Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 13, 2009
Charity in Truth stresses ecological mandate
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
VATICAN CIITY - The Church has a public responsibility to defend the earth, water and air "as gifts of creation that belong to everyone," Pope Benedict said in his new encyclical.
"She must above all defend mankind from self-destruction."
Pope Benedict, widely regarded as the pope who has advocated the most for environmental protection, bolstered that reputation with a lengthy reflection on environmental responsibility in Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth).
The pope, however, also made it clear that "it is contrary to authentic development to view nature as something more important than the human person."
That view, he said, leads to "attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism" incompatible with the Church's understanding of salvation.
Pope Benedict largely concerned himself with "the opposite position, which aims at total technical domination over nature."
"The natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure; it is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a 'grammar,' which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation."
The pope called on governments and the international community to counter "harmful ways of treating the environment."
International leaders, he said, are obliged "to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet."
The human community should develop nature's resources "through hard work and creativity.
"At the same time we must recognize our grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and continue to cultivate it."
Humanity needs to undertake "a serious review of its lifestyle, which, in many parts of the world, is prone to hedonism and consumerism regardless of their harmful consequences."
Technologically advanced nations must lower their domestic energy consumption and stop hoarding non-renewable energy resources, the pope said.
Such hoarding "represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries." Not only does hoarding prevent economic development, it "gives rise to exploitation and frequent conflicts between and within nations."
The solution is "a worldwide redistribution of energy resources so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them," he said.
Pope Benedict also linked environmental devastation with the unrestrained development of technologies of human reproduction.
"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."