76 – Laudato si’ (III): “I would like to offer Christians a few suggestions for an ecological spirituality”

Being an important magisterial document, an Encyclical should be characterized by clear and defined ideas regarding the topic at hand, in order to delineate the path to be followed by the Hierarchy and the faithful; as well as, consequentially, by all men of good will – for the Church never ceases to be a moral reference point, even for those who don’t follow her. Which brings us to the question: how is it possible that Laudato si’ takes a position which, in certain points, contradicts the magisterial teaching of the Church regarding the ecological issue, while in other points it emphasizes these same teachings. It hurts us to say this, but it is a veritable hodgepodge of ideas…that seems suitable for such a ‘green’ encyclical.

This jumble is evident in many paragraphs that claim to disapprove of the views and principles of fundamentalist and radical ecology ( even citing documents of the preceding Magisterium regarding this topic), while at the same time leaving ample scope for ambiguities and irenicism: for example, on citing Teilhard de Chardin and the so-called ‘Earth Charter’ – documents of a dubious or manifestly pantheistic nature that do not harmonize with the doctrine of the Church on numerous points. Or even in going so far as to omit the mediation of Jesus Christ in a public and official prayer of his Vicar on earth! All of this opens the doors of the Church to the conception of an interdenominational, neo-pagan and universal religion, for it turns a blind eye to Catholic doctrine in its entirety, hiding important aspects that have already been defined, so as to come together with the world. It’s worthwhile to analyze these points and reveal these aspects, for as John Paul II so aptly affirmed, far more than the planet, the house common to all Catholics is the Holy Mother Church: ‘In the baptismal waters you were born to a new life, that inserted you within the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, the Ark of salvation and common house of those who invoke God as Father’ (John Paul II. Message to the Peoples of America, 12 de octubre 1992)

Francis

Quote A

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter in the various parts of our study

ContentsI – Suspicion of the Church regarding ‘integral ecology’; a new doctrine involving an ideology which in many points opposes the teachings of the ChurchII – The ecological problems of the planet are due to the neglect of the practice of the Commandments - immutable moral principles - by the greater part of humanity.The crisis of our world is a moral crisis, therefore, only a moral conversion will resolve ecological problemsIII – An ecology of a spiritual and irenic character opens the doors toward a distortion of the Catholic religion, that must not - under the pretext of saving humanity and dialoguing with everybody, Catholics and non Catholics - adapt to ways of thinking which constitute doctrines truly contrary to immutable teachingsThe ‘Earth Charter’: a document with notoriously pantheistic overtones, proposing the foundations of a new global society, that should change ‘values, institutions, and ways of living’, in other words a new universal ecological religion in which ‘the forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution.’

I – Suspicion of the Church regarding ‘integral ecology’; a new doctrine involving an ideology which in many points opposes the teachings of the Church

a) Legitimate concerns of the Church for the environment
b) Grave misgivings of the Magisterium in relation to an ‘ecological mentality’ contrary to the teachings of the Church
c) Humans are put at the apex of material and visible creation: they are image and likeness of God, with a body and immortal soul, and with a final end that is not in this world

II – The ecological problems of the planet are due to the neglect of the practice of the Commandments – immutable moral principles – by the greater part of humanity. The crisis of our world is a moral crisis, therefore, only a moral conversion will resolve ecological problems

a) The Christian should see the world as a setting where life evolves in accordance with moral principles, with his sights placed on eternity
b) The root of the environmental crisis is moral
c) The solution for the world crisis is found in a society based on the religious principles of Christian morals

III – An ecology of a spiritual and irenic character opens the doors toward a distortion of the Catholic religion, that must not – under the pretext of saving humanity and dialoguing with everybody, Catholics and non Catholics – adapt to ways of thinking which constitute doctrines truly contrary to unchanging teachings

a) Dialogue and drawing closer, without transgressing the truth and the faith
b) Authentic respect for nature and human beings will only exist within an authentically Catholic society
c) The Christian vision of the Triune God cannot be reconciled with the spiritualist mask of an ecology that appears to be open toward interreligious dialogue, but is interwoven with religious syncretism and pantheism

The ‘Earth Charter’: a document with notoriously pantheistic overtones


I – Suspicion of the Church regarding ‘integral ecology’; a new doctrine involving an ideology which in many points opposes the teachings of the Church


Laudato si’A contradiction:
Care for biodiversity to safeguard other forms of life; above all human beings need to change, for they lack awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone – but ‘biocentrism’ entails adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones

76 - A laudato-si400In the protection of biodiversity, specialists insist on the need for particular attention to be shown to areas richer both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species. Certain places need greater protection because of their immense importance for the global ecosystem, or because they represent important water reserves and thus safeguard other forms of life (LS 37)

 76 - A laudato-si400Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal (LS 202)

76 - A laudato-si400A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to ‘biocentrism’, for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued (LS 118)


a) Legitimate concerns of the Church for the environment


John XXIII

God said ‘Fill the earth, and subdue it.’ Nothing is said about destroying nature. On the contrary, it must be brought into the service of human life

Genesis relates how God gave two commandments to our first parents: to transmit human life—‘Increase and multiply’ (Gen. 1:28)—and to bring nature into their service—‘Fill the earth, and subdue it’. These two commandments are complementary. Nothing is said in the second of these commandments about destroying nature. On the contrary, it must be brought into the service of human life. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, nos. 196-197, May 15, 1961)

John Paul II

Christian culture has always recognized the creatures that surround man as gifts of God: unbridled exploitation is due to secularization

Ecology, which arose as a name and a cultural message more than a century ago, very soon caught the attention of experts and is demanding ever greater interdisciplinary efforts from biologists, physicians, economists, philosophers and politicians. It takes the form of a study of the relationship between living organisms and their environment, and especially between man and his surroundings. […] At the same time, biblical anthropology has considered man, created in God’s image and likeness, as a creature who can transcend worldly reality by virtue of his spirituality, and therefore, as a responsible custodian of the environment in which he has been placed to live. The Creator offers it to him as both a home and a resource. The consequence of this doctrine is quite clear: it is the relationship man has with God that determines his relationship with his fellows and with his environment. This is why Christian culture has always recognized the creatures that surround man as also gifts of God to be nurtured and safeguarded with a sense of gratitude to the Creator. Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality in particular has witnessed to this sort of kinship of man with his creaturely environment, fostering in him an attitude of respect for every reality of the surrounding world. In the secularized modern age we are seeing the emergence of a twofold temptation: a concept of knowledge no longer understood as wisdom and contemplation, but as power over nature, which is consequently regarded as an object to be conquered. The other temptation is the unbridled exploitation of resources under the urge of unlimited profit-seeking, according to the capitalistic mentality typical of modern societies. (John Paul II. Address to the participants in the International Congress on ‘Environment and Health’, no. 1, 3-4, March 24, 1997)

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Science and technology are not of themselves the cause of the exasperated secularization that leads to nihilism; the problem is the evolutionist rejection Creation and the rupture of man with the Creator

Primacy is given to doing and having rather than to being, and this causes serious forms of human alienation. Such attitudes do not arise from scientific and technological research but from scientism and technocratic ideologies that tend to condition such research. The advances of science and technology do not eliminate the need for transcendence and are not of themselves the cause of the exasperated secularization that leads to nihilism. With the progress of science and technology, questions as to their meaning increase and give rise to an ever greater need to respect the transcendent dimension of the human person and creation itself. […] A vision of man and things that is sundered from any reference to the transcendent has led to the rejection of the concept of creation and to the attribution of a completely independent existence to man and nature. The bonds that unite the world to God have thus been broken. This rupture has also resulted in separating man from the world and, more radically, has impoverished man’s very identity. Human beings find themselves thinking that they are foreign to the environmental context in which they live. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 462; 464)

