75 – Laudato si’ (II): what Francis forgot…

Advertizing, news, social networks…we are bombarded on all sides by information…But the information we receive is often contradictory. Who should we listen to? What path should we follow? Where is the real truth to be found?

An Encyclical is launched, and as Catholics we avidly read it in search of directives to give meaning to our lives, indicating the steps we should take so as to live our holy Religion with authenticity in the midst of a society devastated by sin. We hoped for clear words to strengthen us in the faith of the Church, which has suffered such defamation in our days. But… instead, we find warnings about the care of nature! So ecologists feel encouraged, the soothsayers of climatic change are buoyant, those of other religions are respected, and we Catholics – forgotten, abandoned and, why not admit it…a little perplexed. Isn’t Jesus Christ the center of our faith? Why does this document refer to Him and His Church in such a vague and secondary manner? Is care for creation really the most important aspect in the life of a Christian, above all in these times? Will we conquest Heaven simply by loving and caring for irrational creatures?

Faced with these concerns, it seems necessary to fix our attention on the Light that never stops shining, on the wellspring of Truth, on the infallible voice of the Popes and the Magisterium of the Church, so as to consider what they have to tell us – so much! — about the topics dealt with in this Encyclical.

What should the attitude of the faithful be with regards to the whole of creation?

Francis

Quote AQuote BQuote CQuote DQuote E

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter in the various parts of our study

ContentsAuthors
I – Man is an image of God and all was created for him
II – Creatures reflect God in various manners, according to the hierarchy He established. The attempt to abase all levels of goodness among creatures leads to pantheism
III – The Holy Catholic Church is the only true Church: It may not be equaled to other religious professions
IV – Christ is the center and the exemplary cause of all creation


I – Man is an image of God and all was created for him


Among all of the marvels of creation, one in particular stands out due to its great superiority: the human being. ‘Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet’ (Ps 8:5-6). Created in the image and likeness of God, we may not forget that man has a spiritual and eternal soul, and is the only creature of all visible beings that is capable of knowing his Creator. These characteristics place the human being above other creatures, for he alone, by the express divine will, is king of a creation that he is called to dominate. If we wish to be in accord with God, the Almighty Creator, we must love and analyze nature according to His divine plan, giving to each creature the attention, importance and position that God wished to give it. That is why we shall now bring to mind who man is, and the implication of his supremacy over the earth.


Francis

Nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. (Encyclical Laudato Si’, no. 67, May 24, 2015)


TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM

Sacred Scripture

The very first pages of Sacred Scripture emphasize that man has dominion over other creatures

Then God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.’ God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.’ God also said: ‘See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.’ And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed – the sixth day. (Gen 1:26-31)

Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands

Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. (Ps 8:5-6)

He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world

As he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. (Eph 1:4)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Man, created in that very image and likeness of God, was set over all irrational creatures

We behold the face of the earth furnished with terrestrial creatures, and man, created after Your image and likeness, in that very image and likeness of You (that is, the power of reason and understanding) on account of which he was set over all irrational creatures. (Saint Augustine. Confessions XIII, Ch. 32, no. 47)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Divine Providence always governs inferior things by the superior. Made in God’s image, man is above all animals - these are rightly subject to him

Now all animals are naturally subject to man. […] for just as in the generation of things we perceive a certain order of procession of the perfect from the imperfect (thus matter is for the sake of form; and the imperfect form, for the sake of the perfect), so also is there order in the use of natural things; thus the imperfect are for the use of the perfect; as the plants make use of the earth for their nourishment, and animals make use of plants, and man makes use of both plants and animals. Therefore it is in keeping with the order of nature, that man should be master over animals. […] this is proved by the order of Divine Providence which always governs inferior things by the superior. Wherefore, as man, being made to the image of God, is above other animals, these are rightly subject to his government. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, q. 96, a. 1)

The subjection of other animals to man is in keeping with the order of nature itself

As the plants make use of the earth for their nourishment, and animals make use of plants, and man makes use of both plants and animals. Therefore it is in keeping with the order of nature, that man should be master over animals. […] For we see in the latter a certain participated prudence of natural instinct, in regard to certain particular acts; whereas man possesses a universal prudence as regards all practical matters. Now whatever is participated is subject to what is essential and universal. Therefore the subjection of other animals to man is proved to be natural. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I, q. 96, a. 1)

John Paul II

Man, God’s image, is the center of creation – he must dominate the earth and communicate to it his own dignity with the perspicacity of his intelligence

On my part, during these four years of pontificate, I have not ceased to proclaim, in my Encyclicals and Catechism, the centrality of man, his primacy over things and the importance of the subjective dimension of work, founded upon the dignity of the human person. In effect, man is, as a person, the center of creation; for he alone has been created in the image and likeness of God. Called to ‘dominate the earth’ (Gen 1:28) with the perspicacity of his intelligence and with the activity of his hands, he is converted into an artisan of the work – manual as well as intellectual – communicating to his labor the dignity that he himself has. (John Paul II. Address to the representatives of the world labour in Barcelona, November 7, 1982)

God put all at the disposition of man, to make of creatures a hymn of praise to God

Faith tells us that we may responsibly take the reins of history to be artisans of our own destiny. The Lord of history makes man and the peoples protagonists, authors of their own future, responding to the calling of God. He put all at the disposition of man, king of creation, to make of creatures a hymn of praise to God; and the glory of God is the living man, who has his life in the vision of God (cf. S. Ireneo, Contra haereses, IV, 20,7: PG 7, 105). (John Paul II. Address to Bishops of the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America (SEDAC) in San José, Costa Rica, March 2, 1983)

Man can dominate the earth because he alone - and no other - is capable of ‘tilling it’ and transforming it according to his own needs

