Our Physical Environment
The Environmental Crisis is Human
Laudato Si: Seminal Instruction
Our Human Environment
Our Human Dignity is at Stake
The solution to the environmental crisis is…
“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”
We cannot care for the environment if we do not take care of people!
- “Man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 38)
- “The neglect of creation and social injustices influence each other“. (Pope Francis)
- “Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others.” (The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, 21)
- “The analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from… how individuals relate to themselves.” (Pope Francis, 141)
- The Church reminds us that “[t]he 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.” (The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, 21)
- “we lose our roots…we lose our gratitude for what there is and for who gave it to us. So as not to forget, we must return to contemplation; for the heart not to become sick, we must be still. It is not easy. It is necessary”.
“To contemplate is to gift oneself with time to be silent, to pray, to restore harmony, the healthy balance between head, heart and hands, between thought, feeling and action, to the soul.”
- “is the fruit of contemplation“.
“Compassion is not just a nice sentiment, it is not pietism; it is creating new bonds with others. And taking responsibility for them.”
- “[T]hose who have compassion enter into a daily struggle against rejection and waste, discarding others and discarding things”.
A Much Bigger Issue!
“Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results.” (Pope Francis, 160)
“The more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 36)
“The decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society.” (The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, 21)
“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.” (The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, 21)
The Unity of the Human & Physical Environment
A: “There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology.”
- “At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 37)
- “The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations…It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)
- “We are called not only to respect the natural environment, but also to show respect for, and solidarity with, all the members of our human family“. (Pope Francis)
B: “There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself.”
- “The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connect to the culture.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)
- The health of a society’s institutions has consequences for the environment and the quality of human life.” (Pope Francis, 142)
- “When ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)
Yes, It is Difficult…
Why? “Taking up this challenge seriously has much to do with an ethical and cultural decline which has accompanied the deterioration of the environment.” (Pope Francis, 162)
We fail to remember that “together with the patrimony of nature, there is also an historic, artistic and cultural patrimony which is likewise under threat”. (Pope Francis, 143)
“Men and women of our postmodern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today’s self-centred culture of instant gratification.” (Pope Francis, 162)
“Acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation”. (Pope Francis, 155)
…But, Worth It!
“The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.” (Pope Francis, 160)
“We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity” and, “leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations”. (Pope Francis, 160)
“If these issues are courageously faced, we are led inexorably to ask other pointed questions: What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?” (Pope Francis, 160)
The call for an “ecology of the human person” 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 Catholic social teaching begins to integrate issues of life.
“I readily encourage efforts to promote a greater sense of ecological responsibility which…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.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 12)
The Church’s call for the care for “our common home” goes back to Pope St. Paul VI’s foreboding declaration:
“Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation. Not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace – pollution and refuse, new illness and absolute destructive capacity – but the human framework is no longer under man’s control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family.“ (Octogesima Adveniens, 21)
The Four Pathologies
The Church identifies four dangers or major ‘risks and problems’ eating away at the cultural, economic, and political systems and begins to identify how to cure them.
Both our physical and human environment are at risk and the Church insists we ignore neither! “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." (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)
We are losing the “authentic meaning of life”! When we refuse to transcend ourselves “and to live the experience of self-giving". when society “is marked by a ‘globalization of indifference’ that makes us…closed in on ourselves.” (Pope Francis, 1) both the individual and society are alienated.
“The exclusive pursuit of material possessions prevents man's growth as a human being and stands in opposition to his true grandeur.” A person who is concerned solely or primarily with possessing and enjoying – who can no longer subordinate his instincts - cannot be free.
“The greatest challenge of our time is secularization” Why? Radical secularism holds that there is no such thing as an objective truth. But, “Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 5)
Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice, Inc (CAPP-USA) is the United States affiliate of Fondazione Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice at the Vatican.