This page details the organisation and history of the Catholic Order of Saint Theodora more commonly known (by 2300AD) as the Green Monastery.
Founded in the ruins of Rotterdam by Theodora Knijff in the years following the Twilight War the Green Monastery (or the Catholic Order of Saint Theodora as it is more properly known) is now found throughout human space.
The Green Monastery is a strange mixture of Ecu-Catholic Monastic Order, University Department, Environmental Lobby Group, Contaminated Land Reclamation Project and Life Support Systems Engineering Company.
The Order was officially recognised in 2213 by Pope Elizabeth I on the same day that Theodora Knijff was cannonised. The Order had however been growing steadily from its origins in the Netherlands for the previous two centuries.
Before the war Knijff was a green activist and a junior administrator in the environmental department of the regional council offices in Rotterdam. She was only 23 years old, when the world as she knew it came to an end and Rotterdam was reduced to a mildly radioactive ruin. Fortunately Knijff was out of the city on the day of the bombing (the attack had been aimed at the port facilities) and was saved from both the direct effects and the subsequent fire storm. As a council employee she had been assigned to civil defence duties and spent the next few days attempting to help the survivors of the blast.
The Netherlands was irrevocably damaged by the nuclear and conventional attacks on its transport infrastructure and all semblance of central government - and pretense at a coordinated rescue effort soon came to an end. Knijff was stranded in the ruins of Rotterdam vainly attempting to assist the overwhelming tide of casualties. Eventually even local government collapsed and individuals were left to fend for themselves. Knijff remained in Rotterdam and became a member of a commune which survived the immediate post war years by scavenging supplies from the ruins and abandoned buildings and farming areas of parkland.
Before the war Knijff, although she had been brought up as a Protestant, had - like many Europeans - not been particularly religious. Her experiences following the Twilight War however brought her new faith and she was baptised as a Roman Catholic in 2002. Spurred on by her new religious convictions and her existing environmental beliefs Knijff was a founder member of the Rotterdam Reborn commune, which evolved from the survivors the original commune, in 2006. The commune's original vision was to reclaim land contaminated by radioactive fallout and the cocktail of pollutants released by the destruction of the extensive petrochemical industry associated with the port. Their approach was necessarily low tech (the Netherlands did not really exist as a national entity again until 2010) and concentrated on bio remediation (the use of plants and animals to destroy or remove contamination).
The commune was fortunate enough to have a number of talented and skilled aggriculturalist, scientists and amateurs amongst its number and through a combination of luck and good management had several early successes. While Knijff was not particularly gifted at the work she was a highly competent administrator and an inspirational leader and orator. As the commune flourished so did she and her abilities brought her the leadership of Rotterdam Reborn in 2009.
The success of the reclamation and restoration of the city soon attracted the attention of other groups struggling to reclaim land devastated by the war and Knijff travelled widely in northern Europe in the 2010's. As she travelled she freely disseminated not only the techniques, plants and animals developed by Rotterdam Reborn but also her personal philosophy. This was a synthesis of her green environmental concerns and a Christian belief that mankind was the steward of the Earth and not its owner or master.
By 2017 there was a network of communes and communities throughout Europe that looked to Rotterdam Reborn and Theodora Knijff for both technical and moral leadership. Rotterdam Reborn itself had also changed as the bulk of the remediation work had been completed. As the local practical work reduced so the members of the commune either moved away to pursue new practical challenges or remained behind to provide a source of advice and research expertise. When Rotterdam's Erasmus University was refounded in 2015 the commune provided 80% of the academic staff in the Environment Department. Similarly as the more practically minded commune members moved away from Rotterdam so other people from Sister organisations around Europe joined either temporarily for training or permanently as part of the research and consultancy community.
Despite these changes Rotterdam Reborn remained a religious (primarily Catholic) community. Many of the members, including Knijff, took monastic vows and the work of the laboratory and the remediation project was intimately intertwined with the religious life of the community. The work of commune however remained firmly based in the outside world and members were involved in both local and national politics. Indeed the first Netherlands government elected after the war (in 2012) was very influenced by teachings of Knijff and was formed by an alliance of Green and Christian Democrat parties.
Knijff remained at the head of the commune until 2021 when she retired aged 52, her previously inexhaustible energy sapped by cancer. By then the commune (which had by that time become known as the Green Monastery) was firmly established in Rotterdam with sister houses all over Europe. The Monastery's primary purpose remained the reclamation of land and ecosystems damaged both by the war and by the other depredations of mankind. Expertise and resources were supplied without charge, as a Christian duty, to the needy and for a fee to governments and corporations to fund ongoing research and charitable works.
Although primarily a Christian organisation the Monastery welcomed students of all (or no) religions and the example of the Green Monastery was adapted and copied around the world. There was no formal organisation linking the Monastery with its sister houses and foreign cousins however the regular exchange of personnel, information and resources maintained strong relations while allowing local adaptations.