Benedict XVI

Respecting the environment means respecting the hierarchy within creation and not considering nature selfishly

We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. (Benedict XVI. Message for the 41st World Day for Peace, no. 7, January 1, 2007)


Laudato si’ – Another contradiction:
A universal communion: all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred respect – but this is not to put all living beings on the same level nor does it imply a divinization of the earth

 76 - A laudato-si400This is the basis of our conviction that, as part of the universe, called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect. Here I would reiterate that ‘God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 215) (LS 89)

76 - A laudato-si400This is not to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails. Nor does it imply a divinization of the earth which would prevent us from working on it and protecting it in its fragility. Such notions would end up creating new imbalances which would deflect us from the reality which challenges us. At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. (LS 90)


b) Grave misgivings of the Magisterium in relation to an ‘ecological mentality’ – contrary to the teachings of the Church


Pius XII

A society that eliminates the idea of a Creator and His creatures loses the harmony of relations between man and the world and with his fellow men, based on Christian religious principles

If this foundation of the spirit is removed, and as a consequence the image (in man) and the vestige (in creatures lacking reason) of the divine Being in created things, the harmony within the relations among man and the world are also lost. Man would be reduced to a simple point and the localization of an anonymous and irrational vitality. He would no longer be within the world as in his own home. The world would become something foreign, dark, dangerous, always inclined to lose the character of instrument and to become his enemy. And what would the regulating relations of life in society be without the light of the divine Spirit and without taking into account the relationship of Christ with the world? To this question answers the bitter reality of those who, preferring the obscurity of the world, declare themselves adorers of the exterior works of man. Their society achieves only, under the iron discipline of collectivism, to maintain the anonymous existence of some alongside others. Very different is the social life based on the example of the relations of Christ with the world and with man: a life of fraternal cooperation and mutual respect for the rights of others, a life worthy of the first principle and of the final end of every human creature. (Pius XII. Christmas message to the faithful, December 22, 1957)

John XXIII

The risk of looking for solutions against the divinely established moral order, for example, to try to address the food-supply problem by violating the laws of human procreation

The resources which God in His goodness and wisdom has implanted in Nature are well-nigh inexhaustible, and He has at the same time given man the intelligence to discover ways and means of exploiting these resources for his own advantage and his own livelihood. Hence, the real solution of the problem is not to be found in expedients which offend against the divinely established moral order and which attack human life at its very source, but in a renewed scientific and technical effort on man’s part to deepen and extend his dominion over Nature. The progress of science and technology that has already been achieved opens up almost limitless horizons in this held. […] We must solemnly proclaim that human life is transmitted by means of the family, and the family is based upon a marriage which is one and indissoluble and, with respect to Christians, raised to the dignity of a sacrament. The transmission of human life is the result of a personal and conscious act, and, as such, is subject to the all-holy, inviolable and immutable laws of God, which no man may ignore or disobey. He is not therefore permitted to use certain ways and means which are allowable in the propagation of plant and animal life. Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact. From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God. Those who violate His laws not only offend the divine majesty and degrade themselves and humanity, they also sap the vitality of the political community of which they are members. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, nos. 189; 193-194, May 15, 1961)

John Paul II

Exaggerated ecological positions demand to limit the birth rate, or inspired by egocentrism and biocentrism propose an egalitarian ‘dignity’ of all living beings

Today we often witness the taking of opposite and exaggerated positions: on the one hand, in the name of the exhaustibility and insufficiency of environmental resources, demands are made to limit the birth rate, especially among the poor and developing peoples. On the other, in the name of an idea inspired by egocentrism 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 International Congress on ‘Environment and Health’, no. 5, March 24, 1997)

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

One must not absolutize nature and place it above the dignity of the human person himself, divinizing nature or the earth

A correct understanding of the environment prevents the utilitarian reduction of nature to a mere object to be manipulated and exploited. At the same time, it must not absolutize nature and place it above the dignity of the human person himself. In this latter case, one can go so far as to divinize nature or the earth, as can readily be seen in certain ecological movements that seek to gain an internationally guaranteed institutional status for their beliefs. The Magisterium finds the motivation for its opposition to a concept of the environment based on ecocentrism and on biocentrism. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 463)

Benedict XVI

The idea of evolutionary determinism leads to considering nature an untouchable taboo or to abusing it. To view nature as something more important than the human person leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism — human salvation cannot come from nature alone, understood in a purely naturalistic sense

Today the subject of development is also closely related to the duties arising from our relationship to the natural environment. The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes. In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God’s creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation. If this vision is lost, we end up either considering nature an untouchable taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it. Neither attitude is consonant with the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of God’s creation. Nature expresses a design of love and truth. It is prior to us, and it has been given to us by God as the setting for our life. Nature speaks to us of the Creator (cf. Rom 1:20) and his love for humanity. It is destined to be ‘recapitulated’ in Christ at the end of time (cf. Eph 1:9-10; Col 1:19-20). Thus it too is a ‘vocation’ (John Paul II, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 6). 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)

So-called integral ecology: egalitarian vision of the ‘dignity’ of living creatures that abolishes the superior role of human beings, opening the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism. Man must not abuse nature, but also may not abdicate his role of steward and administrator with responsibility over creation

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. The Church, for her part, is concerned that the question be approached in a balanced way, with respect for the ‘grammar’ which the Creator has inscribed in his handiwork by giving man the role of a steward and administrator with responsibility over creation, a role which man must certainly not abuse, but also one which he may not abdicate. (Benedict XVI. Message for the 43rd World Day of Peace, no. 13, January 1, 2010)


c) Humans are put at the apex of material and visible creation: they are image and likeness of God, with a body and immortal soul, and with a final end that is not in this world


Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Man, created in God’s image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all that it contains, such that man himself and the totality of things be turned to the Lord and Creator of all

The biblical vision inspires the behavior of Christians in relation to their use of the earth, and also with regard to the advances of science and technology. The Second Vatican Council affirmed that man ‘judges rightly that by his intellect he surpasses the material universe, for he shares in the light of the divine mind’. The Council Fathers recognized the progress made thanks to the tireless application of human genius down the centuries, whether in the empirical sciences, the technological disciplines or the liberal arts. Today, ‘especially with the help of science and technology, man has extended his mastery over nearly the whole of nature and continues to do so’. For man, ‘created in God’s image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all that it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness, a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to him who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all. Thus, by the subjection of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth.’ [The Council teaches that] ‘throughout the course of the centuries, men have labored to better the circumstances of their lives through a monumental amount of individual and collective effort. To believers, this point is settled: considered in itself, this human activity accords with God’s will’. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 456)

John XXIII

A conception of ecology that appreciates the marvelous order placed by God in the world makes man realize his own greatness, as lord of creation, such that he can devise the means for harnessing natural forces for his own benefit as a gift received from God

Peace on Earth—which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after—can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order. That a marvelous order predominates in the world of living beings and in the forces of nature, is the plain lesson which the progress of modern research and the discoveries of technology teach us. And it is part of the greatness of man that he can appreciate that order, and devise the means for harnessing those forces for his own benefit. But what emerges first and foremost from the progress of scientific knowledge and the inventions of technology is the infinite greatness of God Himself, who created both man and the universe. Yes; out of nothing He made all things, and filled them with the fullness of His own wisdom and goodness. Hence, these are the words the holy psalmist used in praise of God: ‘O Lord, our Lord: how admirable is thy name in the whole earth!’ (Ps 8:1) And elsewhere he says: ‘How great are thy works, O Lord! Thou hast made all things in wisdom’ (Ps 103:24). Moreover, God created man ‘in His own image and likeness’ (cf. Gen 1:26), endowed him with intelligence and freedom, and made him lord of creation. All this the psalmist proclaims when he says: ‘Thou hast made him a little less than the angels: thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast set him over the works of thy hands. Thou hast subjected all things under his feet’ (Ps 8:5-6). (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem in Terris, nos. 1-3, April 11, 1963)