At the beginning of the Yahwist text, even before it speaks of the creation of man from the ‘dust of the ground,’ we read that ‘there was no one to till the land or to make channels of water spring out of the earth to irrigate the whole land’ (Gen 2:5-6). We rightly associate this passage with the one in the first narrative, in which God’s command is expressed: ‘Fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…’ (Gen 1:28). The second narrative alludes specifically to the work that man carries out to till the earth. The first fundamental means to dominate the earth lies in man himself. Man can dominate the earth because he alone – and no other of the living beings – is capable of ‘tilling it’ and transforming it according to his own needs. (John Paul II. General Audience, October 24, 1979)

Within the order of creation, inferior creatures are submitted to man

The Book of Genesis says that the Creator has given the entire earth – in a certain sense all of the visible world – to man, putting it under his dominion. As image and likeness of God man domesticates the earth, making it his own, humanizing it in a responsible way. At the same time, he has given this world to man as a task for his work. The inferior creatures have been submitted to man, and at the same time have been given the recourses contained in the created world, beginning by the visible riches that are found, we could say, on the surface, as well as those profoundly hidden within the structure of matter that human talent gradually discovers. (John Paul II. Eucharistic celebration for workers in the city of Guayana, January 29, 1985)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

All things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown

According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown. (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, no. 12, December 7, 1965)

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Created realities exist for man’s use

In the Creator’s plan, created realities, which are good in themselves, exist for man’s use. The wonder of the mystery of man’s grandeur makes the psalmist exclaim: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than god, and crown him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet’ (Ps 8:5-7). (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 255)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Man was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him

God created everything for man (cf. GS 12#1; 24#3; 39#1), but man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 358)

Saint John Chrysostom

Man is more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures

What is it that is about to be created, that enjoys such honour? It is man that great and wonderful living creature, more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures! For him the heavens and the earth, the sea and all the rest of creation exist. God attached so much importance to his salvation that he did not spare his own Son for the sake of man. Nor does he ever cease to work, trying every possible means, until he has raised man up to himself and made him sit at his right hand. (Saint John Chrysostom. In Genesi., Sermo 2, 1: PG 54, 587D-588A. cited by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 358)

Benedict XVI

The fundamental difference between the human being and other animals in the fact that man is capable of recognizing God, his Creator

It is worth thinking a bit about these words of Origen, who sees the fundamental difference between the human being and the other animals in the fact that man is capable of recognizing God, his Creator, that man is capable of truth, capable of a knowledge that becomes a relationship, friendship. It is important in our time that we do not forget God, together with all the other kinds of knowledge we have acquired in the meantime, and they are very numerous! They all become problematic, at times dangerous, if the fundamental knowledge that gives meaning and orientation to all things is missing: knowledge of God the Creator. (Benedict XVI. General Audience, no. 4, January 11, 2006)

Pius XI

Man has a value far surpassing that of the vast inanimate cosmos

Man has a spiritual and immortal soul. He is a person, marvelously endowed by his Creator with gifts of body and mind. He is a true ‘microcosm,’ as the ancients said, a world in miniature, with a value far surpassing that of the vast inanimate cosmos. God alone is his last end, in this life and the next. By sanctifying grace he is raised to the dignity of a son of God, and incorporated into the Kingdom of God in the Mystical Body of Christ. In consequence he has been endowed by God with many and varied prerogatives: the right to life, to bodily integrity, to the necessary means of existence; the right to tend toward his ultimate goal in the path marked out for him by God; the right of association and the right to possess and use property. (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, no. 27, March 19, 1937)

Saint John of the Cross

What is a human thought worth?

One thought alone of man is worth more than the entire world, hence God alone is worthy of it. (Saint John of the Cross. Sayings of light and love, no. 32)

John Paul II

Man: the only being on earth that God willed for his own sake, has a dignity stemming from his spiritual nature

The concept of nature acquires a particular meaning when applied to man, the summit of creation. The only being on earth that God willed for his own sake has a dignity stemming from his spiritual nature which bears the mark of the Creator, for he was created in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26) and endowed with the highest faculties a creature can possess: reason and will. These make him capable of free self-determination and enable him to communicate with God, to answer his call and to fulfill himself in accordance with his own nature. In fact, because he has a spiritual nature, man can receive supernatural realities and attain the eternal happiness freely offered by God. This communication is made possible because God and man are both spiritual beings. (John Paul II. Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, no. 5, October 27, 1998)

Christianity is anthropocentric precisely because it is fully theocentric

In fact Christianity is anthropocentric precisely because it is fully theocentric; and simultaneously it is theocentric, thanks to its extraordinary anthropocentrism. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 2, November 29, 1978)

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)

Man’s end is not lesser creatures, but rather supernatural – a participation in divine goods

God in His infinite goodness has ordained man for a supernatural end, to participation, namely, in the divine goods which altogether surpass the understanding of the human mind. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3005. Vatican Council I. Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, Session III, April 24, 1870)

John Paul II

The splendor of truth shines forth in a special way in man

The splendour of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: ‘Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord’ (Ps 4:6). (John Paul II. Encyclical Veritatis splendor, August 6, 1993)

Man cannot accept that his spiritual being be submitted to that which is inferior within the hierarchy of creatures

With how much love do the eyes of the Master and Redeemer gaze upon the beauty of the created world! The visible world has been created for man. Christ then said to those listening: ‘Look at the birds of the air: Are you not of more value than they?’ ( Mt 6:26) […] But precisely because of this, man cannot accept that his spiritual being be submitted to that which is inferior within the hierarchy of creatures. He may not take as the last goal of his existence that which is offered to him by the earth and the temporality of what is created. He cannot lower himself to serve things, as though they were the only end and last destiny of his life. (John Paul II. Eucharistic celebration for the workers and entrepreneurs in Monterrey, Mexico, May 10, 1990)


II – Creatures reflect God in various manners, according to the hierarchy He established. The attempt to abase all levels of goodness among creatures leads to pantheism


 Man was created in the image and likeness of God; and other creatures, each in its own way, are reflections of God. In accordance with the ontological constitution of beings, Saint Bonaventure classifies them as shadow, vestiges or images of God. Among the multitude of unequal beings, a true order and harmony established by God himself prevails. Benedict XVI alerted against an attitude that tends to consider inferior beings as equal to superior beings, calling it a ‘new pantheism’.


