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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

No Impact Man

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Colin Beavan and his family give up much for the environment in "No Impact Man."
"Reduce, reuse, recycle." That's the green-minded mantra of author Colin Beavan, the central figure in the thought-provoking documentary "No Impact Man" (Oscilloscope).

Filmmakers Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein chart a bold yearlong experiment by the New York City resident and his journalist wife, Michelle Conlin, during which they gradually give up every aspect of their lifestyle that might cause a negative environmental effect.

This formidable list of sacrifices eventually includes all motorized transport, even the elevator to their ninth floor apartment, all food not grown within 250 miles, disposable diapers for their toddler daughter, air conditioning, heating and electric lights.

These deprivations prove especially challenging for Conlin, who acknowledges in an early scene her addiction both to shopping and to reality television. With the purchase of new clothes or shoes "verboten" and the family's large-screen TV carted off to storage, Conlin -- who also has had to give up the coffee-guzzling that gets her through her hectic days at the offices of Business Week magazine -- begins to show the strain.

Beavan, by contrast, cheerily embarks on visits to an upstate dairy farm and a Gotham community garden tended by an aging hippie whose radical ideas have not mellowed with time. He also plans a back-to-the-land family vacation at another farm, despite the reservations of the nature-shunning Conlin.

While the couple's undertaking obviously carries conscientiousness to an extreme unlikely to be imitated by many, the pioneering experience does have its potentially inspiring rewards. Thanks to increased exercise and a better diet, Conlin's health improves and her prediabetic condition is cured. The absence of electronic entertainment leads to intensified social interaction with friends and more time to concentrate on family life.

For Conlin, that includes trying to convince Beavan that they should have another child, a discussion that reveals that, although they display a sound sense of mutual commitment, both share widespread but misguided reproductive values, as witness their explicitly referenced use of artificial birth control.

Catholic viewers committed to the moral teaching of the magisterium will hardly miss the irony involved here, since the millions of condoms sold worldwide every year—not to mention the packaging used with other contraceptive products—have environmental consequences far different from those which would result from an increased reliance on responsibly practiced natural, and nature-friendly, family planning.

The film contains some rough and crude language, a half-dozen crass terms and birth control references. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III— adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

****
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p>
American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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