Benedict XVI

Authentic human development must include not just material but also spiritual growth, as the saints accomplished, since the human person is a ‘unity of body and soul’, born of God’s creative love and destined for eternal life

One aspect of the contemporary technological mindset is the tendency to consider the problems and emotions of the interior life from a purely psychological point of view, even to the point of neurological reductionism. In this way man’s interiority is emptied of its meaning and gradually our awareness of the human soul’s ontological depths, as probed by the saints, is lost. The question of development is closely bound up with our understanding of the human soul, insofar as we often reduce the self to the psyche and confuse the soul’s health with emotional well-being. These over-simplifications stem from a profound failure to understand the spiritual life, and they obscure the fact that the development of individuals and peoples depends partly on the resolution of problems of a spiritual nature. Development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth, since the human person is a ‘unity of body and soul’ (GS, 14), born of God’s creative love and destined for eternal life. The human being develops when he grows in the spirit, when his soul comes to know itself and the truths that God has implanted deep within, when he enters into dialogue with himself and his Creator. When he is far away from God, man is unsettled and ill at ease. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Caritas in veritate, no. 76, June 29, 2009)

Sacred Scripture

Humans are worth ‘more than many sparrows’; and so must not fear the death of the body but of the soul

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Mt 10:28-31)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The hierarchy of creatures is expressed by the order of the ‘six days’, from the less perfect to the more perfect; in creation God laid a foundation and established laws that remain firm, on which the believer can rely with confidence

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). […] In creation God laid a foundation and established laws that remain firm (Heb 4:3-4), on which the believer can rely with confidence, for they are the sign and pledge of the unshakeable faithfulness of God’s covenant (cf. Jer 31:35-37; 33:19-26). For his part man must remain faithful to this foundation, and respect the laws which the Creator has written into it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 342-343; 346)

In God’s plan humans have the vocation of ‘subduing’ the earth as ‘stewards of God’

In God’s plan man and woman have the vocation of ‘subduing’ the earth (Gen 1:28) as stewards of God. This sovereignty is not to be an arbitrary and destructive domination. God calls man and woman, made in the image of the Creator ‘who loves everything that exists’ (Wis 11:24), to share in his providence toward other creatures; hence their responsibility for the world God has entrusted to them. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 373)

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

In interior life, man discovers that he is superior to the material world, having ‘a spiritual and immortal soul’ and is not merely a pantheistic speck of nature or a nameless constituent of the city of man

Through his spirituality man moves beyond the realm of mere things and plunges into the innermost structure of reality. When he enters into his own heart, that is, when he reflects on his destiny, he discovers that he is superior to the material world because of his unique dignity as one who converses with God, under whose gaze he makes decisions about his life. In his inner life he recognizes that the person has ‘a spiritual and immortal soul’ and he knows that the person is not merely ‘a speck of nature or a nameless constituent of the city of man’. Therefore, man has two different characteristics: he is a material being, linked to this world by his body, and he is a spiritual being, open to transcendence and to the discovery of ‘more penetrating truths’, thanks to his intellect, by which ‘he shares in the light of the divine mind’. The Church affirms: ‘The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature’. Neither the spiritualism that despises the reality of the body nor the materialism that considers the spirit a mere manifestation of the material do justice to the complex nature, to the totality or to the unity of the human being. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 127-128)

God himself willed that man be the king of creation. The biblical message and the Church’s Magisterium represent the essential reference points for evaluating the problems found in the relationship between man and the environment

If man intervenes in nature without abusing it or damaging it, we can say that he ‘intervenes not in order to modify nature but to foster its development in its own life, that of the creation that God intended. While working in this obviously delicate area, the researcher adheres to the design of God. God willed that man be the king of creation’. In the end, it is God himself who offers to men and women the honour of cooperating with the full force of their intelligence in the work of creation. The biblical message and the Church’s Magisterium represent the essential reference points for evaluating the problems found in the relationship between man and the environment. The underlying cause of these problems can be seen in man’s pretension of exercising unconditional dominion over things, heedless of any moral considerations which, on the contrary, must distinguish all human activity. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 460-461)


II – The ecological problems of the planet are due to the neglect of the practice of the Commandments – immutable moral principles – by the greater part of humanity.The crisis of our world is a moral crisis, therefore, only a moral conversion will resolve ecological problems


Laudato si’ – What is needed is an ‘ecological conversion’

76 - A laudato-si400‘The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast’. For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion. It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience (LS 217).


a) The Christian should see the world as a milieu where life proceeds in accordance with moral principles, with his sights placed on eternity


Pius XII

The moral life does not belong only to the interior sphere, but also has an effect on the harmony of the world: even the most individual acts have a repercussion in the surrounding world

The divine symphony of the cosmos, particularly on the earth and among men, is confided by its supreme Author to humanity itself, so that, as an immense orchestra, distant in times and multiform in ways but united under the direction of Christ, it be faithfully executed, interpreting with the greatest perfection possible its sole and brilliant theme. In effect, God gave his plans to men, so that they could put them into act, personal and freely, pledging full moral responsibility and demanding, when necessary, fatigue and sacrifices, following the example of Christ. Under this aspect, the Christian is, in the first place, an admirer of the divine order in the world, one who loves its presence and does everything to see it recognized and affirmed. He will be, therefore, necessarily, its ardent defender against the forces and tendencies that hinder the operation, be those that he has hidden in himself – the evil inclinations – or those that come from the exterior – Satan and his superstitions. This is how Saint Paul saw the Christian in the world, when he pointed out the adversaries of God and exhorted to cloth oneself in his armor, in order to resist the assails of the demon, girding the waist with truth and clothing oneself with the breastplate of justice (cf. Eph 6: 11,14). The vocation of Christianity is not, therefore, an invitation of God only for an aesthetic complacency in the contemplation of his admirable order, but rather the obligatory calling toward an incessant action, austere, and directed to all of the senses and aspects of life. His [the Christian’s] action is carried out, before all else, in the full observance of the moral law, no matter what its object, small or great, secret or public, of abstention or positive realization. The moral life does not only belong to the interior sphere in such a way that it also does not touch, through its effects, on the harmony of the world. Man is never so alone, so individual and segregated to himself, in any event, even the most singular, that his decisions and acts do not have a repercussion in the surrounding world. Executer of the divine symphony, no man may presume that his action as something exclusively his own, that speaks only with respect to himself. The moral life is, without doubt, in the first place, an individual and interior work, but not in the sense of a certain ‘interiorism’ and ‘historicism’, with which some try to weaken and slight the universal value of the moral norms. (Pius XII. Christmas message to the faithful, December 22, 1957)

John XXIII

Only the moral order has the solution of problems relating to man’s life as an individual and as a member of society, both those concerning individual states and their inter-relations