In retirement Knijff wrote her seminal work "In Stewardship" (now popularly known as "The Green Testament") which laid out and refined the message she had been preaching for the previous two decades. She called on humanity to act as the steward of the Earth and all its inhabitants (human, animal or plant) not as the owner or exploiter. Mankind, she wrote, held the Earth in trust for future generations of all life. Her philosophy did not call for a return to some unobtainable pastoral idyll where man lived in harmony with nature. It did however demand that all life should be respected and held sacred and argued that a balance between humanity and the rest of nature must be struck. Knijff sadly died just days before her work was published in 2026.
"In Stewardship" was greeted with great popular acclaim and has remained in print (in virtually all of humanity's written languages) ever since. The philosophy it espoused appealed both to the survivors of the generation that had nearly brought their world to an end and to the generation that had grown up in contaminated ruins their parents had bequeathed them. The book, and its considerable following, greatly influenced a great deal of the post war reconstruction and development effort. Instead of development at any cost and reclamation of only economically useful land there was an emphasis on sustainable projects and great efforts were made to restore damaged ecosystems and rescue endangered species. There is considerable debate, even now over two hundred years later, whether "In Stewardship" genuinely initiated the stewardship ethic (as it later came to be known) or merely documented an already existing movement. In any event the mid twenty first century was greatly influenced by the stewardship ethic and its influence remains with us today.
The numbers and coffers of the Green Monastery were greatly swelled by the stewardship movement and the Order of Saint Theodora owes much of its present wealth to this and the influence to Abbott Juan Pinheiro (the Abbott of the Monastery at the time). It was he who managed the transition from disorganised association of communes, university departments and pressure groups into a network of Monastic Houses reporting to the mother House in Rotterdam (although still with a considerable degree of autonomy). He also recognised that in order to fulfill Knijff's vision the Monastery would need its own financial and physical resources and not be reliant on others as it had in the past. He therefore took advantage of the short term generosity of the Monastery's followers and the abilities of his Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Whereas previously the Monastery had taken only a peripheral interest in the areas it had reclaimed and decontaminated under Abbott Juan de Santiago it also acquired part of the property reclaimed.
A good example of this policy was the Port of London project (2031 - 2045). In return for its services in decontamination and bio remediation, and an undisclosed financial contribution, the Monastery received considerable land holdings. Although not initially very valuable the subsequent expansion of London and further investment by the Monastery has made these properties alone worth several hundreds of millions of Livre. The Abbott's policy (and its continuation by subsequent Abbotts and Abbesses) has made the Order of Saint Theodora an exceedingly wealthy organisation (as a private entity the Order is not required to publish accounts) conservatively estimated at over one hundred billion Livre in 2297.
As with all political and social trends the Stewardship Movement waned after it had waxed and by the early 2050's the ideas in "In Stewardship" were no longer new or radical. They did not die out however as the stewardship ethic was by then firmly embedded in the main stream of political, social and economic thought. The Green Monastery had planned for the eventuality and was well placed to continue its mission in the background rather than at the forefront of human endeavour.
The Monastery continued to work in its traditional fields, staying (in the main) true to its founders' vision. Although many of the Monastery's Abbotts and Abbesses attempted to bring greater centralised control to the organisation the sister houses (which controlled the Monastery's assets in their region or area of expertise) were more than able to resist. Similarly frequent moves towards independence by one sister house or another were also prevented by the complex and interrelated trustee arrangements for the ownership of assets. Thus the Green Monastery remained a remarkably stable organisation in the two centuries following its birth in Rotterdam.
The interests of the Monastery's Brothers and Sisters did however broaden as mankind's horizons expanded first into solar and then interstellar space. The sort of scientific and technical disciplines present within the Monastery were just those needed to develop permanent habitations in space and to adapt alien worlds to humanity's needs. Thus many of the Green Brothers and Sisters inevitably ended up working on space and colonisation projects either on secondment or sabatical. Although the Monastery refused to formally adopt these fields as its own (indeed it is forbidden to do so by its founding charter) it did encourage its members to widen their experience and knowledge through such contacts. This policy has been retained to the present day and Green Brothers and Sisters can be found working in many of the organisations (such as Universities, IEX, ARI, Royal Society etc.) dedicated to such activities.
As humanity returned to space in the twenty first century in ever greater numbers, and for longer durations, the need for self contained life support systems increased. The Green Monastery's skills in decontamination and bio remediation had obvious applications in this area. As everyone involved in today's space industry knows BioSysteme (a commercial company wholly owned by the Order) is now one of the premier life support manufacturing companies in Human Space.