Francis

Christ has taken unto himself this material world and now, risen, is intimately present to each being, surrounding it with his affection and penetrating it with his light. (Encyclical Laudato Si’, no. 221)


TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The diversity and inequality in created things are from the intention of God Himself

The highest degree of perfection should not be lacking in a work made by the supremely good workman. But the good of order among diverse things is better than any of the members of an order, taken by itself. For the good of order is formal in respect to each member of it, as the perfection of the whole in relation to the parts. It was not fitting, therefore, that God’s work should lack the good of order. And yet, without the diversity and inequality of created things, this good could not exist. To sum up: The diversity and inequality in created things are not the result of chance, nor of a diversity of matter, nor of the intervention of certain causes or merits, but of the intention of God Himself, who wills to give the creature such perfection as it is possible for it to have. Accordingly, in the Book of Genesis (Gen 1:31) it is said: ‘God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good,’ each one of them having been previously said to be good. For each thing in its nature is good, but all things together are very good, by reason of the order of the universe, which is the ultimate and noblest perfection in things. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa contra Gentiles, Book II, Ch. 45)

The perfection of the universe is in the distinction of things

Therefore, as the divine wisdom is the cause of the distinction of things for the sake of the perfection of the universe, so it is the cause of inequality. For the universe would not be perfect if only one grade of goodness were found in things. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, q. 47, a. 2)

Saint Bonaventure

The diversity of creatures: a stairway to ascend into God

For since according to the state of our condition that university of things is the stairway to ascend into God; and among things there are a certain vestige, a certain image (imago), certain corporal things, certain spiritual things, certain temporal things, certain aeviternal things, and for this reason (per hoc) certain ones outside of us, certain ones inside us: for this purpose (ad hoc), that we arrive at considering the First Principle, which is most spiritual and eternal and above us, it is opportune, that we pass-over through the vestige, which is corporal, temporal and outside of us, and this is to be lead in the way of God; it is opportune, that we enter into our mind, which is an aeviternal image (imago) of God, spiritual and within us, and this is to step in the truth of God; it is opportune, that we transcend to the eternal, most spiritual, and above us by looking towards the First Principle, and this is to be glad in the knowledge (notitia) of God and the reverence of His Majesty. (Saint Bonaventure. The Journey of the Mind into God, Ch. 1, no. 2)

Saint Bonaventure explains the hierarchy existing in creation: ‘the first things are the lesser, the second ones the middle, the third the best’

In the third manner the power of sight of the one investigating by reasoning (ratiocinabiliter) sees, that certain things only are, moreover that certain things are and live, but that certain things are, live, and discern; and indeed that the first things are the lesser, the second ones the middle, the third the best. — Again it sees that certain things are only corporal, certain things partly corporal, partly spiritual; from which it adverts, that some are merely spiritual as the better and more worthy of both. Nevertheless it sees, that certain things are mutable and corruptible, as (are) terrestrial things, certain things are mutable and . . . incorruptible, as (are) celestial things; from which it adverts, that certain things are immutable and incorruptible, as (are) super-celestial things. (Saint Bonaventure. The Journey of the Mind into God, Ch. 1, no. 13)

All creatures of this sensible world lead the spirit in contemplating to God – some clearer than others

From these two first steps, by which we are lead by hand to gaze upon God in (His) vestiges as after the manner of the two wings descending about the feet (of the Seraphim), we can gather, that all creatures of this sensible world lead the spirit (animum) of the one contemplating and tasting (sapientis) (them) into the eternal God, for the reason (pro eo) that of that First Principle most powerful, most wise and best, of that eternal Origin, Light, and Fullness, of that, I say, Art efficient, exemplary (exemplantis) and ordering (ordinantis) there are shadows, resonances (resonantia) and pictures, there are vestiges, likenesses (simulacra) and spectacles divinely given to us as first premises of a syllogism (proposita) and signs to survey God (ad contuendum Deum)7; which, I say, are exemplary and/or rather exemplified (exemplata), proposed to minds still rough and sensible, to be transferred through the sensibles, which they see, to the intelligibles, which they do not see, as through signs to things signified (signata). (Saint Bonaventure. The Journey of the Mind into God, Ch. 2, no. 11)


Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence. (Encyclical Laudato Si, no. 66)


St. Bonaventure’s own words about what he meant about St. Francis being a new picture of man’s estate before the Fall

That true godliness which, according unto the Apostle, is profitable unto all things, had so filled the heart of Francis and entered into his inmost parts as that it seemed to have established its sway absolutely over the man of God. It was this piety that, through devotion, uplifted him toward God; through compassion, transformed him into the likeness of Christ; through condescension, inclined him unto his neighbour, and, through his all-embracing love for every creature, set forth a new picture of man’s estate before the Fall. And as by this piety he was touched with kindly feeling for all things, so above all, when he beheld souls redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ. (Saint Bonaventure. The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, Ch. VIII, no. 1)

John Paul II

Ecocentrism and biocentrism: an egalitarian consideration of the ‘dignity’ of all living beings

In the name of an idea inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism it is being proposed that the ontological and axiological difference between men and other living beings be eliminated, since the biosphere is considered a biotic unity of indifferentiated value. Thus man’s superior responsibility can be eliminated in favour of an egalitarian consideration of the ‘dignity’ of all living beings. (John Paul II. Address to the participants in the congress on ‘Environment and Health’, no. 5, March 24, 1997)

The principal danger: reducing an individual to a thing, or regarding him in the same way as other elements of nature