The result is a vast expenditure of human energy and natural resources on projects which are disruptive of human society rather than beneficial to it; while a growing uneasiness gnaws at men’s hearts and makes them less responsive to the call of nobler enterprises. The root cause of so much mistrust is the presence of ideological differences between nations, and more especially between their rulers. There are some indeed who go so far as to deny the existence of a moral order which is transcendent, absolute, universal and equally binding upon all. And where the same law of justice is not adhered to by all, men cannot hope to come to open and full agreement on vital issues. […] Mutual trust among rulers of States cannot begin nor increase except by recognition of, and respect for, the moral order. But the moral order has no existence except in God; cut off from God it must necessarily disintegrate. Moreover, man is not just a material organism. He consists also of spirit; he is endowed with reason and freedom. He demands, therefore, a moral and religious order; and it is this order—and not considerations of a purely extraneous, material order—which has the greatest validity in the solution of problems relating to his life as an individual and as a member of society, and problems concerning individual states and their inter-relations. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, nos. 204-205; 207-208, May 15, 1961)

The disunity among individuals and among nations, which contrasts to the perfect order in the universe, is the consequence of a moral crisis, of the abandonment of the immutable laws inscribed by God in man’s nature

And yet there is a disunity among individuals and among nations which is in striking contrast to this perfect order in the universe. One would think that the relationships that bind men together could only be governed by force. But the world’s Creator has stamped man’s inmost being with an order revealed to man by his conscience; and his conscience insists on his preserving it. Men ‘show the work of the law written in their hearts. Their conscience bears witness to them’ (Rom 2:15). And how could it be otherwise? All created being reflects the infinite wisdom of God. It reflects it all the more clearly, the higher it stands in the scale of perfection (cf. Ps 18:8-11). But the mischief is often caused by erroneous opinions. Many people think that the laws which govern man’s relations with the State are the same as those which regulate the blind, elemental forces of the universe. But it is not so; the laws which govern men are quite different. The Father of the universe has inscribed them in man’s nature, and that is where we must look for them; there and nowhere else. (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem en Terris, no. 4-6, April 11, 1963)

Human society must be considered as being primarily a spiritual reality – and not a naturalistic one, whose spiritual values should exert a guiding influence on the relations between humans in all spheres

And so, dearest sons and brothers, we must think of human society as being primarily a spiritual reality. By its means enlightened men can share their knowledge of the truth, can claim their rights and fulfill their duties, receive encouragement in their aspirations for the goods of the spirit, share their enjoyment of all the wholesome pleasures of the world, and strive continually to pass on to others all that is best in themselves and to make their own the spiritual riches of others. It is these spiritual values which exert a guiding influence on culture, economics, social institutions, political movements and forms, laws, and all the other components which go to make up the external community of men and its continual development. Now the order which prevails in human society is wholly incorporeal in nature. Its foundation is truth, and it must be brought into effect by justice. It needs to be animated and perfected by men’s love for one another, and, while preserving freedom intact, it must make for an equilibrium in society which is increasingly more human in character. But such an order—universal, absolute and immutable in its principles—finds its source in the true, personal and transcendent God. He is the first truth, the sovereign good, and as such the deepest source from which human society, if it is to be properly constituted, creative, and worthy of man’s dignity, draws its genuine vitality. This is what St. Thomas means when he says: ‘Human reason is the standard which measures the degree of goodness of the human will, and as such it derives from the eternal law, which is divine reason . . . Hence it is clear that the goodness of the human will depends much more on the eternal law than on human reason.’ (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem in Terris, no. 36-38, April 11, 1963)

Men must conduct themselves in conformity with the precepts of the moral order, obeying the providential designs of God regarding salvation, integrating the principal spiritual values with those of science, technology and the professions

And yet even this must be reckoned insufficient to bring the relationships of daily life into conformity with a more human standard, based, as it must be, on truth, tempered by justice, motivated by mutual love, and holding fast to the practice of freedom. If these policies are really to become operative, men must first of all take the utmost care to conduct their various temporal activities in accordance with the laws which govern each and every such activity, observing the principles which correspond to their respective natures. Secondly, men’s actions must be made to conform with the precepts of the moral order. This means that their behavior must be such as to reflect their consciousness of exercising a personal right or performing a personal duty. Reason has a further demand to make. In obedience to the providential designs and commands of God respecting our salvation and neglecting the dictates of conscience, men must conduct themselves in their temporal activity in such a way as to effect a thorough integration of the principal spiritual values with those of science, technology and the professions. (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem in Terris, nos. 149-150, April 11, 1963)


b) The root of the environmental crisis is moral


John XXIII

The frequent divorce between faith and practice in Christians – the root of the present crisis

In traditionally Christian States at the present time, civil institutions evince a high degree of scientific and technical progress and possess abundant machinery for the attainment of every kind of objective. And yet it must be owned that these institutions are often but slightly affected by Christian motives and a Christian spirit. One may well ask the reason for this, since the men who have largely contributed—and who are still contributing—to the creation of these institutions are men who are professed Christians, and who live their lives, at least in part, in accordance with the precepts of the gospels. In Our opinion the explanation lies in a certain cleavage between faith and practice. Their inner, spiritual unity must be restored, so that faith may be the light and love the motivating force of all their actions. We consider too that a further reason for this very frequent divorce between faith and practice in Christians is an inadequate education in Christian teaching and Christian morality. In many places the amount of energy devoted to the study of secular subjects is all too often out of pro portion to that devoted to the study of religion. Scientific training reaches a very high level, whereas religious training generally does not advance beyond the elementary stage. It is essential, therefore, that the instruction given to our young people be complete and continuous, and imparted in such a way that moral goodness and the cultivation of religious values may keep pace with scientific knowledge and continually advancing technical progress. (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem in Terris, no. 151-153, April 11, 1963)

John Paul II

A moral question: the environmental problem results from unheeding the Creator’s will that man should communicate with nature as an intelligent and noble ‘master’ and ‘guardian’

This state of menace for man from what he produces shows itself in various directions and various degrees of intensity. We seem to be increasingly aware of the fact that the exploitation of the earth, the planet on which we are living, demands rational and honest planning. At the same time, exploitation of the earth not only for industrial but also for military purposes and the uncontrolled development of technology outside the framework of a long-range authentically humanistic plan often bring with them a threat to man’s natural environment, alienate him in his relations with nature and remove him from nature. […] Yet it was the Creator’s will that man should communicate with nature as an intelligent and noble ‘master’ and ‘guardian’, and not as a heedless ‘exploiter’ and ‘destroyer’. The development of technology and the development of contemporary civilization, which is marked by the ascendancy of technology, demand a proportional development of morals and ethics. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, no. 15, March 4, 1979)

The true nature of the evil which faces us with respect to the development of peoples: it is a question of a moral evil, the fruit of many sins which lead to ‘structures of sin’

I have wished to introduce this type of analysis above all in order to point out the true nature of the evil which faces us with respect to the development of peoples: it is a question of a moral evil, the fruit of many sins which lead to ‘structures of sin’ To diagnose the evil in this way is to identify precisely, on the level of human conduct, the path to be followed in order to overcome it. This path is long and complex, and what is more it is constantly threatened because of the intrinsic frailty of human resolutions and achievements, and because of the mutability of very unpredictable and external circumstances. Nevertheless, one must have the courage to set out on this path, and, where some steps have been taken or a part of the journey made, the courage to go on to the end. In the context of these reflections, the decision to set out or to continue the journey involves, above all, a moral value which men and women of faith recognize as a demand of God’s will, the only true foundation of an absolutely binding ethic. One would hope that also men and women without an explicit faith would be convinced that the obstacles to integral development are not only economic but rest on more profound attitudes which human beings can make into absolute values. Thus one would hope that all those who, to some degree or other, are responsible for ensuring a ‘more human life’ for their fellow human beings, whether or not they are inspired by a religious faith, will become fully aware of the urgent need to change the spiritual attitudes which define each individual’s relationship with self, with neighbor, with even the remotest human communities, and with nature itself; and all of this in view of higher values such as the common good or, to quote the felicitous expression of the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the full development ‘of the whole individual and of all people.’ For Christians, as for all who recognize the precise theological meaning of the word ‘sin,’ a change of behavior or mentality or mode of existence is called ‘conversion,’ to use the language of the Bible (cf. Mk 13:3, 5, Is 30:15). This conversion specifically entails a relationship to God, to the sin committed, to its consequences and hence to one’s neighbor, either an individual or a community. (John Paul II. Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, no. 37-38, December 30, 1987)