In actual fact the existence of BioSysteme was more an accident than a part of any grand design. As the first permanent habitations in space were planned many of the Monastery's members (both monastic and lay) became involved, either directly or indirectly, in the design of life support systems. After a few decades of this ad hoc approach (and meeting each other at various conferences and seminars) Professor Marie Gilbert set up a small life support group at the main House in France (at Cap la Hague in Brittany). This group (able to take advantage of the Monastery's support facilities and enormous reservoir of knowledge and techniques) was soon at the forefront of life support design. The Abbess (coincidentally a former accademic colleague of Gilbert) at the time was quick to see the commercial possibilities of this new area of expertise and BioSysteme was born as a private company, wholly owned by the Cap la Hague House, registered in Paris.
BioSysteme under the direction of Marie Gilbert quickly developed a novel approach to business (as befitted its origins). All BioSysteme products were leased to users, never sold outright, and any novel techniques or devices used in their fabrication were heavily protected both physically and legally. This rather commercial approach was balanced by BioSysteme's policy of making all its older designs and patents freely available to any non military user provided that they were not used for profit. This policy has led to a burgeoning secondary industry in old, but still elegant and eminantly reliable, BioSysteme designs. Although the designs are free of profit the manufacturing and servicing of the secondary systems provides adequate scope to support a number of small to medium sized specialist companies.
BioSysteme also refuses to supply life support systems for military use (despite the obvious loss of potential revenue this represents). This moral scruple however has helped to maintain diversity in the market for life support systems as BioSystem is more often than not a generation ahead of its rivals. BioSystem maintains offices or at least agents at all the commercial shipyards
Mankind's colonisation of the stars was not without its problems where the Green Monastery was concerned. Theodora Knijff's guiding vision was of humanity as the steward of the Earth and all its life as command by The Lord God. The discovery of Tirane in 2137 (a habitable extra solar planet with an abundant native eco system) presented the Monastery with a dilemma. What was humanity's duty to a planet other than the Earth? God had given mankind the stewardship of the Earth - did that extend to other planets orbiting other suns? Was mankind free to despoil Tirane providing that the Earth was safeguarded? What were the ethics of transplanting Terran species to Tirane (or visa versa)? Also with the discovery of abundant extra solar life it was inevitable that other intelligent life would exist elsewhere in the universe - the Earth was not the only life bearing planet and Mankind not the only sentient being created by God. These dilemmas were not unique to the Green Monastery but they were particularly central to the movement's philosphy and raison d'etre.
The Green Monastery was split into three factions by the Tirane dilemma.
The Literalists believed that the movement's role should be restricted to Earth alone. God had commanded that mankind should be the steward of the Earth - not of some unspecified number of planets and eco systems. They held that the Monastery should abjure any extra solar activities but that when humanity inevitably spread to other worlds the duty of stewardship on humanity was equally as applicable to Tirane and Tiranian life as it was to Earth's.
The Isolationists were the most extreme of the three factions and argued that as humanity had all but destroyed the Earth it had no right to spread its destructive ways to other planets in God's creation. They believed that mankind should remain on the Earth that they had been granted and that the colonisation of other solar systems was nothing more than polution.
The Pragmatists thought that the spread of humanity to the stars was inevitable and that it was the duty of the Monastery to travel with their fellows. They believed that God had commanded mankind to be the steward of all life and that the Monastery should assist in both the spread of Terran life and the protection of extra solar life. While these two aims would inevitably conflict the Monastery was used to balancing the needs of mankind and nature, extra solar life merely added an additional complication.
The debate within the Monastery was fierce and all but fragmented the organisation. In the end the Literalists and Pragmatists agreed a compromise. The Monastery would restrict its resources and efforts to Earth but Knijff's guiding principles were clearly applicable to extra solar worlds and individuals were free, and indeed encouraged, to travel there to spread the Monastery's teachings. Thus sister houses were founded on the colony worlds and many Green Brothers and Sisters assisted in the colonisation effort but non of the Monastery's resources were used in their foundation or maintenance.
While this compromise satisfied the majority of Literalists and Pragmatists, and a minority of the Isolationists felt able to accept it for the good of the movement, many in the order felt that it betrayed Knijff's vision. The result was that the Monastery lost about one quarter of its members in the middle of the twenty second century including a number of houses. For the most part the separation was well ordered however the Isolationists never succeeded in uniting themselves to the same degree as the Monastery. Thus by 2151 the Green Monastery was once again a unified (albeit smaller) whole with a scattering of independant Isolationist houses.
As humanity spread among the stars so the Monastery, following the resolution of its internal conflicts, spread with them with sister houses being founded on many of the colony worlds (predominantly those with a substantial Catholic population). As the extra solar component of the Monastery grew so the Abbotts and Abbesses struggled to ensure that the Monastery remined a single coherent organisation. The complicated, but eminently successful and stable, legal arrangements were extended with interlocking trusteeships and local ownership of assets preventing both over centralisation or fragmentation.
