Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

4/16/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Global warming or climate change is one of those areas where the exercise of prudential judgment can find good Catholics and other Christians differing with one another. When we do, we should do so with charity.

Catholics should live a way of life which understands our place with one another in the world which God created for all of us to care for, steward and share. We need a human ecology, a relational environmentalism, a Catholic way of being green. The most recent debate concerning global warming invites us to continue to develop such an approach, together. It also calls for the charity in truth and respect which should characterize healthy debate between Catholics and other Christians. 


Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/16/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Green, global warming, climate change, environmentalism, human ecology, ecology, Benedict XVI, stewardship, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - We recently published a series of articles which offered a point/counterpoint on the controversial topic of climate change or global warming. I did not write any of them. As the Editor in Chief of Catholic Online, I allowed a robust debate to ensue in our comment section.

However, what is called global warming or climate change is one of those areas where the exercise of prudential judgment can find good Catholics and other Christians differing with one another. When we do, we should do so with charity.

The responses have now prompted me to address the subject of Catholics and environmental concerns in general. This is not the first time I have written on the issue. The Catholic Church has been green for a lot longer than any modern environmental movement.

We are called to what I call a relational environmentalism; one of stewardship with the earth which God has made and entrusted to us to care for and to share. For those eager to understand Catholic teaching on this vital topic, we should always begin with scripture and tradition.

We have a well of teaching in the Church on our relationship to the gift of God's creation. The concern I have about some of the arguments concerning global warming is that they promote one more charged right vs. left political food fight. Sadly, they too often use sometimes conflicting scientific data as fodder for the fight. We are not first political conservatives or liberals, we are first, last and all in between, Catholic.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a structure for the study of our obligation to be good stewards of the gift of creation under the theme of Creation in its Index. Every Catholic who writes on this subject should be familiar with these sections, along with other Church documents. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently released a helpful document entitled Building a New Culture - Central Themes in Recent Church Teaching on the Environment.

The St Kateri Teckawitha Conservation Center is an excellent virtual clearing house of solid magisterial teaching concerning our obligations as stewards of the gift of creation.  The body of Catholic social teaching concerning this topic is catalogued in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church

In addition to affirming our obligations as stewards of the gift of creation, the Compendium also issues cautions about a misguided approach. For example in paragraph # 463 we read, 'A correct understanding of the environment prevents the utilitarian reduction of nature to a mere object to be manipulated and exploited.'

'At the same time, it must not absolutize nature and place it above the dignity of the human person himself. In this latter case, one can go so far as to divinize nature or the earth, as can readily be seen in certain ecological movements that seek to gain an internationally guaranteed institutional status for their beliefs.'

'The Magisterium finds the motivation for its opposition to a concept of the environment based on ecocentrism and on biocentrism in the fact that "it is being proposed that the ontological and axiological difference between men and other living beings be eliminated, since the biosphere is considered a biotic unity of undifferentiated value. Thus man's superior responsibility can be eliminated in favor of an egalitarian consideration of the 'dignity' of all living beings'.

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 while at the same time supporting making toxic chemicals available to be ingested by mothers, including girls, in order to kill the children in their womb. We need a new way of being green, a Catholic way.

On June 9, 2011, then 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" that year and 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 Emeritus 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 his words. They comported with what he had written and said since he assuming his 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 he 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 2009 letter in his 2011 address. However, the Press explicitly reported the address as some kind of papal conversion to a green ideology. A Reuters report bore the headline Pope Goes Green. Benedict 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:

'Without belief in the true God our efforts are in ultimately fruitless, in fact not only fruitless, but they bear poisonous fruit if the Church's magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism, it is because such notions eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things.'

'In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the dignity of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings. They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man's salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms.'

The media reports tried to fit the Pope's letter into a simplistic green template. They also demonstrated the reporters had not read the actual letter. In that letter, and in his address to those ambassadors, the Pope repeated themes developed in his Encyclical Letter entitled Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). Those themes are a part of Catholic Social teaching. They are found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and have their roots in the Bible and the Christian Tradition.