Fragments of the Centessimus annus omitted in the Laudato Si’: the root of the ecological problem is the loss of the sense of God the Creator, whereby man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth

Equally worrying is the ecological question […] In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. […] Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray. […] In all this, one notes first the poverty or narrowness of man’s outlook, motivated as he is by a desire to possess things rather than to relate them to the truth, and lacking that disinterested, unselfish and aesthetic attitude that is born of wonder in the presence of being and of the beauty which enables one to see in visible things the message of the invisible God who created them. In this regard, humanity today must be conscious of its duties and obligations towards future generations. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 37, May 1, 1991)

Benedict XVI

Human beings interpret and shape the natural environment through culture, which in turn is given direction by the responsible use of freedom, in accordance with the dictates of the moral law

Today much harm is done to development precisely as a result of these distorted notions. Reducing nature merely to a collection of contingent data ends up doing violence to the environment and even encouraging activity that fails to respect human nature itself. Our nature, constituted not only by matter but also by spirit, and as such, endowed with transcendent meaning and aspirations, is also normative for culture. Human beings interpret and shape the natural environment through culture, which in turn is given direction by the responsible use of freedom, in accordance with the dictates of the moral law. Consequently, projects for integral human development cannot ignore coming generations, but need to be marked by solidarity and inter-generational justice, while taking into account a variety of contexts: ecological, juridical, economic, political and cultural. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Caritas in veritate, no. 48, June 29, 2009)

Fragments of Caritas in Veritate omitted in the citations of Laudato Si’: The ecological system is based not only on a good relationship with nature, but also on respect for a plan that affects the health of society - the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society

The Church has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. […] Just as human virtues are interrelated, such that the weakening of one places others at risk, so the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature. In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Caritas in veritate, no. 51, June 29, 2009)

*   *   *


Laudato si’
An integral ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, which calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order. The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures; all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God.

 76 - A laudato-si400An integral ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and unifying principle of social ethics. The common good is ‘the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment’ (GS, 26). (LS 156)

76 - A laudato-si400Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development. It has also to do with the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity. Outstanding among those groups is the family, as the basic cell of society. Finally, the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good. (LS 157)

 76 - A laudato-si400The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things (note 53: Against this horizon we can set the contribution of Fr Teilhard de Chardin). Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator. (LS 83)


c) The solution for the world crisis is found in a society based on the religious principles of Christian morals


John Paul II

More parts of the Centesimus annus ‘forgotten’ in the citations of Laudato Si’ More than preserving the natural habitats of threatened species, greater effort must be made to safeguard the moral conditions of mankind

In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural environment, we must also mention the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves. Although people are rightly worried — though much less than they should be — about preserving the natural habitats of the various animal species threatened with extinction, because they realize that each of these species makes its particular contribution to the balance of nature in general, too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic ‘human ecology’. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 38, May 1, 1991)

Even more elements of Centesimus annus ‘forgotten’ in the citations of Laudato Si’: An ‘integral ecology’ presents an idea of the family that contrasts with the Catholic ideal, which is founded on marriage, cradle of the moral formation of man

The first and fundamental structure for ‘human ecology’ is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person. Here we mean the family founded on marriage, in which the mutual gift of self by husband and wife creates an environment in which children can be born and develop their potentialities, become aware of their dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny. But it often happens that people are discouraged from creating the proper conditions for human reproduction and are led to consider themselves and their lives as a series of sensations to be experienced rather than as a work to be accomplished. The result is a lack of freedom, which causes a person to reject a commitment to enter into a stable relationship with another person and to bring children into the world, or which leads people to consider children as one of the many ‘things’ which an individual can have or not have, according to taste, and which compete with other possibilities. It is necessary to go back to seeing the family as the sanctuary of life. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 39, May 1, 1991)

The ecological question finds in the Bible clear and strong ethical direction, leading to a solution that respects the great good of life

To defend and promote life, to show reverence and love for it, is a task which God entrusts to every man, calling him as his living image to share in his own lordship over the world: ‘God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’ (Gen 1:28). The biblical text clearly shows the breadth and depth of the lordship which God bestows on man. It is a matter first of all of dominion over the earth and over every living creature, as the Book of Wisdom makes clear: ‘O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy … by your wisdom you have formed man, to have dominion over the creatures you have made, and rule the world in holiness and righteousness’ (Wis 9:1, 2-3). The Psalmist too extols the dominion given to man as a sign of glory and honour from his Creator: ‘You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea’ (Ps 8:6-8). As one called to till and look after the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15), man has a specific responsibility towards the environment in which he lives, towards the creation which God has put at the service of his personal dignity, of his life, not only for the present but also for future generations. It is the ecological question-ranging from the preservation of the natural habitats of the different species of animals and of other forms of life to ‘human ecology’ properly speaking – which finds in the Bible clear and strong ethical direction, leading to a solution which respects the great good of life, of every life. (John Paul II. Encyclical Evangelium vitae, no. 42, March 25, 1995)

Benedict XVI

If the relationship between human creatures and the Creator is forgotten, matter is reduced to a selfish possession; man becomes the ‘last word’

The Earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us bearings that guide us as stewards of his creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers matters concerning the environment and its protection intimately linked to the theme of integral human development. In my recent Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, I referred more than once to such questions, recalling the ‘pressing moral need for renewed solidarity’ (n. 49) not only between countries but also between individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, and in particular towards the poor and towards future generations (cf. n. 48). Bearing in mind our common responsibility for creation (cf. n. 51), the Church is not only committed to promoting the protection of land, water and air as gifts of the Creator destined to everyone but above all she invites others and works herself to protect mankind from self-destruction. In fact, ‘when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits’ (ibid.). Is it not true that an irresponsible use of creation begins precisely where God is marginalized or even denied? If the relationship between human creatures and the Creator is forgotten, matter is reduced to a selfish possession, man becomes the ‘last word’, and the purpose of human existence is reduced to a scramble for the maximum number of possessions possible. (Benedict XVI. General Audience, August 26, 2009)

There is a need to safeguard the human patrimony of society that originates in and is part of the natural moral law, which is the foundation of respect for the human person and creation

The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction. The degradation of nature is closely linked to the cultural models shaping human coexistence: consequently, ‘when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits’ (Caritas in Veritate, 51). Young people cannot be asked to respect the environment if they are not helped, within families and society as a whole, to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics (cf. ibid., 15, 51). Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others. 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 (cf. ibid., 28, 51, 61; John Paul II. Centesimus Annus, 38,- 39). 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. (Benedict XVI. Message for the 43rd World Day of Peace, no. 12, January 1, 2010)

Prerequisite for saving the ecology: saving our spiritual ozone layer and especially saving our spiritual rainforests - a real conversion, as faith understands it, toward the will of God