The extra solar houses of the Monastery played leading roles in the colonisation of many worlds. As with all its activities however the Monastery's efforts were intended to balance the conflicting demands of its Charter. Where one Green Brother might be adapting Terran crops to survive under an alien sun another would be cataloguing the native flora and fauna while a third was preventing Terran pests interfering with the local eco systems. The Green Monastery was a major proponent in setting up reserves for native species both locally amongst the human habitation and on a larger scale attempting to have whole regions or continents made out of bounds for human interference.
As the importance of the extra solar houses grew with the years, and the Monastery grew more used to the concept and implications of life on alien worlds, so the division between the holdings on Earth and those elsewhere became more blurred. Although the assets of the Monastery are still nominally divided to this day there is considerable cross subsidy between the two parts. Some of the Terran assets of the Monastery were for instance used to guarantee the loans raised to support the settlement of Joi in 2248.
The Monastery's influence on history has not been wholly benign. There has always been an element within the movement that has supported, and in some instances been involved in, eco terrorism. Ever since the discovery of alien life in 2187 there has been a strong militant streak amongst the Green Brothers and Sisters. The aftermath of the Tirane Dillema removed most of the radicals from the main stream of the order as they were, by definition, concentrated in the Isolationist Houses that sesseeded. However since that time individuals who may have entered the Order as Literalists or Pragmatists have had their views of the world changed by their experiences and moved towards the Isolationist camp.
There have been many instances of Green Brothers and Sisters taking part in or assisting acts of eco terrrorism. When apprehended they have always been denounced by the Order for their violent methods but in the majority of cases their aims have not been disimilar. The straying bretheren have always justified themselves by claiming to have protected the environment from the depradations of man. These lapses into extremism are not entirely surprising as the Green Brothers and Sisters have dedicated their lives to preserving and protecting the environment only to find the Order's peaceful methods either too slow or ineffective.
In the late twenty second and early twenty third centuries the great religious reunification movements swept the globe. In the Christian world this succeeded in reuniting the overwhelming majority of Chrisitans in a single Ecumenical Catholic Church. In the Muslim world however reunification failed and resulted in a three way split (Shia/Suni/United).
Many of the Brothers and Sisters of the Green Monastery played prominent roles in the Christian Ecumenical movement. Although primarily Catholic the Monastery had always welcomed members from other denominations and even other religions who also followed their ideals of stewardship. This acceptance and tolerance, plus the loose but robust organisation, served as working models for the reunited Church. The movement culminated in the L5 Council of 2201 (the location was chosen so as to be completely neutral to all parties). At the council the major Protestant and Orthodox Churches agree to recognise the authority of the Pope and the Church of Rome while Pope Gregory ?? agreed to extend the reforms of his predecessors to make the doctrines of the reunited Catholic Church acceptable to all its faithfull.
The compromises on both sides led to great, and heated, debate among the constituent churches and numerous splits and schisms. By 2209 however most of the disputes had been resolved or declared irreconcileable and the reunited Catholic Church (the Ecu-Catholics as they came to be known) celebrated its first Mass on Christmas Day 2209 in St. Peters in ??check ecs??. Most of the major Sects that had rejoined the Catholic Church lived on in reduced numbers led by the Priests, Elders and Bishops who refused to accept the reforms of Gregory ??. This included several million Catholics (usually referred to as the Unreformed Catholics) whose Pope Constantine ?? declared Gregory ?? the anti-Christ in 2211.
In 2212 Cardinal Rabea Mechernene from Provence Nouveau was elected Pope following the death of Gregory ?? and it is she (as Pope Elizabeth I) who is credited with consolidating the work of Gregory ?? in establishing the Ecu-Catholic Church as the force it is today.
The following year Pope Elizabeth I cannonised Theodora Knijff and established the Green Monastery as the Catholic Order of Saint Theodora. Despite the change in name and official recognition by the Church the structure and organisation of the Green Monastery remained unchanged. The Abbott of the Mother House in Rotterdam remained elected by the Abbotts and Abbesses of all the Sister Houses (not appointed by the Pope as is the case for other Catholic Orders) and the property of the Monastery remained just that and did not become Church property. These arrangements raised more than a few eyebrows both within the Vatican and elsewhere and were widely viewed as either a reward or a price (depending upon the degree of hostility in the commentator) for the Monastery's assistance in the reunification.
The Green Colony on Joi
The Order in 2300AD
Examples of the Order
The Mother House (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
A Terran House (Windscale, Cumbria, UK)
A Colonial House (Nieu Rotterdam, Elytsia, 61 Ursae Majoris)
Copyright J.M. Pearson, 1999 - 2009