Friday, October 10, 2014

Go Green?

By Michael Heidt
Special to Virtueonline
Oct. 7, 2014

If you feel unsettled at the prospect of large groups of privileged
people from the developed world spending vast sums of money and fossil
fuel to listen to pep talks on climate change activism, then prepare to
be dismayed.

The Episcopal Church just spent a whopping $500,000 flying its House of
Bishops to Taipei, for their fall meeting. To what end? Expanding the
Apostolic Imagination, apparently, that being the theme of the event.
But what does this mean? If the Episcopal Church's Leaderene, Presiding
Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, is anything to go by, it's code for
being "green." Here's an excerpt from her September 17 sermon to the
assembled prelates. Following an introduction about the life of St.
Hildegard von Bingen, from whom she gets the word viriditas (greenness),
Schori goes on to ask:

"Where do you meet viriditas? Where is joy and wonder in the world
around you? What creative ferment engages and transforms you? All are
signs of expanding possibility, divine creativity, and new green shoots

Then, after referencing Sirach and the Psalmist, Schori goes on to
enlist St. John the Evangelist in the climate change movement, and even
Christ himself gets a mention (it's the one time he's named in the
sermon) -- as the "green man" of pagan myth. Remarkable:

"John's gospel speaks of those who love darkness as those who refuse the
encounter with God's creative, greening Word. Those who do what is true,
he says, are those who are willing to live in that fiery light that
burns and transforms like a laser -- perhaps a green laser that
enlightens or heals. The light has come into the world for life. The
Celts and others often imaged Christ as the green man -- the life-giver
-- the way, the truth, and the life."

The Lindisfarne monks and their co-religionists saw Christ as the green
man? The same nature spirit that Saint Rabanus Maurus described as
demonic in the 8th century? Who knew? And it's more than a little
worrying to note that Global Warming skeptics find themselves on the
wrong side of St. John. But the Presiding Bishop isn't finished
expanding the apostolic imagination of her bishops with the virtues of

"This Episcopal Church is in the throes of creative ferment, yearning to
find a new congruence that will discover emerging life in new soil, and
refreshed growth in the plantings of former years. Our gathering here
will offer opportunities to learn of greenness in different pastures,
and God willing, transform us to discover abundance and possibility in
more familiar ones."

Creative ferment? An interesting way to describe the interior workings
of a small and declining denomination that's reinvented itself as an
LGBTQ advocacy group with a sideline in aggressive litigation. But
still, Jefferts Schori isn't above a "call to action," green action, of

"Viriditas begins in wonder, and emerges to motivate constructive,
healing connection between air and ocean, carbon and crops, hunger and
floods, Ebola and economic inequality. Bishop Michael Baroi of
Bangladesh challenged the bishops of this Church to find that connection
when we gathered in Puerto Rico in 2003. He told of flooding on his
coastal plains, and cried, 'save us from these curses!' He might as well
have said, 'show forth greenness.'"

She concludes by describing Saint Paul's viridic power as evidenced in
the Apostle's Epistle to the Colossians. He's part of the green movement
too, along with Sirach, the Psalmist, St. John and Jesus himself.

"As Colossians puts it, be at peace, let the creative word of God take
root within you and bear new branches, discover viriditas and truth, and
be not afraid. New life is springing forth -- be thankful -- and pray
for the gift of joy and wonder in God's good, green, creative

And there you have it. In the whole address the word "green" appears 13
times, almost rivaling the word "the." The word "Christ" appears once,
in an astonishing sentence equating him with the "green man" of pagan
legend, and the word "salvation" appears not at all. We could perhaps be
forgiven for wondering if the whole thing was written by a U.N.
apparatchik, rather than a Christian. But that aside, there is an irony
in the Presiding Bishop's idea of what it means to expand the apostolic
imagination. I hope, for her sake, that it's unconscious.

In the first place, urging some 100 comparatively privileged bishops to
be green on the heels of who knows how much spent jet fuel, is at best
ironic and at worst, bald-faced hypocrisy. All at the cost of $500,000.
Climate change awareness doesn't come cheap, it seems, and so much for
the House of Bishops' brave attempt to minimize their carbon footprint.
This is bad enough but it gets worse. Schori's new-found green virtue,
viriditas, isn't original with her and she freely admits it. It's a word
used by the famous 12th century "Sibyl of the Rhine," Saint Hildegard
von Bingen, who was a reforming Benedictine Abbess, scientist, musician,
preacher and visionary, or prophet.

