A Catholic Way of Being Green: We Need a Human Ecology
Technology that dominates human beings deprives them of their humanity.
The Catholic Church has been green for a lot longer than any modern environmental movement. We are called to a relational environmentalism; one of stewardship with the earth which God has made and entrusted to us to care for and to share. Some in the current "green" movement have lost their way.
Pope Benedict XVI loves nature as God's creation and gift to us
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - We recently published a "tongue in cheek", well written article by Peg Luksik which touched upon environmental issues within a comedic framework. Most of our commenter's understood it was to be received, as it was written, in a lighthearted manner. Some did not. I must admit I felt like offering the sage advice my oldest son used to give me in response to one comment in particular, "lighten up."
However, the responses also prompted me to again address the subject of environmental concerns. One writer asked "if someone could enlighten me regarding the relation between the Catholic Church and the energy crisis, I'd appreciate it. I'm aware that the environmental movement brings with it certain connotations, but I don't see anything contradictory with ensuring a just and sustainable future for the people on this God-given planet. Just as we need to respect our bodies as gifts of Christ, so must we respect the home he has given us, I believe. And research is part of getting to that point. What do you think? Do you have any insight?"
Let me give it a try. The Catholic Church has been green for a lot longer than any modern environmental movement. We are called to a relational environmentalism; one of stewardship with the earth which God has made and entrusted to us to care for and to share. Some in the current "green" movement have lost their way. The most obvious example is the inherent contradiction of worrying about polluting the atmosphere with toxic chemicals and at the same time supporting making toxic chemicals available to be ingested by mothers in order to kill the children in their womb. We need a new way of being green, a Catholic way.
On June 9, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI received the credential letters of six new ambassadors to the Holy See. He gave a speech addressing them. In his speech the Pope sounded a theme which is common in his locutions and writings; he spoke of a "Human Ecology". He recalled the "innumerable tragedies that have affected nature, technology, and the peoples" this year. He suggested that "the States should reflect together on the short term future of the planet, on our responsibilities regarding our life and technology".
He said "Human ecology is an imperative. Adopting a lifestyle that respects our environment and supports the research and use of clean energies that preserve the patrimony of creation and that are safe for human beings should be given political and economic priority". He called for a "change in mentality" in order to "quickly arrive at a global lifestyle that respects the covenant between humanity and nature, without which the human family risks disappearing." He said that "every government must commit themselves to protecting nature and assisting it to carry out its essential role in the survival of humanity."
Then, he addressed technology saying, "It is also helpful to ask ourselves about the appropriate role of technology" because "believing it is the exclusive agent of progress or happiness carries a reification of humanity that leads to blindness and misery. ... Technology that dominates human beings deprives them of their humanity. The pride that it generates has created an impossible economism in our societies as well as a hedonism that subjectively and selfishly regulates behavior. The debilitation of the primacy of the human person provokes a loss of the meaning of life".
The Pope noted "it is urgent that we match technology with a strong ethical dimension. ... Technology should help nature develop along the lines envisioned by the Creator. In working together, the researcher and the scientist adhere to God's plan that desired humanity as the apex and the administrator of creation. Solutions based on this principle will protect human life and its vulnerability, as well as the rights of the present and future generations".
There was nothing new in these words. They comport with what this Pope has written and said since assuming office. However, some Press reports focused on his encouragement of "clean energy". In some instances the reports implied the Pope had somehow joined the "Green movement". I thought back to 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to participants in the World Day of Peace entitled "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, protect creation." In fact he referred to that letter in that 2011 address.
In that 2009 letter he also used the term "human ecology" and said similar things as he said on June 9, 2011. The Press explicitly reported it as some kind of papal "conversion" to a green ideology. Reuters report bore the headline "Pope Goes Green". The Pope simply reaffirmed the Catholic understanding of our relationship with the goods of the earth and our call to stewardship of the planet which has been given to us by the Creator as a gift. Here are some salient excerpts from that 2009 letter:
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