In view of these conceptual differences in the area of scientific and technological research, it would be good to ask ourselves about the senses of this concept, because the repercussions for man and for the way scientists look at him are far from negligible. The principal danger consists in reducing an individual to a thing, or regarding him in the same way as the other elements of nature, thereby relativizing man, whom God has placed at the heart of creation. To the extent that one is primarily interested in elements, one is tempted no longer to grasp the nature of a living being or of creation in their entirety, and to reduce them to a series of elements with multiple interactions. Hence man is no longer seen in his spiritual and corporal unity, in his soul, the spiritual principle in man which serves as the form of his body (cf. Council of Vienne, Constitution Fidei Catholicae, DS 902). (John Paul II. Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, no. 3, October 27, 1998)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

To truly love nature is to look at it as God does: in the order and harmony resulting from the diversity of beings and the relationships among them

The beauty of the universe: the order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them. […] the beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man’s intellect and will. The hierarchy of creatures is expressed by the order of the ‘six days’, from the less perfect to the more perfect. God loves all his creatures (cf. Ps 145:9) and takes care of each one, even the sparrow. Nevertheless, Jesus said: ‘You are of more value than many sparrows’, or again: ‘of how much more value is a man than a sheep!’ (Lk 12:6-7; Mt 12:12) Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures (cf. Gen 1-26). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 341-343)

John Paul II

The contemplation of the nature itself should remind us that, if God cares in this way for his creatures, what will he not do for us?

On the contrary, man is called to seek God with all of his strength, inclusively through his work within the world. Only in God man finds his own liberty affirmed, his authority and superiority over all the other creatures. And, if at times this simple and profound conviction weakens, the contemplation of nature itself should remind us that, if God cares in this way for his creatures, what will he not do to ensure that we do not lack the necessary? A primordial task belongs to man: Seeking the Kingdom of God and his justice (cf. Mt 6: 33). In this we should employ all of our strength, for the Kingdom is ‘like treasure hidden in a field, one pearl of great value’, of which the Gospel speaks; and to obtain it, we should do all possible, even ‘sell all’ (cf. Mt 13: 44-45), that is, have no other desire in our hearts. (John Paul II. Eucharistic celebration for the workers and entrepreneurs in Monterrey, May 10, 1990)

Benedict XVI

It should also be stressed that it is contrary to authentic development to view nature as more important than the human person: this leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or new pantheism

Nature is at our disposal not as ‘a heap of scattered refuse’ (Heraclitus of Ephesus, Fragment 22B124), but as a gift of the Creator who has given it an inbuilt order, enabling man to draw from it the principles needed in order ‘to till it and keep it’ (Gen 2:15). But it should also be stressed that it is contrary to authentic development to view nature as something more important than the human person. This position leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism — human salvation cannot come from nature alone, understood in a purely naturalistic sense. This having been said, it is also necessary to reject the opposite position, which aims at total technical dominion over nature, because 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. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Caritas in veritate, no. 48, June 29, 2009)

The Magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism since these eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things

There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us. On the other hand, a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person. If the Church’s magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism, it is because such notions eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things. In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the ‘dignity’ of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings. They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms. (Benedict XVI. Message for the Celebration of the 43rd World Day of Peace, no. 13, January 1, 2010)

Pontifical Council for Culture and Council for Interreligious Dialogue

New Age has a marked preference for Eastern or pre-Christian religions, and considers the world itself divine

New Age has a marked preference for Eastern or pre-Christian religions, which are reckoned to be uncontaminated by Judaeo-Christian distortions. Hence great respect is given to ancient agricultural rites and to fertility cults. ‘Gaia’, Mother Earth, is offered as an alternative to God the Father, whose image is seen to be linked to a patriarchal conception of male domination of women. There is talk of God, but it is not a personal God; the God of which New Age speaks is neither personal nor transcendent. Nor is it the Creator and sustainer of the universe, but an ‘impersonal energy’ immanent in the world, with which it forms a ‘cosmic unity’: ‘All is one’. This unity is monistic, pantheistic or, more precisely, panentheistic. God is the ‘life-principle’, the ‘spirit or soul of the world’, the sum total of consciousness existing in the world. In a sense, everything is God. God’s presence is clearest in the spiritual aspects of reality, so every mind/spirit is, in some sense, God. […] There is no alterity between God and the world. The world itself is divine and it undergoes an evolutionary process which leads from inert matter to ‘higher and perfect consciousness’. […] James Lovelock’s book on the Gaia Hypothesis claims that ‘the entire range of living matter on earth, from whales to viruses, and from oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity, capable of manipulating the Earth’s atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts’. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 2.3.4.2 – 2.3.4.3, February 3, 2003)

Pius X

Error of pernicious character: the divine action is one with the action of nature

Truly enormous errors both, the pernicious character of which will be seen clearly from an examination of their consequences. […] Concerning immanence it is not easy to determine what Modernists mean by it, for their own opinions on the subject vary. Some understand it in the sense that God working in man is more intimately present in him than man is in even himself, and this conception, if properly understood, is free from reproach. Others hold that the divine action is one with the action of nature, as the action of the first cause is one with the action of the secondary cause, and this would destroy the supernatural order. Others, finally, explain it in a way which savours of pantheism and this, in truth, is the sense which tallies best with the rest of their doctrines. (Pius X. Encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis, no. 19, September 8, 1907)

Pius XI

Whoever identifies, by pantheistic confusion, God and the universe, is not a believer in God

Take care, Venerable Brethren, that above all, faith in God, the first and irreplaceable foundation of all religion, be preserved in Germany pure and unstained. The believer in God is not he who utters the name in his speech, but he for whom this sacred word stands for a true and worthy concept of the Divinity. Whoever identifies, by pantheistic confusion, God and the universe, by either lowering God to the dimensions of the world, or raising the world to the dimensions of God, is not a believer in God. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mit brenneder sorge, no. 7, March 14, 1937)

 

III – The Holy Catholic Church is the only true Church: It may not be equaled to other religious professions


 Making all beings equal brings as a logical consequence the equality of religions. The New Age even goes to the point of identifying Buddha with Christ. The voice of the Church is the only true voice, the Magisterium has always declared it to be the only true Church, within which salvation is found.


Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing. (Encyclical Laudato Si’, no, 7)

…yet by constantly returning to their sources, religions will be better equipped to respond to today’s needs. (Encyclical Laudato Si’, no. 200)


TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM

Sacred Scripture

St. Paul’s exhortation: instruct people not to teach false doctrines or to concern themselves with myths

I repeat the request I made of you when I was on my way to Macedonia, that you stay in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to teach false doctrines or to concern themselves with myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the plan of God that is to be received by faith. (1 Tim 1:3-4)

Pontifical Council for Culture and Council for Interreligious Dialogue

For the New Age, Jesus of Nazareth is simply one among many historical figures like Buddha and others

[For the New Age]: Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ, but simply one among many historical figures in whom this ‘Christic’ nature is revealed, as is the case with Buddha and others. Every historical realization of the Christ shows clearly that all human beings are heavenly and divine, and leads them towards this realization. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, A Christian reflection on the ‘New Age’, no. 2.3.4.2, February 3, 2003)

Paul VI

Only our religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship which other religions do not succeed in doing

On the contrary the Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ – riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth. […] In other words, our religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship which the other religions do not succeed in doing, even though they have, as it were, their arms stretched out towards heaven. (Paul VI. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 53, December 8, 1975)

Benedict XVI

Neither are all religions equal, nor should religious indifferentism be accepted

For this reason, while it may be true that development needs the religions and cultures of different peoples, it is equally true that adequate discernment is needed. Religious freedom does not mean religious indifferentism, nor does it imply that all religions are equal (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, 6 August 2000, 22). (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Caritas in veritate, no. 55, June 29, 2009)

John Paul II

There is a tendency to equate all religions and spiritual experiences as if they were all paths to salvation

You know well that the basis of the spread of the sects is often a great lack of religious formation, consequently leading to uncertainty about the need to believe in Christ and to belong to the Church he has established. The tendency is to reduce religions and the various spiritual experiences to a least common denominator that makes them practically equivalent, with the result that everyone would be free to follow any of the various paths proposed to reach the goal of salvation. If, in addition, one adds the brazen proselytism which is the hallmark of certain particularly active and invasive groups of these sects, one understands right away how urgently necessary it is today to support the faith of Christians, and to give them an opportunity for ongoing religious formation to deepen their personal relationship with Christ. Your endeavours must give priority to preventing this danger, consolidating in the faithful the practice of the Christian life and fostering the growth of a truly fraternal spirit in the heart of each of your ecclesial communities. (John Paul II. Address to the Bishops of Brazil from the first Southern Region on their ad limina visit, January 23, 2003)

There is no path of salvation in a religion other than that founded in the faith in Christ - the inconsistency and superficiality of a relativistic and irenic attitude

There are no lack of those who wish to interpret the missionary action [of the Church] as an attempt to impose on others one’s own convictions and options, in contrast with a certain modern spirit, which boasts, as though it was a definitive conquest, of an absolute liberty of thought and personal conscience. According to this perspective, evangelizing activity should be substituted with an interreligious dialogue, which would consist in an exchange of opinions and information, whereby each party would expose his own ‘creed’ and be enriched by the thoughts of others, without any preoccupation of arriving at conclusions. […] Consequently the path that each one wishes to follow according to one’s own education and religious tradition would be respected. But this conception is irreconcilable with the commandment of Christ to the Apostles (cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15), transmitted by the Church […] [The Council] confirmed at the same time the role of the Church, in which it is necessary that man enter and persevere, if he wishes to be saved (Ad Gentes, n. 7) […] This traditional doctrine of the Church exposes the inconsistency and superficiality of a relativistic and irenic attitude, regarding the way of salvation in a religion other than that founded in the faith in Christ. (John Paul II. General Audience, nos. 1-2, May 10, 1995)

Paul VI

Honesty compels us to declare openly our conviction that the Christian religion is the one and only true religion

Obviously we cannot agree with these various forms of religion, [Jewish, Moslem and Afro-Asiatic religions] nor can we adopt an indifferent or uncritical attitude toward them on the assumption that they are all to be regarded as on an equal footing, and that there is no need for those who profess them to enquire whether or not God has Himself revealed definitively and infallibly how He wishes to be known, loved, and served. Indeed, honesty compels us to declare openly our conviction that the Christian religion is the one and only true religion, and it is our hope that it will be acknowledged as such by all who look for God and worship Him. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 107, August 6, 1964)

John XXIII

An absurd proposition: one religion is just as good as another. God, who is truth, cannot tolerate indifference with respect to eternal salvation

Some men, indeed do not attack the truth wilfully, but work in heedless disregard of it. They act as though God had given us intellects for some purpose other than the pursuit and attainment of truth. This mistaken sort of action leads directly to that absurd proposition: one religion is just as good as another, for there is no distinction here between truth and falsehood. ‘This attitude,’ to quote Pope Leo again, ‘is directed to the destruction of all religions, but particularly the Catholic faith, which cannot be placed on a level with other religions without serious injustice, since it alone is true’ (Encyclical letter Humanum genus). Moreover, to contend that there is nothing to choose between contradictories and among contraries can lead only to this fatal conclusion: a reluctance to accept any religion either in theory or practice. How can God, who is truth, approve or tolerate the indifference, neglect, and sloth of those who attach no importance to matters on which our eternal salvation depends; who attach no importance to pursuit and attainment of necessary truths, or to the offering of that proper worship which is owed to God alone? (John XXIII. Encyclical Ad Petre Cathedram, nos. 17-18, June 29, 1959)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

It is only through Christ’s Catholic Church that there is the plenitude of the means of salvation

For it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is ‘the all-embracing means of salvation,’ that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. (Vatican Council II, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 3, November 21, 1964)

Pius XI

False opinion: to consider all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy

For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life. […] Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 2-3, January 6, 1928)

Leo XIII

The only true Religion can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic states

Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engravers upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide – as they should do – with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man’s capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists: which never can be attained if religion be disregarded. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Libertas praestantissimum, no. 21, June 20, 1888)

They can in no wise be counted among the children of God, unless they take Christ Jesus as their Brother and Church as their mother

And with the same yearning Our soul goes out to those whom the foul breath of irreligion has not entirely corrupted, and who at least seek to have the true God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, as their Father. Let such as these take counsel with themselves, and realize that they can in no wise be counted among the children of God, unless they take Christ Jesus as their Brother, and at the same time the Church as their mother. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Satis cognitum, no. 16, June 29, 1896)

Differing modes of divine worship cannot all be equally acceptable to God

To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. Men who really believe in the existence of God must, in order to be consistent with themselves and to avoid absurd conclusions, understand that differing modes of divine worship involving dissimilarity and conflict even on most important points cannot all be equally probable, equally good, and equally acceptable to God. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Immortale Dei, no. 31, November 1, 1885)

Pius IX

An agreement between Christ and Belial: the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs

Also perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial (cf. 2Cor 6:15). (Pius IX. Encyclical Qui pluribus, no. 15, November 9, 1846)

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)

Not at all equal is the condition of those who have adhered to the Catholic truth, and of those who follow a false religion

For, the most benign God both excites the erring by His grace and aids them so that they can ‘come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1Tim 2:4), and also confirms in His grace those whom ‘He has called out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (1Pet 2:9), so that they may persevere in this same light, not deserting if He be not deserted [see n. 804]. Wherefore, not at all equal is the condition of those, who, through the heavenly gift of faith, have adhered to the Catholic truth, and of those, who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3014. Vatican Council I, Session III, Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, Ch. 3, April 24, 1870)

Gregory XVI

Indifferentism: fraud of the wicked, who claim it is possible to obtain salvation by professing any religion - they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith!

Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. […] With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph 4:5) may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ (Lk 11:23) and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate’ (Symbol .S. Athanasius). (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Mirari vos, no. 13, August 15, 1832)

Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office

No one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church

No one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth. […] [Pius XII] mentions those who ‘are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire,’ and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states that they are in a condition ‘in which they cannot be sure of their salvation’ since ‘they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church’ (AAS, 1. c., p. 243). With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3867.3871-3872. Letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, August 8, 1949English translation)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered by relativistic theories attempting to justify religious pluralism

The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle). As a consequence, it is held that certain truths have been superseded; for example, the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christian faith as compared with that of belief in other religions, […] the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ, the universal salvific mediation of the Church, […] On the basis of such presuppositions, which may evince different nuances, certain theological proposals are developed — at times presented as assertions, and at times as hypotheses — in which Christian revelation and the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Church lose their character of absolute truth and salvific universality, or at least shadows of doubt and uncertainty are cast upon them. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 4, August 6, 2000)

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

Those who are not united to the Church reject the Spirit and dig for themselves broken cisterns, drinking putrid water out of the mire

For in the Church,’ it is said, ‘God hath set […] all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. Those, therefore, who do not partake of Him, are neither nourished into life from the mother’ s breasts, nor do they enjoy that most limpid fountain which issues from the body of Christ; but they dig for themselves broken cisterns (Jer 2:13) out of earthly trenches, and drink putrid water out of the mire, fleeing from the faith of the Church lest they be convicted; and rejecting the Spirit, that they may not be instructed. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyon. Against Heresies, III, Ch. 24, no. 1)

Saint John of the Cross

To seek anything other than Christ is to commit an offence against God

For, in giving us, as He did, His Son, which is His Word — and He has no other — He spake to us all together, once and for all, in this single Word, and He has no occasion to speak further. […] Herein the Apostle declares that God has become, as it were, dumb, and has no more to say, since that which He spake aforetime, in part to the prophets, He has now spoken altogether in Him, giving us the All, which is His Son. Wherefore he that would now enquire of God, or seek any vision or revelation, would not only be acting foolishly, but would be committing an offence against God, by setting his eyes altogether upon Christ, and seeking no new thing or aught beside. (Saint John of the Cross. Ascent of Mount Carmel II, Ch. XXII, no. 3-5)


IV – Christ is the center and the exemplary cause of all creation


Our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things’ (Col 1:15-16) is the ‘book’ wherein one may read and understand the entire Work of Creation. This nature which has shadows, vestiges or images of God was modeled according to the ‘Eternal Wisdom’, the ‘Incarnate Word’. God created all beings from nothing and out of love. He created them in perfect harmony and order. The Most High put man and woman as sovereigns of all creation, and all of the other creatures were submitted to them by nature. But within this equilibrium and peace, man sinned and thus introduced disorder and confusion into the world. The Word, which had been the model of the first creation, ‘took flesh’ and made a ‘new creation’ through the cross and resurrection.
The Church has always considered the whole of creation in function of the Divine Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ and any consideration that omits this point ends up being naturalistic and is not in accordance with the Magisterium of the Church.


Sacred Scripture

All things came to be through the Word

All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. (Jn 1:3)

In Christ all the fullness dwells

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross (through him), whether those on earth or those in heaven. (Col 1:15-20)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Christ is the perfect Image of God since He is one with the Father in his divine nature

The First-Born of creatures is the perfect Image of God, reflecting perfectly that of which He is the Image, and so He is said to be the ‘Image,’ and never ‘to the image.’ But man is said to be both ‘image’ by reason of the likeness; and ‘to the image’ by reason of the imperfect likeness. And since the perfect likeness to God cannot be except in an identical nature, the Image of God exists in His first-born Son; as the image of the king is in his son, who is of the same nature as himself: whereas it exists in man as in an alien nature, as the image of the king is in a silver coin, as Augustine says explains in De decem Chordis (Serm. ix, al, xcvi, De Tempore). (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I, q. 93, a. 1)