The Presiding Bishop likes Hildegard because she celebrated the creative
power of God in creation by using the word "greenness," which fits in
well with Schori's own climatic sloganeering. The Episcopal Church is
all about being green and so too, evidently, is Hildegard. The 12th
century abbess is also a woman, notoriously, who wasn't afraid to use
feminine imagery for God, which makes her a fit patron for Episcopalian
feminadoxy. To cap it off, Hildegard was a prophet, just like the
Episcopal Church imagines itself to be. Here's Schori reverently
touching on this last aspect in the introduction to her sermon:

"Listen to Hildegard the prophet: 'He Who Is says, 'I destroy contumacy,
and by myself I crush the resistance of those who despise me. Woe, woe
to the malice of wicked men who defy me! Hear this, king, if you wish to
live; otherwise my sword shall smite you.'"

Jefferts Schori is in favor of this and supplies her hearers with the
fact that Hildegard is rebuking the Emperor Barbarossa for fueling
schism in the church. We'll return to that, but first listen to
Hildegard the prophet speaking in a different context, one that the
Presiding Bishop doesn't mention:

"Diabolical seduction [by the Cathars] gives rise to criminals and
seducers, the hate and the crime of the devil, brigands and thieves; but
it is in homosexuality that the sin is most impure, the root of all
vices. When these sins have accumulated among the nations, the
constitution of God's law will be torn, and the Church, like a widow,
will be stricken."

This brings us to the point. Saint Hildegard, one of the few Doctors of
the Church, no less, was fiercely anti-schismatic, as we've seen, a
scourge of heretical Catharism and about as far removed from being an
LGBTQ champion as you could hope to get. In short, she was a zealously
orthodox catholic Christian of the 12th century, and while she was able
to use feminine language to describe God, she could only do so because
she was firmly grounded in his transcendent Fatherhood. We see something
of this in Hildegard's opposition to the ordination of women as priests.
"Therefore," she writes in Scivias, quoting God the Father, "just as the
earth cannot plow itself, a woman must not be a priest and do the work
of consecrating the Body and Blood of my Son; although she can sing the
praise of her Creator, just as the earth can receive rain to water its
fruits." Take it or leave it, that's Hildegard's view on the matter and
Schori is either unaware of this or conveniently ignores it.

Still, the Saint was a prophetic apocalyptic visionary. Listen to
another utterance made by the "Teutonic Seer," and ignored by Schori, in
which the Beast, as Antichrist, emerges from the womb of a wounded
church that has been raped by the Devil. It's worth quoting at length:

"The image of the woman [the Church] before the altar in front of the
eyes of God that I saw earlier was now also shown to me again so that I
could also see her from the navel down. From the navel to the groin she
had various scaly spots. In her there appeared a monstrous and totally
black head with fiery eyes, ears like the ears of a donkey, nostrils and
mouth like those of a lion, gnashing with vast open mouth and sharpening
its horrible iron teeth in a horrid manner... Lo, the monstrous head
removed itself from its place with so great a crash that the entire
image of the woman was shaken in all its members. Something like a great
mass of much dung was joined to the head; then, lifting itself upon a
mountain, it attempted to ascend to the height of heaven. A stroke like
thunder came suddenly and the head was repelled with such strength that
it both fell from the mountain and gave up the ghost."

After describing the fall of Antichrist and the woe of those who had
been deceived by him, Hildegard continues:

"Behold, the feet of the aforementioned female image appeared to be
white, giving out a brightness above that of the sun. I heard a voice
from heaven saying to me: 'Even though all things on earth are tending
toward their end, so hardships and calamities is bowed down to its End,
nevertheless, the Spouse of my Son, though much weakened in her
children, will never be destroyed either by the heralds of the Son of
Perdition or by the Destroyer himself, however much she will be attacked
by them. At the End of time she will arise more powerful and more
secure; she will appear more beautiful and shining so that she may go
forth in this way more sweetly and more agreeably to the embraces of her
Beloved. The vision which you saw signifies all this in mystic
fashion.'" (Scivias 3:11; Translated by B McGinn, Visions of the End,

Hildegard's words speak for themselves and I'll leave you to consider
the extent to which they apply to Katharine Jefferts Schori's version of
God's church: a church which has come out of the church, and which
wounds the Body of Christ by its violently continued schism, heresy and
open immorality.

That a quasi-Cathar, such as the Presiding Bishop, should have chosen
such a Saint as the patron of her House of Bishops is irony indeed and
perhaps apt. Hildegard stands as a prophetic voice to the heretics of
her own time and to ours, a voice calling for repentance and a reminder
of the implacable will of God. A will that guarantees Antichrist
overthrown and the church beautiful and shining in the embrace of her

Herein lies true viriditas, or "greenness" if you like, the abundant,
procreative, life-giving power of God in His Bride, the church.

Fr. Michael Heidt is Editor of Forward in Christ magazine and a priest
in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
This article can be found at


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