Our Human Environment — is Also Endangered
Pope St. John Paul II, after reflecting on how “The seriousness of the ecological issue lays bare the depth of man’s moral crisis” (World Day of Peace, 13) points out to “the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves.” (Centesimus Annus, 38)
WHAT IS THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT?
The human environment involves “the moral structure with which [man] has been endowed.” (Pope Francis, 115)
And, these moral structures are a “profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.” (Pope Francis, 155)
“Creation is made to connect us with God and to each other; it is God’s social network.”
AN ISSUE OF STRUCTURES
“Decisions which create a human environment can give rise to specific structures of sin which impede the full realization of those who are in any way oppressed by them”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38)
“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.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)
Human ecology, therefore, “is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and unifying principle of social ethics.” (Pope Francis, 156)
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
“If an appreciation of the value of the human person and of human life is lacking, we will also lose interest in others and in the earth itself.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 13)
“The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations.” (Pope Francis, 66)
“Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)
THE BOTTOM LINE
“Pope Benedict spoke of ‘ecology of man‘ based on the fact that ‘man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.'” (Pope Francis, 155)
“When man turns his back on the Creator’s plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 5)
“Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
Mankind “must…respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 38)
Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human Dignity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.
This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image.
Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.
Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)