John Paul II

Christian tradition has always seen the face of Christ in the Eternal Wisdom

In the marvelous hymn sung by Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs, which was presented at the start of our meeting, she says: ‘Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning’ (Prov 8:23). Wisdom is present at the moment of creation ‘like a master workman’ (Prov 8:30), ready to delight in the sons of men’ (cf. Prov 8: 30-31). From these aspects Christian tradition has seen in Wisdom the face of Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; … all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Col 1:15-17; cf. Jn 1:3). (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 4, August 2, 2000)

Benedict XVI

Jesus Christ is the Lord of all creation and of all history

We must have no fears about facing this challenge: Jesus Christ is indeed the Lord of all creation and of all history. The believer knows well that ‘all things were created through him and for him… and in him all things hold together’ (Col 1:16, 17). By continually deepening our knowledge of Christ, the centre of the cosmos and of history, we can show the men and women of our time that faith in him is important for humanity’s future: indeed, it is the accomplishment of all that is authentically human. (Benedict XVI. Address to the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, February 10, 2010)

Congregation for the Clergy

Christ introduced into time and into the world a new form of life, which is sublime and divine

Let us start with its Christological significance. Christ is newness. He brings about a new creation. His priesthood is new. He renews all things. Jesus, the Only-Begotten Son of the Father sent into the world, ‘became man in order that humanity which was subject to sin and death might be reborn, and through this new birth might enter the Kingdom of Heaven’. ‘Being entirely consecrated to the will of the Father, Jesus brought forth this new creation by means of his Paschal Mystery; thus, he introduced into time and into the world a new form of life which is sublime and divine and which radically transforms the human condition.’ (Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, no. 19). (Congregation for the Clergy. Reflection by Cardinal Claudio Hummes on the 40th Anniversary of the Encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus of Pope Paul VI, February 24, 2007)

Paul VI

In Christ all things were created, in heaven and on earth – He is truly the center of history

It is [Christ] who affirms that he is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6), ‘the resurrection and the life’ (Jn 11:25) of all men who believe in Him; it is he who goes to encounter death as a dominator and with his resurrection ruins the sordid plans of his opponents. Jesus of Nazareth is truly the center of history, as Saint Paul proclaimed: ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created through him and for him’ (Col 1:15). (Paul VI. Homily, Palm Sunday, March 19, 1978)

Pius XII

All harmony in the world comes from Christ

In particular the newly-born Christ is manifest and offers himself to the present world: 1. As a consolation for those who deplore disharmony and are discouraged about harmony in the world, 2. As a guarantee of harmony in the world, 3. As light and path for all efforts of human kind to establish harmony in the world. (Pius XII. Radio message for Christmas, December 22, 1957)

Leo XIII

Christ: the exemplar cause whence all creatures borrow their form and beauty, their order and harmony

But the Son, the Word, the Image of God is also the exemplar cause, whence all creatures borrow their form and beauty, their order and harmony. He is for us the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the Reconciles of man with God. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Divinum illud munus, no. 3, May 9, 1897)

Saint Bonaventure

Christ the Son of God, who is the invisible Image of God by nature

For if the image is an expressive similitude, while our mind contemplates in Christ the Son of God, who is the invisible Image of God by nature, our humanity so wonderfully exalted, so ineffably united, by seeing together (simul) in one thing (in unum) the First and last, the Most High and most deep (imus), the Circumference and center, the Alpha and the Omega, the caused and the Cause, the Creator and the creature, that is the book written inside and out; it has already arrived at a certain perfect reality (rem), so that it may with God arrive at the perfection of His illuminations on the sixth step as if on the sixth day … (Saint Bonaventure. The Journey of the Mind into God, Ch. 6, no. 7)

The Divine Word is the prototype of which the human being was produced by exemplar causality

We are an express likeness of God, likeness according to the order of convenience, as the copy is similar to the Exemplar. (Saint Bonaventure. Commentary on the Sentences, bk. II, d. XVI, a. 1, q. 1)

Every creature by its nature is a certain likeness and similitude of that eternal Wisdom

Moreover, these manner of creatures of this sensible world signify the invisible things of God, partly because God s the Origin, Exemplar and End, of every creature, and (because) every effect is a sign of a cause, and an example (exemplatum) of an exemplar, and a way for the end, towards which it leads: partly from its own representation; partly from a prophetic prefiguration; partly from angelic activity; partly from a superadded institution. For every creature by its nature (ex natura) is a certain likeness and similitude of that eternal Wisdom, but especially that which has been employed (assumpta est) in the book of Scripture through the spirit of prophecy for the prefiguration of spiritual things; moreover, more especially those creatures, in the likeness of which God has willed to appear by angelic ministry; but most especially that which1 He willed to institute for signification (ad significandum), which not only has a reckoning of ‘sign’ in the common sense of the word (secundum nomen commune), but also that of ‘Sacrament’. (Saint Bonaventure. The Journey of the Mind into God, Ch. 2, no. 12)

John Paul II

The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God’

The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15), the ‘reflection of God’s glory’ (Heb 1:3), ‘full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14). Christ is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6). Consequently the decisive answer to every one of man’s questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: ‘In fact, it is only in the mystery of the Word incarnate that light is shed on the mystery of man. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of the future man, namely, of Christ the Lord. It is Christ, the last Adam, who fully discloses man to himself and unfolds his noble calling by revealing the mystery of the Father and the Father’s love’ (Gaudium et Spes, 22). (John Paul II. Encyclical Veritatis splendor, no. 2, August 6, 1993)