We have acknowledged the problem of environmental destruction. However, the fact that saving our spiritual ozone layer and especially saving our spiritual rainforests is the prerequisite for saving the ecology seems to penetrate our consciousness only very slowly. Shouldn’t we have asked long ago: What about the contamination of our thinking, the pollution of our souls? Many things that we permit in this media-and-commerce-driven society are basically the equivalent of a toxic load that almost inevitably must lead to a spiritual poisoning. There is no overlooking the fact that there is a poisoning of thought, which in advance leads us into false perspectives. To free ourselves again from it by means of a real conversion – to use that fundamental word of the Christian faith – is one of the challenges that by now are becoming obvious to everyone. In our modern world, which is so scientifically oriented, such concepts no longer had any meaning. A conversion, as faith understands it, toward the will of God who shows us a way was considered old-fashioned and outmoded. I believe, though, that gradually it is becoming evident that there is something to it when we say that we must reconsider all this. (Benedict XVI. Light of the World. The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times. A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 26)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Use of the natural resources cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives . Some parts of the Catechism not cited in Laudato Si’

The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity (cf. Gen 128-31). Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2415)

CELAM – Document of Aparecida

The best way to respect nature is to promote a human ecology open to transcendence to recapitulate all things in Christ and praise the Father with Him

The best way to respect nature is to promote a human ecology open to transcendence, which, while respecting the person and the family, environments and cities, follows Paul’s urging to recapitulate all things in Christ and praise the Father with Him (cf. 1Cor 3:21-23). (Benedict XVI. Letter to the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Fifth Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, Aparecida Document, no. 126, June 29, 2007)

John Paul II

True conversion fosters a new life, in which there is no separation between faith and works in our daily response to the universal call to holiness

In speaking of conversion, the New Testament uses the word metanoia, which means a change of mentality. It is not simply a matter of thinking differently in an intellectual sense, but of revising the reasons behind one’s actions in the light of the Gospel. In this regard, Saint Paul speaks of ‘faith working through love’ (Gal 5:6). This means that true conversion needs to be prepared and nurtured though the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture and the practice of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Conversion leads to fraternal communion, because it enables us to understand that Christ is the head of the Church, his Mystical Body; it urges solidarity, because it makes us aware that whatever we do for others, especially for the poorest, we do for Christ himself. Conversion, therefore, fosters a new life, in which there is no separation between faith and works in our daily response to the universal call to holiness. In order to speak of conversion, the gap between faith and life must be bridged. Where this gap exists, Christians are such only in name. To be true disciples of the Lord, believers must bear witness to their faith, and ‘witnesses testify not only with words, but also with their lives’. We must keep in mind the words of Jesus: ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 7:21). Openness to the Father’s will supposes a total self-giving, including even the gift of one’s life: ‘The greatest witness is martyrdom’ (Propositio 30). (John Paul II. Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, no. 26, January 22, 1999)


III – An ecology of a spiritual and irenic character opens the doors toward a distortion of the Catholic religion, that must not – under the pretext of saving humanity and dialoguing with everybody, Catholics and non Catholics – adapt to ways of thinking which constitute doctrines truly contrary to immutable teachings


Laudato si’
Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way. returning to the sources of their ethical and spiritual treasures, religions will be better equipped to respond to today’s needs; spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature; An open and respectful dialogue is also needed between the various ecological movements. Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning.

76 - A laudato-si400All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur. (LS 114)

76 - A laudato-si400We need to develop a new synthesis capable of overcoming the false arguments of recent centuries. Christianity, in fidelity to its own identity and the rich deposit of truth which it has received from Jesus Christ, continues to reflect on these issues in fruitful dialogue with changing historical situations. In doing so, it reveals its eternal newness. (LS 121)

76 - A laudato-si400Any technical solution which science claims to offer will be powerless to solve the serious problems of our world if humanity loses its compass, if we lose sight of the great motivations which make it possible for us to live in harmony, to make sacrifices and to treat others well. Believers themselves must constantly feel challenged to live in a way consonant with their faith and not to contradict it by their actions. They need to be encouraged to be ever open to God’s grace and to draw constantly from their deepest convictions about love, justice and peace. If a mistaken understanding of our own principles has at times led us to justify mistreating nature, to exercise tyranny over creation, to engage in war, injustice and acts of violence, we believers should acknowledge that by so doing we were not faithful to the treasures of wisdom which we have been called to protect and preserve. Cultural limitations in different eras often affected the perception of these ethical and spiritual treasures, yet by constantly returning to their sources, religions will be better equipped to respond to today’s needs. (LS 200)

76 - A laudato-si400The majority of people living on our planet profess to be believers. This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity. Dialogue among the various sciences is likewise needed, since each can tend to become enclosed in its own language, while specialization leads to a certain isolation and the absolutization of its own field of knowledge. This prevents us from confronting environmental problems effectively. An open and respectful dialogue is also needed between the various ecological movements, among which ideological conflicts are not infrequently encountered. The gravity of the ecological crisis demands that we all look to the common good, embarking on a path of dialogue which demands patience, self-discipline and generosity, always keeping in mind that ‘realities are greater than ideas’ (Evangelii Gaudium). (LS 201)

76 - A laudato-si400Environmental education has broadened its goals. Whereas in the beginning it was mainly centered on scientific information, consciousness-raising and the prevention of environmental risks, it tends now to include a critique of the ‘myths’ of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset (individualism, unlimited progress, competition, consumerism, the unregulated market). It seeks also to restore the various levels of ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God. Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning. (LS 210)


I propose that we offer prayers that we can share with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator

76 - A laudato-si400At the conclusion of this lengthy reflection which has been both joyful and troubling, I propose that we offer two prayers. The first we can share with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator, while in the other we Christians ask for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. (LS 246)


a) Dialogue and drawing closer, without transgressing the truth and the faith


Catechism of Saint Pius X

We should beg graces of God in the Name of Jesus Christ because He is our Mediator, and it is through Him alone that we can approach the throne of God

What is public prayer?
Public prayer is that said by the Sacred Ministers in the name of the Church and for the salvation of the faithful. That prayer also which is said in common and publicly by the faithful, in processions, pilgrimages and in God’s house, may also be called public prayer.
Have we a well-founded hope of obtaining by means of prayer the helps and graces of which we stand in need?
The hope of obtaining from God the graces of which we stand in need is founded on the promises of the omnipotent, merciful and all-faithful God, and on the merits of Jesus Christ.
In whose name should we ask of God the graces we stand in need of?
We should ask of God the graces we stand in need of in the Name of Jesus Christ, as He Himself has taught us and as is done by the Church, which always ends her prayers with these words: Through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Why should we beg graces of God in the Name of Jesus Christ?
We should beg graces of God in the Name of Jesus Christ because He is our Mediator, and it is through Him alone that we can approach the throne of God. (Catechism of Saint Pius X, Prayer, Qu. 6-9)

John Paul II

True ecumenical activity in no way means giving up or diminishing the treasures of divine truth, constantly confessed and taught by the Church

True ecumenical activity means openness, drawing closer, availability for dialogue, and a shared investigation of the truth in the full evangelical and Christian sense; but in no way does it or can it mean giving up or in any way diminishing the treasures of divine truth that the Church has constantly confessed and taught. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, no. 6, March 4, 1979)

Paul VI

The desire to come together as brothers must not lead to a watering down or whittling away of truth: our dialogue must not weaken our attachment to our faith

But the danger remains. Indeed, the worker in the apostolate is under constant fire. The desire to come together as brothers must not lead to a watering down or whittling away of truth. Our dialogue must not weaken our attachment to our faith. Our apostolate must not make vague compromises concerning the principles which regulate and govern the profession of the Christian faith both in theory and in practice. An immoderate desire to make peace and sink differences at all costs (irenism and syncretism) is ultimately nothing more than skepticism about the power and content of the Word of God which we desire to preach. The effective apostle is the man who is completely faithful to Christ’s teaching. He alone can remain unaffected by the errors of the world around him, the man who lives his Christian life to the full. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 88, August 6, 1964)

