Document Type

Article - On Campus Only

Publication Date



This article examines the theological and ecological significance of the International Pastoral Letter on the Columbia River Watershed issued by the U.S. and Canadian Bishops in 2001. It argues that through its inclusive, participatory process, its emphasis on the watershed as a significant locus for theological reflection, and its strong moral, spiritual vision regarding what a watershed is and can be, the Letter makes a significant contribution to Catholic teaching on the environment. However, the article also claims that due to its generalizing rhetorical style, its weak vision of spirituality and its lack of a critical, prophetic edge, the Letter fails to realize its full potential. The article poses questions about the central meaning and purpose of such pastoral letters and about what the Roman Catholic community can learn from the present Letter that might strengthen future attempts to address environmental or other pressing concerns.

Recommended Citation

Christie, D. E. (2003). The spirit of place: the Columbia River watershed letter and the meaning of community. Horizons, 30(1), 7–24.