Contemporary Issue: Human Environment
Pope Benedict XVI firmly and extensively continued and buildt on Saint John Paul the Great's introduction of Ecology and Environmentalism into Catholic Social Teaching. And like his predecessor, he anchors this with a call for an "ecology of the human person".
While specifics include urban planning and the “social ecology” of work, what Catholic Social Teaching identifies as the more serious destruction of our human environment really transcends these specifics and involves issues of the social structure in which we live. These structures can either help or hinder our living in accordance with the truth and it is here that CST begins to integrate issues of life.
Indeed, CST points out the
"serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves." (CA, 38)
What is Human Ecology?
CST calls for the development of an “ecology of the human person":
"[T]he 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…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." (CIV, 51)
Can One Separate Issues of Life and The Environment?
No. It must be noted that just as he does in Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict points out the inseparable link between protecting the environment and protecting life:
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. (2010 World Day of Peace Message)
Why is the Church So Concerned with These “Environmental Issues"?
As Pope Benedict said in August 2009, “The Church…above all is committed to protect man from the destruction of himself.” (General Audience, 26 August 2009)
How Do We Begin to Fix Our Human Environment?
In a brief but profound problem/solution statement on family policies/issues Blessed John Paul said we must overcome today’s widespread individualistic mentality through a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity, beginning in the family.
Related EncyclicalsCentesimus Annus
Related Thoughts on Human Environment
Charity is a theological virtue. It applies to all and involves engaging, directly, those around us who are in need. CST, which is a branch of Catholic Moral Theology, contains a set of principles to be used to form our conscience as we impact on the social structures around us. Taken from "Catholic Social Teaching, Social Justice, and Charity"
"We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need." (DCE,28) Taken from "Benedict's Thoughts on the Role of the State - from Deus Caritas Est"
"To destroy such structures and replace them with more authentic forms of living in community is a task which demands courage and patience." (CA,38) Taken from "Saint John Paul's thoughts on the Human Environment - from Centesimus Annus"
Related Speakers / Panelists / Authors on: Human Environment
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