The words of the Pope on "Earth Day"

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I don’t have much patience for “Earth Day” b/c it’s a made-up (holi?)day. I tried to avoid wearing green today and decided to take the day to announce that my wife & I are expecting to add to the environmentalists’ fear of overpopulation.

But environmentalism matters; we can’t be distracted by the sappy appeals to Mother Earth. Care for the environment is an important aspect of the faith as the Holy Father tells us:

51. The way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa. This invites contemporary society to a serious review of its life-style, which, in many parts of the world, is prone to hedonism and consumerism, regardless of their harmful consequences[122]. What is needed is an effective shift in mentality which can lead to the adoption of new life-styles “in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments”[123]. Every violation of solidarity and civic friendship harms the environment, just as environmental deterioration in turn upsets relations in society. Nature, especially in our time, is so integrated into the dynamics of society and culture that by now it hardly constitutes an independent variable. Desertification and the decline in productivity in some agricultural areas are also the result of impoverishment and underdevelopment among their inhabitants. When incentives are offered for their economic and cultural development, nature itself is protected. Moreover, how many natural resources are squandered by wars! Peace in and among peoples would also provide greater protection for nature. The hoarding of resources, especially water, can generate serious conflicts among the peoples involved. Peaceful agreement about the use of resources can protect nature and, at the same time, the well-being of the societies concerned.

The Church has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction. There is need for what might be called a human ecology, correctly understood. The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when “human ecology”[124] is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits. Just as human virtues are interrelated, such that the weakening of one places others at risk, so the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature.

In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society.

Not wasting resources has nothing to do with saving “Mother Earth” but rather everything to do with forming ourselves to not be dependent on material things and preserving things for others (both the poor of our generation and the future generations). In this, we are better formed to protect human dignity.

This shows just how detrimental it is for environmentalists to be pushing abortion & contraception to solve overpopulation; by teaching lack of respect for human dignity and selfishness, they are promoting the very behaviors that contribute to environmental damage.

So on “Earth Day” let us as Catholics reaffirm the Church’s holistic and inseparable teachings on human dignity and the environment.

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  1. Not wasting resources has nothing to do with saving “Mother Earth” but rather everything to do with forming ourselves to not be dependent on material things and preserving things for others

    Well, what you said after the but is actually in union with what you said before it; by working to preserve things for others is to preserve Mother Earth, so she can nourish us in the future.

  2. HK:

    I disagree. I think “saving Mother Earth” suggests that the Earth is some end in itself (which is how the pagans view “Mother Earth;” see Avatar) whereas the popes see protecting the environment as means to promoting virtue and glorifying God. That’s an important distinction, as I think the idea of virtue is sorely lacking in the environmental approach today, which is more of a corporate sales pitch then a true desire to sacrifice ones desires for the good of others.

  3. Michael Denton

    I am not surprised you disagree — but it is not because of a Christian sentiment, but through a post-Christian positivistic demythologized cultural criticism that you offer what you just said. Christendom knows Mother Earth. Positivism does not.

    Now, a few comments.

    The Church teaches about the salvation of the world, that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son for it. The world groaned for salvation. You would do well to stop promoting a Gnostic rejection of the world (it is a heresy) and to study Church teaching on the salvation of the earth.

    And this then goes to your “suggests that the Earth is some end in itself.” Well, what if it does? It is an end in itself in the same way as the salvation of the body means the body is an end in itself. In the same way. Which is again how your argument reads very Gnostic.

    Now, your claim about pagans — I will say, which pagans are you talking about? What exactly did the pagans say, what did they do? And what is it about what they did which is against Church teaching?

    It’s funny and sad to see how your response reads just like a Protestant speaking against the saints. They talk about how Catholics make the saints ends in themselves, and how they are just like the pagan gods and goddesses.

