Alberta Tar Sands — Photo from
Dennis Rivers, November 2016
This week I’ve been thinking about the struggles going on to protect water supplies on the Standing Rock Reservation, and about the Alberta tar sands projects only a few hundred miles to the north.  For native peoples around the world, the Earth Herself is sacred, and Her waters as well.  So poisoning the Earth, or building industrial projects that create an ongoing unknown risk of poisoning the land and water, are not just material or political issues.  They are spiritual and religious issues as well.  This is not a theoretical risk at all.  Large amounts of  Dine (Navajo) land and water have been permanently poisoned with radioactive waste from uranium mining, causing a giant spike in cancer rates.  And the Alberta Tar Sands photos speak for themselves.  So native peoples have little reason to trust the assurances that they, their land, and their water, are not in danger from the white man’s projects.
Reflecting on the corporations willing to endanger someone else’s water supply in order to get rich building oil pipelines, I think it is time that we gave a proper name to the psychological illness that has been haunting us for several centuries: PIDM: profit-induced-destructive-mania. I intend to rally my friends within the counseling profession to have PDIM added to the DSM-5 as a recognized mental illness.
There are many strands of PDIM at work in U.S. culture. The long term effects of tobacco and greasy hamburgers kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, yet most of us prefer to look away from the spectacle of corporations enriching themselves by selling slow death behind smiling advertisements. We accept this as fairly normal, without really working through the implication that some forms of mental illness may be fairly common. The late psychoanalyst Arno Gruen explored this at length in his book, The Insanity of Normality (which I helped to republish after it was withdrawn from publication by its bought-out publisher).
People suffering from PDIM, a syndrome I see as a spiralling disorientation of both thinking and feeling, experience a chronic narrowing of the attention until they no longer recognize the people, animals, plants, oceans, forests and waters essential to their own survival here on Planet Earth, and begin a autism-like repetitive pattern of screaming, “Drill, Baby, Drill!”. PDIM is the economic parallel to Lord Acton’s observation that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, namely, that profits tend to disorient, and enormous profits disorient enormously. The contemplation of giant wins appears to disable people’s normal survival instincts. The same processes of disoriented thought appear to be associated with nuclear power as well, where the hope of generating mind-boggling amounts of cheap electricity causes otherwise sensible people to abandon their critical faculties, leading to catastrophes such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Just as anorexics cannot bear to face that fact that they are killing themselves, PIDM sufferers cannot bear to face the fact that they are killing their own planet, and the life-support system for their own children and grandchildren. Because of this self-injury component, some elements of self-hatred and suicidal ideation cannot be ruled out.
PIDM is like a Zika virus of the heart (it causes people’s hearts to get smaller). We need new clinical intervention strategies to reconnect EVERYONE on the planet with their own life energies (approaches such as Joanna Macy’s “Work That Reconnects”) and slow the lethal spread PIDM and poisoned aquifers.
For more about the Standing Rock protests, please visit:



Edvard Munch — The Scream

By Dennis Rivers — June 24, 2016

I find myself praying for Divine intercession a lot these days.  Even though I am not much of a believer in direct divine intervention any more.   As I read story after story about toddlers accidentally killing their mothers with loaded guns left carelessly available, I am reminded once again that God will not save us from the tragic consequences of our own carelessness.  And I have similar thoughts about the new military tensions rising between the United States and Russia.  Did the USA really have to park missiles right on the edge of Russia?  Would we accept Russia putting missiles on the Canadian border, pointing toward us? What a headache and a heartache of carelessness. Which leads me to some thoughts about the direction in which the United States appears to be drifting. 

I am convinced that since the start of World War 2, the United States has become profoundly addicted to war.

>> addicted economically (war industries, weapons research and arms sales are woven through the US economy — an unacknowledged sort of military socialism —  for example the $1.5 TRILLION program to build the F-35 high-tech fighter plane, and the more that $6  to $7 trillion spent so far on nuclear weapons and the systems, such as nuclear submarines, to carry and deliver them).

>> addicted culturally (having an enemy is a seductively easy way to know who we are and what we need to do, and the more flamboyant the enemy, the easier it is to blot out of our awareness the knowledge that we have not lived up to our own professed values of liberty and justice for all),

>> and addicted psychologically — aided and abetted by war movies and violent video games (focusing on our outrageously evil enemies allows us to avoid facing our own many mistakes and shortcomings, and to adopt the “It’s all their fault, they started it” attitude.)  This propensity to blame others, avoid responsibility for one’s own actions, and seek empowerment through violent fantasies and bullying, can become so pronounced that they function together like a mental illness, blinding a people to the ways in which they may be hurting others and radically diminishing their own lives. 

