Catholic Social Doctrine: The Theology of Ecology
"[t]he whole of creation participates in the renewal flowing from the Lord's Paschal Mystery," so that "nothing stands outside this salvation." (Compendium, No. 455)
The Biblical view of nature is radically different from the scientific "put-nature-on-the-rack" attitude. Similarly, it is radically different from the exploitative view of the capitalist, for whom nature is but so much raw material which begs for exploitation. While the Biblical view does not spurn human efforts at scientific study of nature or exploitation of nature for man's sake, it does suggest limits upon or rules that should order such efforts. The Church's social doctrine is not obscurantist.
While the Church seeks responsible use of creation, a reasonable ecology, the Church does not fall prey to the opposite error, a form of pagan nature worship. For example, the notion that nature or animals have "rights" in the strict sense of the term is absurd. Only a rational being can have rights in the strict sense. One might point to the efforts to have a "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth" as a theologically and philosophically perverse venture.
As the Compendium summarizes it:
"The biblical vision inspires the behavior of Christians in relation to their use of the earth, and also with regard to the advances of science and technology. The Second Vatican Council affirmed that man 'judges rightly that by his intellect he surpasses the material universe, for he shares in the light of the divine mind.' The Council Fathers recognized the progress made thanks to the tireless application of human genius down the centuries, whether in the empirical sciences, the technological disciplines or the liberal arts. Today, 'especially with the help of science and technology, man has extended his mastery over nearly the whole of nature and continues to do so.'" (Compendium, No. 456)
The Church is hardly negative to science or to proper development and use of the world's resources; however, she emphasizes that man's use of the world's resources and the application of his mind and his hands must be done responsibly: under God and with view to the common good of mankind:
"For man, 'created in God's image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all that it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness, a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to him who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all. Thus, by the subjection of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth. [The Council teaches that] throughout the course of the centuries, men have labored to better the circumstances of their lives through a monumental amount of individual and collective effort. To believers, this point is settled: considered in itself, this human activity accords with God's will.'" (Compendium, No. 456) (quoting VII, GS, 34)
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: ecology, human ecology, green, environmental, stewardship, charity, solidarity, social doctrine, Andrew greenwell, Esq.
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