Pius IX

A very grave error: to believe that men living in error, and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life

And here, beloved Sons and Venerable Brothers, We should mention again and censure a very grave error in which some Catholics are unhappily engaged, who believe that men living in error, and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life. Indeed, this is certainly quite contrary to Catholic teaching. (Denzinger-Hünermann 2865. Pius IX, Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863)

Errors condemned by the Syllabus

15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which he, led by the light of reason, thinks to be the true religion (8, 26).
In the worship of any religion whatever, men can find the way to eternal salvation, and can attain eternal salvation (1, 3, 17).
The Roman Pontiff can and should reconcile and adapt himself to progress, liberalism, and the modern civilization (24). (Denzinger-Hünermann 2915-2916; 2980. Pius IX, Syllabus – compromising the particular errors of our age, December 8, 1864)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Jesus openly entrusts to his disciples the mystery of prayer to the Father: ‘ask in his name’

When Jesus openly entrusts to his disciples the mystery of prayer to the Father, he reveals to them what their prayer and ours must be, once he has returned to the Father in his glorified humanity. What is new is to ‘ask in his name’ (Jn 14: 13). Faith in the Son introduces the disciples into the knowledge of the Father, because Jesus is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14: 6). Faith bears its fruit in love: it means keeping the word and the commandments of Jesus, it means abiding with him in the Father who, in him, so loves us that he abides with us. In this new covenant the certitude that our petitions will be heard is founded on the prayer of Jesus (Cf. Jn 14:13-14). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2614)

John XXIII

In relations with non-Catholics, Catholics bear themselves as Catholics, and must do nothing to compromise religion and morality

The principles We have set out in this document take their rise from the very nature of things. They derive, for the most part, from the consideration of man’s natural rights. Thus the putting of these principles into effect frequently involves extensive co-operation between Catholics and those Christians who are separated from this Apostolic See. It even involves the cooperation of Catholics with men who may not be Christians but who nevertheless are reasonable men, and men of natural moral integrity. ‘In such circumstances they must, of course, bear themselves as Catholics, and do nothing to compromise religion and morality. Yet at the same time they should show themselves animated by a spirit of understanding and unselfishness, ready to co-operate loyally in achieving objects which are good in themselves, or conducive to good’ (Mater et Magistra). It is always perfectly justifiable to distinguish between error as such and the person who falls into error—even in the case of men who err regarding the truth or are led astray as a result of their inadequate knowledge, in matters either of religion or of the highest ethical standards. A man who has fallen into error does not cease to be a man. He never forfeits his personal dignity; and that is something that must always be taken into account. Besides, there exists in man’s very nature an undying capacity to break through the barriers of error and seek the road to truth. God, in His great providence, is ever present with His aid. Today, maybe, a man lacks faith and turns aside into error; tomorrow, perhaps, illumined by God’s light, he may indeed embrace the truth. Catholics who, in order to achieve some external good, collaborate with unbelievers or with those who through error lack the fullness of faith in Christ, may possibly provide the occasion or even the incentive for their conversion to the truth. Again it is perfectly legitimate to make a clear distinction between a false philosophy of the nature, origin and purpose of men and the world, and economic, social, cultural, and political undertakings, even when such undertakings draw their origin and inspiration from that philosophy. True, the philosophic formula does not change once it has been set down in precise terms, but the undertakings clearly cannot avoid being influenced to a certain extent by the changing conditions in which they have to operate. (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem in Terris, nos. 157-159, April 11, 1963)

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Laudato si’
The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal. It is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions: For them, land is a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. They themselves care for it best.

76 - A laudato-si400Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community. The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal. The imposition of a dominant lifestyle linked to a single form of production can be just as harmful as the altering of ecosystems. (LS 145)

76 - A laudato-si400In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture. (LS 146)


b) Authentic respect for nature and human beings will only exist within an authentically Catholic society


John XXIII

Our concern is with the doctrine of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose light illumines, enkindles and enflames. Every age hears her warning voice, vibrant with heavenly wisdom, with effective remedies for the increasing needs of men, and the sorrows and anxieties of this present life

This era in which we live is in the grip of deadly errors; it is torn by deep disorders. But it is also an era which offers to those who work with the Church immense possibilities in the field of the apostolate. And therein lies our hope. Venerable Brethren and dear sons, We began with that wonderful Encyclical of Pope Leo, and passed in review before you the various problems of our modern social life. We have given principles and directives which We exhort you earnestly to think over, and now, for your part, to put into effect. Your courageous co-operation in this respect will surely help to bring about the realization of Christ’s Kingdom in this world, ‘a kingdom of truth and life; a kingdom of holiness and grace; a kingdom of justice, of love and of peace’ (The Preface of the feast of Christ the King), which assures the enjoyment of those heavenly blessings for which we were created and for which we long most ardently. For here Our concern is with the doctrine of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. She is the Mother and Teacher of all nations. Her light illumines, enkindles and enflames. No age but hears her warning voice, vibrant with heavenly wisdom. She is ever powerful to offer suitable, effective remedies for the increasing needs of men, and the sorrows and anxieties of this present life. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, nos. 260-262, May 15, 1961)

Benedict XVI

Goodwill alone is not enough…Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. The strength to fight and suffer for the common good comes from the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’

Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:5) and then encourages us: ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20). As we contemplate the vast amount of work to be done, we are sustained by our faith that God is present alongside those who come together in his name to work for justice. Paul VI recalled in Populorum Progressio that man cannot bring about his own progress unaided, because by himself he cannot establish an authentic humanism. Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God’s family as his sons and daughters, will we be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism. The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism (Populorum Progressio) that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God. Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity. On the other hand, ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today. A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment. Awareness of God’s undying love sustains us in our laborious and stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples, amid successes and failures, in the ceaseless pursuit of a just ordering of human affairs. God’s love calls us to move beyond the limited and the ephemeral, it gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all, even if this cannot be achieved immediately and if what we are able to achieve, alongside political authorities and those working in the field of economics, is always less than we might wish (Spe Salvi, 35). God gives us the strength to fight and to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Caritas in veritate, no. 78, June 29, 2009)

It becomes more and more evident that there is an inseparable link between peace with creation and peace among men. Both of these presuppose peace with God

By responding to this charge, entrusted to them by the Creator, men and women can join in bringing about a world of peace. Alongside the ecology of nature, there exists what can be called a ‘human’ ecology, which in turn demands a ‘social’ ecology. All this means that humanity, if it truly desires peace, must be increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology. Experience shows that disregard for the environment always harms human coexistence, and vice versa. It becomes more and more evident that there is an inseparable link between peace with creation and peace among men. Both of these presuppose peace with God. (Benedict XVI. Message for the 40th World Day of Peace, no. 8, January 1, 2007)

Without a transcendent foundation founded on moral values – which are Christian values - society is a mere aggregation of neighbors, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family

