Paul Collins and the Vatican

At the end of last week Australians learned that adding a price to carbon might cost households almost $900 per year. This week, Kevin Rudd revealed that there was dissension in Cabinet when, as Prime Minister, he decided to ditch a carbon trading scheme.

These were the latest rounds in the ongoing debate surrounding climate change, one of the big issues of our time. This debate usually focuses on two areas: whether global warming is a reality and is indeed caused by human activity; and what should be done to deal with it.

Another important aspect of this problem, much less discussed, is the way in which our ideas and beliefs shape the way we treat the environment; whether our basic underlying philosophies and belief systems have added to the environmental crisis, and whether they need to change to deal with it.

Paul Collins, who's featured in this interview for Eureka Street TV, is an Australian pioneer in this area. Since the early 1990s he's been writing and speaking about eco-theology, in particular Christian theology; how it has contributed to environmental problems, and how changing, adapting and developing it might lead to solutions.

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Collins is a longterm contributor to Eureka Street, and this interview is part of a special series to mark the 20th anniversary of the journal. In the interview he discusses eco-theology, as well as his views on the Catholic Church and its governance, another of his pet subjects.

Collins is a former priest who belonged to a religious order, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. As a priest he worked in parish ministry and adult education before entering the world of public broadcasting. He worked for many years as a presenter on ABC TV and Radio, and for three years he was specialist editor in charge of all religion programs on ABC Radio.

He has a master's in theology from Harvard and a PhD in history from the Australian National University. Since leaving the ABC in 1996, he's worked as a freelance writer, speaker and broadcaster on the environment, social and ethical issues, history, the media and communication.

A major inspiration for Collins in his work on the environment is American theologian, Thomas Berry, who died in 2004 at the age of 94. Quoting Berry in an obituary for Eureka Street he wrote:

'The greatest failure of Christianity in the total course of its history is its inability to deal with the devastation of the planet.' Christians have sensitivity to suicide, homicide and genocide, 'but we commit biocide (the killing of the life systems of the planet) and geocide (the killing of the planet itself) and we have no morality to deal with it'.

In 2001 Collins resigned from priestly ministry because of a dispute with the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over his book Papal Power. He has remained devoted to the Church, seeking reform from within as a highly articulate and very vocal lay person.

He is a prolific writer, penning articles for a range of journals and newspapers. His books include Papal Power, Mixed Blessings, God's Earth: Religion as if matter really mattered, Upon this Rock: The popes and their changing role, From Inquisition to Freedom: Seven prominent Catholics and their struggle with the Vatican, God's New Man: The legacy of Pope John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI, Burn: The epic story of bushfire in Australia, and Judgment Day: The struggle for life on earth.

To read or make comments on this article, click here.

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Paul Collins, eco-theology, Papal Power, Mixed Blessings, God's Earth, Upon this Rock, From Inquisition



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