How we will extricate ourselves from such a deep addiction is one of the great creative challenges of our time, along with fighting global warming and moving toward global social justice.
Continue reading

January 5, 2016

Leonardo Boff  (from the web site)

There is an indisputable and sad fact: capitalism as a mode of production and its political ideology, neoliberalism, are so thoroughly established globally that it seems to make any real alternative impossible. It has in fact occupied every space and aligned almost every country to its global interests. Since society has been commercialized and turned everything, even the most sacred things, such as human organs, water and the capacity of flowers to be pollinated, into an opportunity to gain wealth, most countries feel obliged to participate in the globally integrated macro-economy and much less inclined to serve the common good of their people.

Democratic socialism in its advanced version of eco-socialism is an important theoretical option, but has a small worldwide social base of implementation. The thesis of Rosa Luxemburg in her book, Reform or Revolution (Reforma o Revolución), that «the theory of the collapse of capitalism is at the heart of scientific socialism» has not become reality. And socialism has collapsed.

The fury of capitalist accumulation has reached the highest levels of its history. Practically 1% of the wealthy population of the world controls nearly the 90% of its wealth. According to the reputable NGO Oxfam Intermon, in 2014, 85 members of the super-rich had the same amount of money as 3.5 billion of the poorest in the world. This level of irrationality and inhumanity speaks for itself. We are living explicitly barbaric times.

Read more on the Tikkun web site


Spiritual-Activism-front-cover-300pxw Over the past half century the issues facing activists have changed, as has our understanding and awareness of spirituality. For activists, spiritual philosophy is rising up the agenda because it offers distinct, tried and tested approaches to deep questions: Where did it all go wrong? What does it mean to be human? What is the place of leadership? What is the nature of power?

The book begins by defining spirituality for a modern audience of all faiths and beliefs, and goes on to consider the problems and necessities of true leadership. Drawing on a rich history of spirituality and activism, from The Bhagavad Gita, to the Hebrew prophets, to Carl Jung, it is both guide and inspiration for people involved in activism for social or environmental justice.

Click here to read sample chapter.


Continue reading

by Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams
Published on Friday, July 10, 2015 by Common Dreams.   Reprinted here under a Creative Commons license.
In a far-reaching speech in Bolivia on Thursday, Pope Francis offered his apologies to, and begged forgiveness from, the native people of the Americas as he acknowledged the brutal treatment they received throughout the so-called “conquest of America.”

In a speech that also touched on the need to rapidly move away from the destructive model of unbridled capitalism—which he described as the “dung of the devil”—Francis went much further than any of his predecessors in accounting for the crimes of the Church while it pursued and perpetuated colonialism and oppression across Latin America and beyond over the last five centuries.
“This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable.” — Pope Francis

“I wish to be quite clear,” said Francis. “I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.” He added, “There was sin and an abundant amount of it.”
In response, it was reported, the large crowd offered rousing applause. Continue reading


Download the PDF of the Encyclical:  English :: Español :: Française :: Deutsche ::  italiano :: Português :: Arabic :: Polski 10 key excerpts from Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment (Washington Post 6/18/2015) History is Made as Pope Francis’ Encyclical is Presented in the Vatican (America 6/18/2015)

From New York Review of Books

The Pope and the Planet (Review of Encyclical by Bill McKibben)

From National Catholic Reporter

Eco-Catholic: ‘We see this as an essential part of the solution, if we look for the common good.”

Peace: an unexpected reaction to ‘Laudato Si’

Peaceful. That is the only word that fully describes how I feel after reading “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” the encyclical on the environment release by Pope Francis this morning.For the past six years, I have worked within the Catholic church to address the pressing issue of human-forced climate change. During that time, I have experienced some hopeful glimpses of how the church might animate effective responses to this challenge.

Laudato Si’ arrives

Distinctly Catholic: On one of the most important issues of the day, our Holy Father has blessed the Church with a document that is accessible to virtually anyone.

What Gandhi Taught Me about Jesus A Pastor’s Memoir  —  A.C. Oommen  —  June 17, 2015

This article first appeared in Plough Quarterly No. 5, Summer 2015. Reproduced with permission and deep gratitude.