His Holiness Benedict XVI called for an integral human development which recognizes the centrality of the human person and the primacy of our relationships with one another in family and society. He underscored the truth that creation is a gift, given to human persons by a God of love who entrusts us with responsibility for one another - and therefore for the goods which promote our human flourishing. We all have a responsibility for one another. We need to live together as good stewards of creation, recognizing the need first for a human ecology.

Here is another excerpt from the 2009 letter: 'The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction. The degradation of nature is closely linked to the cultural models shaping human coexistence: consequently, when 'human ecology' is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits'.

'Young people cannot be asked to respect the environment if they are not helped, within families and society as a whole, to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics. Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others.'

'Hence I readily encourage efforts to promote a greater sense of ecological responsibility which, as I indicated in my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate,(Charity in Truth) would safeguard an authentic human ecology and thus forcefully reaffirm the inviolability of human life at every stage and in every condition, the dignity of the person and the unique mission of the family, where one is trained in love of neighbor and respect for nature. There is a need to safeguard the human patrimony of society. This patrimony of values originates in and is part of the natural moral law, which is the foundation of respect for the human person and creation.'

Benedict XVI presented a Catholic Environmental vision; one which is pro-life, pro-family, pro-poor, pro-peace and fundamentally relational. That is what we should present, build upon and espouse as well. We are to receive one another as gifts. We must never use human persons as objects. We should receive creation as a gift, our common home, to be shared with one another, and not as an object of use. He articulated a vision for a human ecology which can promote a path to authentic peace.

He concluded his 2009 letter with these words, 'The Church, for her part, is concerned that the question be approached in a balanced way, with respect for the "grammar" which the Creator has inscribed in his handiwork by giving man the role of a steward and administrator with responsibility over creation, a role which man must certainly not abuse, but also one which he may not abdicate. In the same way, the opposite position, which would absolutize technology and human power, results in a grave assault not only on nature, but also on human dignity itself.

'If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation. The quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation. In the light of divine Revelation and in fidelity to the Church's Tradition, Christians have their own contribution to make.'

'They contemplate the cosmos and its marvels in light of the creative work of the Father and the redemptive work of Christ, who by his death and resurrection has reconciled with God "all things, whether on earth or in heaven" (Col 1:20). Christ, crucified and risen, has bestowed his Spirit of holiness upon mankind, to guide the course of history in anticipation of that day when, with the glorious return of the Savior, there will be "new heavens and a new earth" (2 Pet 3:13), in which justice and peace will dwell forever'.

'Protecting the natural environment in order to build a world of peace is thus a duty incumbent upon each and all. It is an urgent challenge, one to be faced with renewed and concerted commitment; it is also a providential opportunity to hand down to coming generations the prospect of a better future for all.'

'May this be clear to world leaders and to those at every level who are concerned for the future of humanity: the protection of creation and peacemaking are profoundly linked! For this reason, I invite all believers to raise a fervent prayer to God, the all-powerful Creator and the Father of mercies, so that all men and women may take to heart the urgent appeal: If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation'

One of the accurate reports on the Pope's 2009 letter came from Giuliano Ferrara, the director of the Italian daily Il Foglio who wrote 'The Pope denounces the ecological crisis but does not belong to the church of Al Gore. Benedict XVI in no way denies human abuse of nature. He notes that he does not share the 'the environmentalist religion or environmentalism as a religion'. The Pope has another faith, based on the transcendence of a God that creates man in his image and likeness to entrust nature to him. He has, evidently, no need for replacement beliefs, of ideologies feigned as science.'

Catholics should live a way of life which understands our place with one another in the world which God created for all of us to care for, steward and share. We need a human ecology, a relational environmentalism, a Catholic way of being green. The most recent debate concerning global warming invites us to continue to develop such an approach, together. It also calls for the charity in truth and respect which should characterize healthy debate between Catholics and other Christians. 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More Green

Antarctic sea ice reaches record levels and why that's bad Watch

Image of Antarctic sea ice continues to expand by about 1.5 percent coverage every year. This trend has continued since 1979 and it thought to be driven by global warming.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Research ships and other vessels traveling through Antarctic waters will have to be very careful this year because Antarctic ice has expanded rapidly, increasing the hazard to ships. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An incredible quantity of sea ice has formed ... continue reading


