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Priest Says Beware of Science Experts Quoting Statistics and Saying Sky is Falling

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Following is the text of a Homily given by Father Jim McLenaghen at St. Mary’s Parish in Collingwood, Ontario on the Catholic Feast of the Holy Family, Dec. 31, 2006:

  On this feast of the Holy Family we stand on the cusp of another new year.  Say goodbye to 2006, and welcome to 2007.  In the media there has been much doom and gloom about the state of the planet in recent years.  There are those who say we are causing global warming and that we are polluting ourselves to death.

  I think we need to maintain a healthy scepticism towards the view that the sky is falling.  The fact is scientists are disagreed among themselves as to the causes of global warming.  I just read an article about two climate physicists from the Hudson Institute who have published a book with the thesis that global warming occurs naturally every 1,500 years.

  They point out that the Romans grew grapes in Britain in the first century, and that it was warm enough in the C11th as well for grapes.  Greenland was much warmer when the Vikings named it centuries ago.  After all, they named it Greenland because crops grew so readily on it. Today it is much colder there than it was when it was named.  The point is climate change is a natural phenomenon.

  So don’t believe everything you read – especially when it’s all doom and gloom.  Then there are those who fret about disease and sickness and how it must be all related to the pollution of the environment somehow.  Again, I was reminded that things are not as bad as a lot of people think.  A book out by the economist Indur Goklany points out that by every objective measure of the human condition – be it life expectancy, food availability, access to clean water, infant mortality, literacy rates, child labour, quality of life is actually improving around the world.

  And it is the poorest in the world that are enjoying the most dramatic rise in living standards.  In other words – we are making good progress in the eliminating the scourges of mankind – pestilence, famine, death and even war.  For example, if you were born in Britain in the middle ages you would have been lucky to see your 30th birthday.  The average lifespan was 22.  By the 1800’s the average lifespan increased to 36; in the 1950’s it was 69; today the average life expectancy is 78.  There are those who say that pollution, urbanization and modernity have all decreased the quality of life. Well before industrialization 1 in 5 children born, died before their first birthday.

  When one considers the number of children being educated today, and the improvement in medical services for example, we’ve got it better today than any human being of any other era.  This year the demand for oil from rich countries will fall in spite of economic growth.  We get 12 times more energy out of a ton of coal today than we did a century ago.  We’re living longer, healthier lives than any previous generation.

  I remember my first semester at university when all of us had to read this book – I think it was called, “Limits to Growth;” it was all dire warnings about how we were going to run out of everything – well, 35 years later, it turns out that the so-called experts who wrote that book greatly exaggerated their claims.  A lot of what they predicted turned out to be just plain wrong.  Like the “Club of Rome” in the 60’s who also used shoddy science to make dire predictions – they turned out to be wrong too.

  For example, the population of the poorest countries has increased by 83% since these dire predictions were made, but the amount of daily food intake per person has increased by 38% since the 1960’s.  The only countries in the world that are experiencing famine are those countries with bad government and totalitarian economies.

  I’m not being a Pollyanna about the world’s problems – there is lots wrong with this world;  there’s lots that needs to be done – but let’s at least acknowledge the progress we’ve made and how lucky we are to live in this day and age.

  Now, with regard to the spiritual health of our world and the state of the Church – it’s too broad an issue to discuss in one homily, but we can look at our own society and ask ourselves what is the health of the family in Canada today.  Compared to the 50’s, it’s terrible.  One of the disturbing trends in our society is to see children as commodities to be used and manipulated as adults see fit.

  Wide open abortion, using embryos for stem cell research, same-sex couples insisting they have a right to children.  No one has a right to have a child. Children are a gift from God.  Before abortion was legalized, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League proclaimed that tens of thousands of women were dying from illegal abortions.

  He later admitted that he was lying.  When asked where he got the numbers he admitted he made them up.  In fact, in all of the U.S. in 1970, the number of women who died from illegal abortion was 128 deaths.  Yet the public sympathies were aroused by his lies and abortion was made legal.  The number of unborn babies that have been slaughtered in North America is in the tens of millions.

  Beware of so-called experts quoting statistics and telling you that the sky is falling.  They often have a hidden agenda.  In our first reading Hannah, the mother of Samuel, saw him as a special child, a gift from God, a sign of God’s favour to her.  Every child is a gift from God. To kill an unborn child is a grave moral evil, and millions have died.  The West is aborting its future as a civilization.

  Today is the feast of the Holy Family, and the family, as an institution, with a married man and woman at the centre, is under attack like never before in the West.  Contraception, abortion easy divorce, lack of religious commitment, relativism and an open hostility to all things Christian – if left to continue – will bring about the decline and fall of our civilization as we know it.

  But we mustn’t be discouraged.  It’s still God’s world.  I was reading an article by a Frenchman named Rene Girard who says that a Christian Renaissance lies ahead for the West.  I hope he’s right.  Also, in the locutions given by Our Lady to Fr. Gobe, the Blessed Virgin says that a wonderful springtime for the faith is coming.  I hope they are both right.

  In the meantime, let’s also thank God for our own families.  They may not be perfect but they’re all we’ve got.  There is grace and love in families that stay together.  They can help one another like no one else can.  I was reminded of this by a movie I rented over the holidays.  It was called “Little Miss Sunshine.”  Talk about a dysfunctional family!  They really had problems, and when they all go on a road trip you see how they pull together and help one another.

  The power of family love, even when dysfunctional, has the power to heal us and make us human.  May God bless you and your family in 2007.

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