    Of course there are many problems with this argument. One: even if they are similar, so what? As C.S. Lewis pointed out, the pagan desires are manifested and fulfilled in Christianity, and so we should expect the similarities. Second, learn the difference between relative and absolute, because this will deal well with your “ends” argument and is related to worship of the saints, where there is absolute and relative worship, absolute to God, relative to the saints. Just as wit this worship, “There is here no confusion or danger of idolatry, for this worship is subordinate or dependent,” so there is no idolatry of the earth when we recognize Mother Earth’s good and salvation, its good, as all goods (including our own salvation) is subordinate and dependent upon the Good.

  4. Michael- I just gave my class a Catholic Earth Day lecture- in essence I compared the 7 themes of Catholic social teaching to receiving 7 gifts at Christmas from your parents- the first gift is the biggest/most expensive and personally desired and you lavish thanks on your parents and you treat that gift so well and tenderly- this is like the first theme of pro-life respecting the life and dignity of all human persons. Now by the time you get to the 7th gift and you open it and it isn’t something nearly as exciting as the first and you decide to not even thank your parents, you may even just leave it without a thought- it isn’t all that expensive you think- so who cares? Now this gift to me is like the Care for God’s Creation- the birds, the trees, the waterways, the air- all of it is not even close to being as precious to me as the gift of any one of my children- but still.. this gift matters- it cost something- it comes from Someone who loves us- it is part of what is intended for us- how can I not show gratitude for the littlest of gifts- and I drew out another comparison-

    I told my class that you could offer me a trillion trillion dollars and I wouldn’t take it if the cost was giving one of my children away for some stranger to just take off with- in fact I wouldn’t take the money even if all someone wanted to do was punch one of my kids in the face. That’s love- God’s love flowing through me- but my kids also go outside they breathe the air, they play in the ocean, they eat food from the soil and eat animals from slaughter houses- do you think that I am so dense that I don’t have a lot of thoughts about what they are taking in via the Environment? You better believe I do- I don’t blow off environmental concerns- I don’t necessarily buy into every article of environmentalist alarmism, but I am very interested, I don’t blow these things off with flippant remarks- I am a pro-life, pro-environment Catholic- I cannot see how one cannot be even if the larger movements for such issues do not always pass the smell test for me- I am not swayed from involvement because of that.

  5. I don’t think the Pope’s quote quite takes the same direction as the USCCB’s seven pillars approach. I think he sees them as interrelated as are the virtues. If one is lacking others are weakend. Though, as there is a hierarchy in the virtues, perhaps we can say there is one in CST. The environment is to be care for but it seems the Pope places an emphasis (appropriately from my perspective) that if repect for the fundamental right to life (being born, not being euthanized) and freedom from a contraceptive mentality are not established, then a true environmentalism will never occur.

  6. I am not surprised you disagree — but it is not because of a Christian sentiment, but through a post-Christian positivistic demythologized cultural criticism that you offer what you just said. Christendom knows Mother Earth. Positivism does not.

    “post-Christian positivistic demythologized cultural criticism.”

    Yep. You’re a professor to have written that.

    Seriously, this comment is nothing but a bunch of labels thrown at me. I am, let’s see…post-Christian, a positivist, Gnostic, and Protestant. I would respond to each of those accusations, and may do so if I have time, but for now I’ll simply let that you think I am guilty of all of the above at the same time stand as enough of a rebuttal.

  7. Susan,

    Good link.

    You wrote,

    ” The intellectual elites have become more and more pro-abortion, even while the mainstream public has become more pro-life. ”

    Don’t you see? The elites know better than we do, with our “angry populism” and irrationalism. They can string together long phrases comprised of esoteric terms to belittle us with. We ought to recognize that they know more than we do and defer to their benevolent wisdom in the ordering social affairs.

    They only care about our saaaafety and the common goooood. And we’re just so gosh darn mean to them!

  8. Perhaps my take on it is that the key thread that holds together the entire “Seamless Garment” is the right for the innocent not to be directly killed (abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia.)

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