Benedict XVI

The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation of Christ

St John says that the Word, the Logos, was with God in the beginning and that everything was done through the Word and nothing that exists was done without him (cf. Jn 1:1-13). The Evangelist is clearly alluding to the Creation narrative in the first chapters of the Book of Genesis, and reinterprets it in the light of Christ. This is a fundamental criterion in the Christian interpretation of the Bible: The Old and New Testaments should always be read together and, starting with the New, the deepest meaning of the Old Testament is also revealed. That same Word, who has always existed with God, who is God himself and through whom and for whom all things were created (cf. Col 1:16-17), became man: the eternal and infinite God immersed himself in human finiteness, in his creature, to bring back man and the whole of creation to himself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: ‘the first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendour of which surpasses that of the first creation’ (n. 349). The Fathers of the Church compared Jesus to Adam, even to the point of calling him ‘the second Adam’, or the definitive Adam, the perfect image of God. With the Incarnation of the Son of God a new creation was brought about that gave the complete answer to the question ‘who is man?’ (Benedict XVI. General Audience, January 9, 2013)

Sin ruins ever anew the divine project of nature

The beauty of nature reminds us that we have been appointed by God to ‘tend and care for’ this ‘garden’ which is the earth (cf. Gen 2:8-17), and I see that you truly tend and take care of this beautiful garden of God, a true paradise. So, when people live in peace with God and one another, the earth truly resembles a ‘paradise’. Unfortunately, sin ruins ever anew this divine project, causing division and introducing death into the world. Thus, humanity succumbs to the temptations of the Evil One and wages war against itself. Patches of ‘hell’ are consequently also created in this marvellous ‘garden’ which is the world. In the midst of this beauty, we must never forget the situations in which our brothers and sisters at times find themselves. (Benedict XVI. Angelus, July 22, 2007)

The arrogance of human beings who live ‘as if God did not exist’ leads them to exploit and disfigure nature

Engagement with the world, as demanded by God’s word, makes us look with new eyes at the entire created cosmos, which contains traces of that word through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:2). As men and women who believe in and proclaim the Gospel, we have a responsibility towards creation. Revelation makes known God’s plan for the cosmos, yet it also leads us to denounce that mistaken attitude which refuses to view all created realities as a reflection of their Creator, but instead as mere raw material, to be exploited without scruple. Man thus lacks that essential humility which would enable him to see creation as a gift from God, to be received and used in accordance with his plan. Instead, the arrogance of human beings who live ‘as if God did not exist’ leads them to exploit and disfigure nature, failing to see it as the handiwork of the creative word. In this theological context, I would like to echo the statements of the Synod Fathers who reminded us that ‘accepting the word of God, attested to by Scripture and by the Church’s living Tradition, gives rise to a new way of seeing things, promotes an authentic ecology which has its deepest roots in the obedience of faith … [and] develops a renewed theological sensitivity to the goodness of all things, which are created in Christ’ (Propositio 54). We need to be re-educated in wonder and in the ability to recognize the beauty made manifest in created realities (cf. Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis (). (Benedict XVI. Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, no. 108, September 30, 2010)

John Paul II

Infinite is the power of forgiveness of the sacrifice of the Son – but man can oppose grace and truth in the face of the witness of the cross

It is precisely because sin exists in the world, which ‘God so loved…that he gave his only Son’ (Jn 3:16) that God, who ‘is love’ (1Jn 4:8), cannot reveal Himself otherwise than as mercy. This corresponds not only to the most profound truth of that love which God is, but also to the whole interior truth of man and of the world which is man’s temporary homeland. Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ. (John Paul II. Encyclical Dives in misericordia, no. 13, November 30, 1980)

Pius X

Human society today is suffering from a terrible and deep rooted malady - apostasy from God

Then again, to omit other motives, We were terrified beyond all else by the disastrous state of human society today. For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is – apostasy from God, than which in truth nothing is more allied with ruin, according to the word of the Prophet: ‘For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish’ (Ps 72:26). We saw therefore that, in virtue of the ministry of the Pontificate, which was to be entrusted to Us, We must hasten to find a remedy for this great evil, considering as addressed to Us that Divine command: ‘Lo, I have set thee this day over the nations and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant’ (Jer 1:10). But, cognizant of Our weakness, We recoiled in terror from a task as urgent as it is arduous. (Pius X. Encyclical E supremi apostolatus, no. 3, October 4, 1903)

Pius XI

The greatest and most destructive evils transcend the material or natural sphere and lie within the supernatural and religious order

We wish to record, in addition to the evils already mentioned, other evils which beset society and which occupy a place of prime importance but whose very existence escapes the ordinary observer, the sensual man – he who, as the Apostle says, does not perceive ‘the things that are of the Spirit of God (1Cor. 2: 14), yet which cannot but be judged the greatest and most destructive scourges of the social order of today. We refer specifically to those evils which transcend the material or natural sphere and lie within the supernatural and religious order properly so-called; in other words, those evils which affect the spiritual life of souls. These evils are all the more to be deplored since they injure souls whose value is infinitely greater than that of any merely material object. (Pius XI. Encyclical Ubi arcano, nos. 16, December 23, 1922)

John Paul II

It is not just the creation of living man as in the first creation, but that of introducing man into divine life - ‘if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation’

The first creation, unfortunately, was devastated by sin. However, God did not abandon it to destruction, but rather prepared its salvation, which would constitute a ‘new creation’ (cf. Is 65:17, Gal 6: 15; Rev 21:5). […] In effect, the new creation had its beginning thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit in the death and resurrection of Christ. In his Passion, Jesus fully received the action of the Holy Spirit in his human nature (cf. Heb 9:14), who conducted him, through death, to a new life (cf. Rom 6:10) that He had power to communicate to all believers, transmitting to them this same Spirit, first in an initial way through baptism, and then fully within the final resurrection. On the afternoon of the Passover, Jesus resurrected, appearing to the disciples in the Cenacle, renewing over them the same action that God the Creator had performed over Adam. God had ‘breathed’ over the body of man to give him life. Jesus ‘breathed’ over the disciples and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (Jn 20:22). The human breath of Jesus thus serves toward the undertaking of a divine work that is even more marvelous than the initial one. It is not just the creation of living man, as in the first creation, but that of introducing man into divine life. […] ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ – writes Saint Paul – he is a new creation’ (2Cor 5:17). (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 5, January 10, 1990)


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply