Pipeline companies haven’t hesitated in the thefting of people’s private property or the trampling of Native American and Indigenous rights through the State’s thoroughly vexing tool of corporate robbery that is eminent domain — but one group might stand a fighting chance: nuns.
According to the nuns, the fracked gas slated to pump through Atlantic Sunrise’s veins — and the pipeline, itself — violates both the order’s beliefs about the sacredness of nature and its commitments to the environment.
First, the nuns’ protest comprised vocal opposition and a refusal to grant an easement to Oklahoma-based developer Williams Partners for Atlantic Sunrise to traverse the land they own and deem sacred.
Now, however, the peaceful religious group has verily upped the ante — celebrating the dedication of a brand new, open-air chapel in a West Hempfield Township cornfield near Columbia, Pennsylvania — smack, dab in the path of the pipeline.
“The Adorers received a request from the grassroots coalition, Lancaster Against Pipelines, to install and use, and to invite other people of faith to use, a portable prayer ‘chapel’ on their land,” the environmentally-minded nuns wrote in a press announcement. “The hope is that the structure can draw people to prayer and reflection about just and holy uses of land.”
That modest request seems reasonable — but construction of the nondenominational chapel amounts to a Hail Mary (pun regretted), as Williams remains thus far unfazed by the plight of a pithy religious order intent on preserving the land.
“Last week,” reports LancasterOnline, “a federal judge was asked by Williams to grant its request to immediately seize the nuns’ land in the pipeline’s path.
“U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Schmehl ruled Friday that the land could be condemned and seized, but not before eminent domain proceedings are heard July 17, as previously scheduled. This allowed the [chapel] dedication ceremony to be held Sunday.”
As demure as building a chapel might sound, the Adorers’ past exploits, fearless passion, and persistent resistance to unmitigated power paints a colorful history typifying their resolute stance. LancasterOnline continues,
“This particular order of nuns was founded in 1834 by St. Maria De Mattias in Italy to start schools in underserved towns and rural villages.
“As the order’s website relates, five Adorers sisters were killed by the soldiers of warlord Charles Taylor in Liberia in 1992. Years later, the order sent another nun to that country. Courage is among the Adorers’ guiding principles.
“As their founder said, ‘You will lack nothing if God is with you. Be a woman of great courage.’”
Indeed, great courage must be fostered in battles against innumerable corporate seizures across the United States masquerading as the only slightly less contentious government seizure of property in eminent domain.
Native American and Indigenous Peoples fought valiantly with the support of a peaceful horde against the section of the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing under the Missouri River’s Lake Oahe reservoir — the source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and 18 million others downstream — to no substantial avail.
Oil and gas industry executives thirsty for hydrocarbon export profits staged their own Hail Mary in garnering approval for DAPL, through the repeal of a 1970s-era ban on the export of unrefined crude.
Thus, until a categorical transformation from this petroleum-dependent society — toward renewable energy and hemp-based plastics, for example — we will see more Standing Rocks. More open-air chapels. More families camped in precious trees on their own property — all, risking time behind bars to oppose a notoriously careless, flippant industry’s invasion of private and often sacred land.
And the nuns admonish that their opposition to Atlantic Sunrise is indeed a spiritual, prayerful action, as Sister Sara Dwyer — Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation coordinator for the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, in Washington, D.C. — explained, their land ethic “is based on the principles of the sacredness of creation.”
Perhaps the staunchest indication Big Oil long ago abandoned any hint of responsibility beyond profits can be seen in what Williams contends about the chapel the nuns hope “gives tangible witness to the sacredness of Earth.” LancasterOnline notes,
“Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton has called the building of the chapel on the nuns’ land ‘another blatant attempt to impede pipeline construction.’”
It would seem the company got the message.
However, Williams isn’t wrong — and the pervasive pro-oil mood of courts in the U.S. recently would prognosticate the likely dismantling of the chapel, a drawn-out legal fracas, and yet another appallingly soulless victory for Big Oil.
Or, the company could take heed, reflect, and recognize that when these silently courageous nuns prepare for battle, their defeat will still deliver a breath-stopping PR knockout to an industry already lightly sweating from a plethora of conscientious boycotts of their products, services, and funders.
“It’s not about money, it’s about principle,” Mark Clatterbuck, of Lancaster Against Pipelines, asserted to a local CNN affiliate. “And the nuns have a land ethic that says this Earth is a sanctuary and we regard it as sacred, and we’re going to work to protect it.”
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Contributed by Claire Bernish of The Daily Sheeple.