Terrifying new discovery: Spinosaurus dinosaur was the largest predator ever to walk the Earth Watch

Image of The monster's most distinctive feature was a row of spines that created an enormous sail down the middle of its back. Scientists think it was used for display purposes rather than to trap heat or store fat.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Described as a cross between a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a crocodile and a whale, the Spinosaurus was the largest predator ever to walk the Earth . or swim in its rivers. A recent discovery, the fierce beast is the first dinosaur known to have been adapted to an ... continue reading


VIDEO: Amazing video catches volcanic eruption along with sonic boom Watch

Image of Mount Tavurvur is known as a rather active volcano, one that caused many deaths and covered a nearby town in ash in 1994.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Mount Tavurvur, a volcano in Papua New Guinea, erupted late last month on August 29, throwing ash high into the air and causing a shock wave and resultant sonic boom. Phil McNamara caught the rare sight while boating near the New Guinea coast. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Sun spits STORM OF FIRE at Earth, will the northern lights be visible? Watch

Image of The Sun has an 11-year cycle of activity and is presently at its maximum for the current cycle.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A powerful solar storm approaching Earth should not be a direct hit, removing much cause for alarm. On Wednesday, the Sun spewed an X1.6 class solar flare aimed right at Earth, but the bulk of the resulting coronal mass ejection appears on track to miss Earth, passing ... continue reading


Deforestation of the Amazon continues at an alarming rate despite Brazil's best policies Watch

Image of Illegal logging has become an incredibly large part of the deforestation problem.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Brazilian government has released figures which reveal that destruction of the world's largest rainforest accelerated last year by 29%, totally reversing gains made since 2009. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The figures were compiled from satellite data ... continue reading


Is it getting hot in here? Greenhouse gas levels hit historic highs Watch

Image of A new study has revealed that the level of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere have hit record highs, and suggest that the Earth is losing its ability to disperse the heat retaining gases.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Atmospheric temperatures have climbed much faster than scientists have expected and the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high last years according to new research published by the U.N.'s agency on meteorology. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Where are the wildfires? Global warming theory says California should be in flames... Watch

Image of California ought to be in flames, but without late-summer thunderstorms to spark fires, the state simply remains dry.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Washington Times recently reported that a mild fire season in the Western US is disrupting the global warming narrative --a sort of inconvenient truth for climate change proponents. The article is certainly correct, the fire season is well below average, so far, ... continue reading


After decades of conservation, California's blue whale population may be back for good Watch

Image of A new study has shown that California's population of blue whales has recovered near pre-whaling levels.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new study released by the University of Washington has revealed that California blue whales have made a remarkable comeback thanks to conservation efforts, and now are nearing 19th-century levels. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This remarkable recovery makes ... continue reading


Humans damaging wild forests at 'alarming rate' Watch

Image of Intact forest landscapes are defined as areas that retain native biodiversity and contain no signs of fragmentation by logging and infrastructure such as roads, mining and oil or gas development.

By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The world's undisturbed forests are being degraded at an "alarming speed", researchers said on Thursday, as they released new analysis showing an area three times the size of Germany was affected by logging and infrastructure development in the last 13 years. ... continue reading


LARGEST DINO, EVER! 'Dreadnought' dinosaur declared largest mammal ever Watch

Image of One of the so-called titanosaurs, the immense, long-necked, plant-eating thunder lizards were the most massive beasts ever to plod the Earth's land surface.

By Catholic Online - (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

New fossils uncovered in Argentina represent the most complete giant sauropod dinosaur ever discovered. Scientists say they have 70 percent of the key bones needed to fully describe the fearsome prehistoric beast. Given the scientific name of Dreadnoughtus ... continue reading


All Green News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31
12 For as with the human body which is a unity ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:1-2, 3, 4, 5
1 [Psalm For thanksgiving] Acclaim Yahweh, all the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 7:11-17
11 It happened that soon afterwards he went to a town ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 16th, 2014 Image

St. Cornelius
September 16: Cornelius whose feast day is September 16th. A Roman priest, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter