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Catholics have always been Green: Benedict XVI, the Environment and a Human Ecology

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By Deacon Keith Fournier
6/17/2010 (8 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

We need to articulate a new way of being green, a Catholic way

The Catholic Church has been green for a lot longer than any modern environmental movement. We hope to present a Catholic vision for a relational environmentalism; one of stewardship with the earth which God has made and entrusted to us to care for and share. Some in the current "green" movement have clearly lost their way. Think about 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.

The Catholic Church has been green for a lot longer than any modern environmental movement. It comes with being human.

The Catholic Church has been green for a lot longer than any modern environmental movement. It comes with being human.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
6/17/2010 (8 years ago)

Published in Green


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - We are unveiling the newly designed Catholic Online. It includes Micro-Sites covering areas of human life, culture and interest. They flow from our conviction that the Catholic faith is intended to inform every aspect of culture and transform the way we live in the real world which God Made as a gift. Our faith is to be lived as an integrated whole. The "separation between faith and life" has been called "one of the greatest errors of our age." That expression is found in the "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" (Gaudium et Spes): "This council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come, think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation.

"Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age." (#43) The phrase was a favorite of both the Venerable John Paul II and is used frequently by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to his assuming the Chair of Peter, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger released a Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life wherein the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith proclaimed: "It is a question of the lay Catholic's duty to be morally coherent, found within one's conscience, which is one and indivisible. There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual life', with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture. The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity. "In fact, every area of the lay faithful's lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the 'places in time' where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others. Every activity, every situation, every precise responsibility - as, for example, skill and solidarity in work, love and dedication in the family and the education of children, service to society and public life and the promotion of truth in the area of culture - are the occasions ordained by providence for a 'continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity' Living and acting in conformity with one's own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of confessionalism, but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person." This vision informs our reporting on political and policy issues. We are a for profit company in order to be free from the restraints too often imposed on Catholics and other Christians in a "politically correct" climate which seeks to squeeze our voice out of the public debate.  However, this call to live our faith in every area of our life is true in other areas, such as a proper understanding of environmentalism. On January 1, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI released a letter entitled "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, protect creation". Some reports intimated that the Pope had somehow "joined" the environmental movement. In fact, he was simply teaching what the Church has always taught; a proper stewardship of the environment is grounded in our obligations to - and solidarity with - one another. We have been given to one another as gifts. Creation has been given to us as a human community, with responsibilities which we must now share. I sent the following excerpt from the letter to a few friends: "There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us. On the other hand, a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person. 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." In this letter the Pope repeated many of the themes which he developed  in his Encyclical Letter entitled "Charity in Truth".  Those themes are a part of Catholic Social teaching, a division of Moral Theology. They are found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and have their roots in the Bible. They are not new at all. The Pope called for "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 for what the Church calls a "human ecology": "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," 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 neighbour 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." Pope Benedict offers a Catholic Environmental vision which is pro-life, pro-family, pro-poor and pro-peace. We are to receive one another as gifts. We must never use human persons as objects. We should receive creation as a gift, to be shared with one another, and not as an object of use. He concluded the 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" We gladly use the term "Green". The Catholic Church has been green for a lot longer than any modern environmental movement. It comes with being human. We hope to present a Catholic vision for a relational environmentalism; one of stewardship with the earth which God has made and entrusted to us to care for and share. Some in the current "green" movement have clearly lost their way. It is obvious. Think about 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 because they do not want them. We need to articulate a new way of being "green", a Catholic way. One of the better reports on the Pope's 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." We need to form our Catholic minds in truth. The greatest antidote to what Pope Benedict XVI rightly called the "Dictatorship of Relativism" is the assertion that Truth exists and can be known. We need to embrace a lifestyle which implements a Catholic way of understanding our place with one another - and in the world which God created for all of us - which reflects that truth. What did the Pope say About the Environment? He called for a Human Ecology. It is time we learn what that means and properly respond.

Welcome to Catholic Online "Green". It is only in its infancy. We will be reporting on daily news related to environmental concerns. However, we will also seek to apply our mission in this vital area of our human life together. Our mission is to "Inform, Inspire and Ignite."

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That young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.


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