Xu Beihong, Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi

I first saw Mahatma Gandhi when I was twelve, when he came to our state of Kerala in south India to help remove the age-old injustice of caste discrimination. He addressed a huge gathering on a river bed near my school, and I found a seat on the sand near where he was sitting cross-legged on a raised platform. He spoke about vegetarianism, not about national issues, but it impressed me immensely – he spoke in Hindi rather than English, and I saw him as a symbol of the resurgent India. At that time, Gandhi was already famous in Kerala because of his 1924 action in the nearby town of Vaikom to open the Shiva temple to Hindus of all castes. For centuries, outcastes had been forbidden to enter the temple, and notices even prohibited them from using the town’s roads. Gandhi’s nonviolent campaign to abolish this humiliating segregation had been the first major test of his teaching of satyagraha (“soul force” or “truth force”). On coming home from hearing Gandhi, I told my mother that I was now a vegetarian. (I would remain one for the next eighteen years, until moving to Uganda, when I gave it up in order to dine in fellowship with my African brethren.) From that day on, I began to follow Gandhi’s teachings. Despite my conflicting feelings toward British missionaries, whom I admired for their sacrificial work to uplift the so-called untouchables in Kerala, I began to participate in the Quit India movement pressing for India’s independence from Britain. Although as a twelve-year-old I would not have been able to articulate what drew me to Gandhi, I now see four facets of his life and teaching as keys to understanding him. First, truth and nonviolence were identical to him; they supported each other and gave coherence to his life. Nonviolence was not just a methodology or a “Gandhian tactic” as some have labeled it, but his religion itself. Truth is the ultimate reality, the climax of our search – the point where all our coverings and curtains are taken off. We do not know if he saw truth as an idea or as a person (“I am the Truth”), but he openly lived out the answer to the question “What is truth?” Gandhi reminded me of Saint John in his old age, who constantly repeated, “Little children, love one another.” Continue reading

From the June 2015 issue of Celebration, A Comprehensive Worship Resource
Does beatification signal where Pope Francis is leading the church?
By Pat Marrin
oscar-romero-celebration-june-2015The beatification of martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero on May 23, 2015, acknowledges what has been celebrated throughout Latin America since his assassination at the altar on March 24, 1980, in El Salvador. Blessed Romero gave his life as a good shepherd for his flock in a time of persecution. He modeled what a bishop looks like in a church committed to justice for the poor. Romero’s death and the baptism of blood endured by the people of El Salvador during its 12-year civil war (1980-92) inevitably have larger implications for the universal church, and for us in North America. Pope Francis’ determination to advance Romero’s cause for sainthood recognizes this witness. It also reveals the influence Romero is having on Francis’ own goal as pope — to move the global church closer to the kind of church that emerged in El Salvador under Romero, whose story is a roadmap to such a church. Continue reading
Eco Catholic Section, National Catholic Reporter

Ten years after the murder of Notre Dame de Namur Sr. Dorothy Stang, her alma mater is honoring the beloved “angel of the Amazon” with a week of special events marking her ongoing legacy of service in the mission field.Stang, a 1964 graduate of Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Calif., spent nearly 40 years in Brazil as an advocate for indigenous people and the rainforest. She was killed Feb. 12, 2005, by two hired gunmen while walking along a dirt road in Anapu, in Brazil’s Para state.Angered by Stang’s involvement in helping the poor gain legal access to land, wealthy Brazilian loggers and ranchers engineered her assassination. Five men were eventually linked to the her death. A coordinator with the Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission told Catholic News Service [1] recently that only one remains in prison, while three are only required to sleep there, and the fifth has yet to serve prison time. The Notre Dame de Namur celebration of Stang’s life and work comes during its Founders’ Week (Feb. 8-12). On Tuesday a panel of speakers — family members, in addition to religious community colleagues and supporters — will share memories of their treasured sibling and friend. Other events include a Wednesday screening of the film “They Killed Sr. Dorothy,” followed the next day by a tour of the campus garden and a candlelight prayer vigil that evening. The Thursday events, marking the 10-year anniversary of Stang’s death, will conclude that evening with a concert, wrapping up the commemorative week. read more…  
Scott Simon — Feb. 7, 2015
NPR News Story and Audio —  Listen to Story

Pope Francis and the Vatican have recognized Oscar Romero as a martyr. This may move the name of the late archbishop of San Salvador a little further in the process that could one day make him a saint. But being deemed a martyr is also holy. It means the church believes his life can inspire people; Pope Francis has said Romero inspires him. Romero was considered a kindly, orthodox conservative parish priest when Pope Paul appointed him archbishop in 1977. He did not question El Salvador’s ruling regime. But that regime began to round up priests and nuns who said the teachings of Jesus led them to oppose El Salvador’s military rulers. Several priests were killed. And Romero was truly galvanized. Responsibility opened his ear, and made his resolve as hard as steel. read more / listen to story…