Nun of That! Nuns against the Pipeline

In 1824, in the knobby hill portion of central Kentucky between Springfield and Bardstown, Father Theodore Bardin gave a large farm to a group of ‘sisters’ (i.e. nuns) so that they could build a convent and a life together. Now there are a variety of monastic communities in Kentucky, perhaps most famously the monks of Gethesemane Abbey. Much of middle Kentucky was settled by Catholics, and more specifically Irish Catholics who only brought their faith to the ‘western frontier’ as it was called in the early 19th century, but they brought their stone masons, their ferriers, their love of horses, and yes their love of whiskey (read bourbon). To this day you see the landscape dotted with Catholic churches and cathedrals (like the one in Bardstown near Gethsemane and near Maker’s Mark Distillery). Yet another of these groups led to the nunnery that we find now in Nerinx Kentucky. They are called the Sisters of Loretto.

When you think of nuns, you don’t think of protestors, revolutionaries, radicals. And this particular group of nuns would scoff at such labels. In their view, they are simply be Christians. And they want to have nothing to do with a fracking pipeline being put through the middle of their line. So, naturally they have come to be called the anti-fracking nuns. I don’t blame, fracking is a desperate attempt to get some chemicals or fuel out of shale– it involves hydraulic fracturing of rocks (see the Matt Damon movie)hoping for oil or gas or oil sands. It’s a lot of work for not that much reward, and it tears up the land. Now in the case of the nuns they were simply being asked to sell some land so a pipeline of this stuff could go through their real estate. Natural gas liquids are not in fact used in Kentucky, so its not as though this pipeline would serve Kentuckians anyway. On top of all that, this particular pipeline group would not be answerable to any Kentucky group of regulators or legislators at all. This is important because it means that it is doubtful this company could claim imminent domain, and simply take the land from the nuns, at least legally. Now this order of nuns is dedicated to: 1) social justice, and 2) a clean environment, in which they currently live. The nuns have planted 15,400 trees on their property, some fruit bearing. They don’t want pipes which can leak polluting the water table, or the soil, or anything else Good for them. Nun of that! They say.

  • Michael Fox

    I’m not in the oil industry, but I’ve done a fair amount of research to satisfy any concerns I might have around the integrity of fracking. But, in all candor and regardless of any disagreement I may have with your position on the practice, I was taken aback by your citation of a Matt Damon performance as confirmation of your own views around fracking. I’m only hoping that a mischievious friend pirated your computer and composed today’s post to “put one over on you.” I’ve not found the current generation of Hollywood’s celebrities and filmmakers to be credible witnesses to truth.

  • mickey schroder

    Dangersoffracking.com – some things are more important than money or rather loads of things are especially nature, communities,people x

  • Mochajava76

    Indeed, “Promised Land” was partially financed by the United Arab Emirates. See http://www.businessinsider.com/matt-damon-movie-blasts-fracking-backed-by-uae-2012-9. So why would EAE fund a movie, except that fracking may change our dependencies on their oil?

    Also, read about how the movie underwent major rewrites because it was based on falsehood. http://nypost.com/2012/09/26/for-his-next-escape/
    The waters of fracking are muddied indeed, but the EPA found it wasn’t due to the hydraulic processes, but the environmentalist’s propaganda. Don’t quote Matt Damon to make your point.

  • BenW3

    Are you seriously saying the fracking doesn’t endanger the water table, doesn’t destroy land, and that desperate attempts to recover oil, gas, oil sands, this way is not an danger to the environment? Seriously? I hope your joking.

  • Mochajava76

    No, not at all. I just think that both sides have cooked the books at times.
    OK, let’s back up a step. You wrote an article about nuns who are protesting a gas company from fracking on their land. You commended them for their concerns for the environment, and made a valid point against an argument of eminent domain. Good points.
    To bolster your article, you appealed to the Matt Damon movie. Michael Fox commented on that, questioning your use of Damon’s movie. I agreed, and used two links to demonstrate that the choice of using that movie as an example was a poor choice. One link pointed out that part of the funding was from a source that would make one question a conflict of interest, and the other link attempted to demonstrate that the movie was already partially filmed when they realized it was based on a questionable premise. That article pointed out some nefarious examples of the environmentalists rigging the outcome by using fraudulent means. I do think that article absolved fracking too quickly, as a reread of the DEP and EPA studies does not totally acquit Cabot Oil.
    I just questioned your use of the Damon movie, but also understand your column is about the Bible and Culture, so the use of a movie is part of looking at culture.
    I tried to be clever and pushed the “muddied waters” analogy too far. I did not mean to exonerate fracking. This should be researched more. But I don’t trust Hollywood, nor do I trust Big Oil either. They are both manipulative with the facts. And there is a lot of politics involved. This link concerns me: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Latest-News-Wires/2013/0715/Fracking-research-What-s-behind-EPA-s-abandoned-studies

  • Collins

    Ben, I just wanted to add a quick comment here: I’m a young chemical engineer who works in the oil industry in western Washington and I would consider myself deeply environmentally conscious–I think it’s a theological imperative to care for the earth, the climate, and not bow down before the almighty dollar of “Big Oil.” I just wanted to say that as I’ve followed this issue over the past couple years (my home state is Montana) that I feel like 1) data has been the last thing considered by people both for and against, and 2) people need to be clear if they’re opposed to drilling or opposed to hydro-fracking.

    What frankly scares me is that most of the people that are involved in decision making processes (for or against) and people that are expressing nearly militant views (Mark Ruffalo) in the media have next to NO understanding of the science and engineering involved. I would liken it to how it probably feels as a biblical scholar listening to people that really don’t know that much be interviewed in media outlets as experts–or listening to under-informed laity opining about things where you (as a biblical scholar) know there is far more going on in the text.

    I really, really, really think that there is a crucial place for debate when it comes to fracking–and more broadly about energy policy in general. As Christians we should lead these kinds of discussions. They have a global impact on poverty, health, the environment (including increasingly significant water usage) and human quality of life.

    But, like any far-reaching discussion, we want to have people that are competent to make judgments about the issues and be leading the conversation. I applaud these nuns for their concerns…I don’t mean to denigrate them one bit. I just think that if we’re going to adopt a Christ-centered attitude on policies like this that it’s more effective if we had Christian geophysicists, environmental scientists, and mechanical engineers laying the groundwork for the discussion.

    Thoughts anyone?


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