing so confers authenticity, as it walks in its own vulnerability /weakness/brokenness in trust/faith before God and mankind. It is a heart (Church) to be trusted, as it ‘dispels’ darkness within its own ego/self, in serving God (Truth) first, before any other”

    So, is the Holy Spirit active in those who read this statement and remain silent?

    As the above statement confronts this reality
    “A world (& Church) that’s morally (and physically) collapsing is in dire need of returning to the Gospel Truth. Pope Francis often reminds us of this”

    Please consider continuing via the link

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • soconaill

      You are quite right, Kevin, to emphasise the seeking of the kingdom of God as the best route to climate responsibility. A lifestyle of simplicity and caring, rather than of grandiosity, will resolve the climate issue – and humility will be taught to us by protesting nature itself.

  5. Kevin Walters

    Thank you, Sean, for your comment humility will be taught to us by protesting nature itself” Sadly I have to disagree Sean as it will eventually be every man for himself as it was in the building of the tower of Babel.

    “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then “ ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

    Because without the Truth being served (The Kingdom of God) cannot fully materialize
    this is reflected in a quote from another source… “For a while now, churches have been hiding under the guise of “love.” Yet, having love without truth is not love at all…it is actually a very evil lie. Love without truth requires no sense of commitment, no sense of wrongdoing, no need to suffer consequences….just an empty and worthless sense of the word love”

    ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    The serving of the Truth should define our actions as the essence of Love is Truth, and those who serve the Truth on the spiritual plain feed the hungry “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” Clothes (Protects) the naked “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me” Visit those hearts ensnared ..V.. (Imprisoned) by evil, in setting the captive free.

    The serving of the Truth overlaps on to the worldly plain as it protects the weak and vulnerable from exploitation in opposing oppression, misery, and inhumanity, to serve the Truth is to love one’s neighbor as oneself, it cannot be faked (Manipulated) as it always involves carrying one’s cross. A church for the poor is not enough (although good in itself) as it SIDESTEPS the full spectrum of Truth which confronts evil on both the spiritual plain and worldly plain.

    So as stated in my post above we need to see true Christian leadership one that serves the Truth in humility in all situations.

    “ Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ


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ACI’s Campaign for Lumen Gentium 37

The Promise of Synodality

What we have experienced of synodality so far gives ACI real hope that a longstanding structural injustice in the church may at last be acknowledged and overcome.

As all Irish bishops well know, the 'co-responsibility' they urge lay people to share - as numbers and energies of clergy decline - has been sabotaged time and again by canonical rules that deny representational authority and continuity to parish pastoral councils.  ACI's 2019 call for the immediate honouring of Lumen Gentium Article 37 becomes more urgent by the day and is supported by the following documents - also presented to the ICBC in October 2019.

The Common Priesthood of the People of God and the Renewal of the Church
It was Catholic parents and victims of clerical abuse who taught Catholic Bishops to prioritise the safeguarding of children in the church

Jesus as Model for the Common Priesthood of the People of God
It was for challenging religious hypocrisy and injustice that Jesus was accused and crucified. He is therefore a model for the common priesthood of the laity and for the challenging of injustice - in society and within the church.

A Suggested Strategy for the Recovery of the Irish and Western Catholic Church
Recovery of the church depends upon acknowledgment of the indispensable role of the common priesthood of the lay people of God and the explicit abandonment by bishops and clergy of paternalism and clericalism - the expectation of deference from lay people rather than honesty and integrity.

For the full story of ACI's campaign for the honouring of Article 37 of Lumen Gentium, click here.


"Come Holy Spirit, Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen."

Saint Pope John XXIII, 1962 - In preparation for Vatican Council II, 1962-65.

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