The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based. This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth. Here, however, we cannot forget that the family comes into being from the responsible and definitive ‘yes’ of a man and a women, and it continues to live from the conscious ‘yes’ of the children who gradually join it. The family community, in order to prosper, needs the generous consent of all its members. This realization also needs to become a shared conviction on the part of all those called to form the common human family. We need to say our own ‘yes’ to this vocation which God has inscribed in our very nature. We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters. Consequently, it is essential that we should all be committed to living our lives in an attitude of responsibility before God, acknowledging him as the deepest source of our own existence and that of others. By going back to this supreme principle we are able to perceive the unconditional worth of each human being, and thus to lay the premises for building a humanity at peace. Without this transcendent foundation society is a mere aggregation of neighbours, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family. (Benedict XVI. Message for the 41st World Day of Peace, no. 6, January 1, 2008)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The union of the human family is possible only founded on Christ, uniting all as of the family of God’s children - the innermost nature of the Church

The union of the human family is greatly fortified and fulfilled by the unity, founded on Christ, of the family of God’s sons. Christ, to be sure, gave His Church no proper mission in the political, economic or social order. The purpose which He set before her is a religious one. But out of this religious mission itself come a function, a light and an energy which can serve to structure and consolidate the human community according to the divine law. As a matter of fact, when circumstances of time and place produce the need, she can and indeed should initiate activities on behalf of all men, especially those designed for the needy, such as the works of mercy and similar undertakings. The Church recognizes that worthy elements are found in today’s social movements, especially an evolution toward unity, a process of wholesome socialization and of association in civic and economic realms. The promotion of unity belongs to the innermost nature of the Church, for she is, ‘thanks to her relationship with Christ, a sacramental sign and an instrument of intimate union with God, and of the unity of the whole human race’ (cf. 1 Cor. 7:5). Thus she shows the world that an authentic union, social and external, results from a union of minds and hearts, namely from that faith and charity by which her own unity is unbreakably rooted in the Holy Spirit. For the force which the Church can inject into the modern society of man consists in that faith and charity put into vital practice, not in any external dominion exercised by merely human means.
Moreover, since in virtue of her mission and nature she is bound to no particular form of human culture, nor to any political, economic or social system, the Church by her very universality can be a very close bond between diverse human communities and nations, provided these trust her and truly acknowledge her right to true freedom in fulfilling her mission. For this reason, the Church admonishes her own sons, but also humanity as a whole, to overcome all strife between nations and race in this family spirit of God’s children, and in the same way, to give internal strength to human associations which are just. (Vatican Council II, Constitution Gaudium et Spes, no. 42, December 7, 1965)

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Laudato si’
Outside the Catholic Church, other religions have offered valuable reflections on these issues. To accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. I suggest that we now consider some elements of an ‘integral ecology’. What is the purpose of our life in this world? Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan; creating an ‘ecological citizenship’

76 - A laudato-si400Outside 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. To give just one striking example, I would mention the statements made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion. (LS 7)

76 - A laudato-si400As Christians, we are also called ‘to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet’ (Patriarch Bartholomew ‘Global Responsibility and Ecological Sustainability’, Closing Remarks, Halki Summit I, Istanbul, 20 June 2012). (LS 9)

76 - A laudato-si400In this universe, shaped by open and intercommunicating systems, we can discern countless forms of relationship and participation. This leads us to think of the whole as open to God’s transcendence, within which it develops. Faith allows us to interpret the meaning and the mysterious beauty of what is unfolding. (LS 79)

76 - A laudato-si400Since everything is closely interrelated, and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions. (LS 137)

76 - A laudato-si400When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we think in the first place of its general direction, its meaning and its values. Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results. But 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? It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affect us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn. (LS 160)

76 - A laudato-si400Beginning in the middle of the last century and overcoming many difficulties, there has been a growing conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home. An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries. Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan. (LS 164)

76 - A laudato-si400Yet this education, aimed at creating an ‘ecological citizenship’, is at times limited to providing information, and fails to instill good habits. The existence of laws and regulations is insufficient in the long run to curb bad conduct, even when effective means of enforcement are present. If the laws are to bring about significant, long-lasting effects, the majority of the members of society must be adequately motivated to accept them, and personally transformed to respond. (LS 211)


c) The Christian vision of the Triune God cannot be reconciled with the spiritualist mask of an ecology that appears to be open toward interreligious dialogue, but is interwoven with religious syncretism and pantheism


Pius XII

Christian action cannot renounce its title and character to collaborate with a ‘human’ action that signifies agnosticism toward Religion and the true values of life, which would be equal to a request of abdication, to which a Christian cannot consent

Christian action cannot, neither today nor formerly, renounce its title and character, merely because some see in the contemporary human consortia a so-called pluralist society, divided by opposed mentalities, inalterable in their respective positions and incapable of admitting any collaboration that is not established upon the plan that is simply ‘human’. If this ‘human’ signifies, as it seems to, agnosticism toward Religion and the true values of life, every invitation to this collaboration would be equal to a request for abdication, to which a Christian cannot consent. For the rest, from where would this ‘human’ obtain the strength to oblige, to found liberty of conscience for all, if not on the vigor of the order and of the divine harmony? This ‘human’ would end up creating a new kind of ‘ghetto’, but deprived of a universal character. (Pius XII. Christmas message to the faithful, December 22, 1957)

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)

God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth

[The one, living, and true God and His distinction from all things.] The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one, true, living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, omnipotent, eternal, immense, incomprehensible, infinite in intellect and will, and in every perfection; who, although He is one, singular, altogether simple and unchangeable spiritual substance, must be proclaimed distinct in reality and essence from the world; most blessed in Himself and of Himself, and ineffably most high above all things which are or can be conceived outside Himself [can. 1-4]. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3001. Vatican Council I – Ecumenical XX, Session III, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius concerning the Catholic Faith, April 24, 1870)

Saint Bonaventure

The things of this sensible world lead one to transcend and pass-over to Christ, and the hidden Sacrament of God

In the First and Most High Principle and the Mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ, one gazes upon those things the like of which can in nowise be discovered (reperiri) among creatures, and which exceed every perspicacity of the human intellect: it follows, that this (mind) by gazing transcends and passes-over not only this sensible world, but also its very self; in which transitus Christ is the Way and the Gate, Christ is the Stair and the Vehicle as the propitiatory located above the ark of God and the Sacrament hidden from the ages. (Saint Bonaventure. The Journey into the Mind of the God, Ch. 7, no. 1)

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

Only in dialogue with God does the human being find his truth, from which he draws inspiration and norms to make plans for the future of the world

The relationship of man with the world is a constitutive part of his human identity. This relationship is in turn the result of another still deeper relationship between man and God. The Lord has made the human person to be a partner with him in dialogue. Only in dialogue with God does the human being find his truth, from which he draws inspiration and norms to make plans for the future of the world, which is the garden that God has given him to keep and till (cf. Gen 2: 15). Not even sin could remove this duty, although it weighed down this exalted work with pain and suffering (cf. Gen 3:17-19). (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 452)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Solutions that propose a salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ are contrary to Christian and Catholic faith

It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. Bearing in mind this article of faith, theology today, in its reflection on the existence of other religious experiences and on their meaning in God’s salvific plan, is invited to explore if and in what way the historical figures and positive elements of these religions may fall within the divine plan of salvation. In this undertaking, theological research has a vast field of work under the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium. The Second Vatican Council, in fact, has stated that: ‘the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude, but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a participation in this one source’. The content of this participated mediation should be explored more deeply, but must remain always consistent with the principle of Christ’s unique mediation: ‘Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value only from Christ’s own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his’. Hence, those solutions that propose a salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ would be contrary to Christian and Catholic faith. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, no. 14, August 6, 2000)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The true spirituality for all Christians in any state or walk of life: called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness, in mystical union with Christ

‘We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him . . . For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren and those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (Rom 8:28-30). ‘All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity’ (LG 40 # 2). All are called to holiness: ‘Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48). In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that… doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints (LG 40 # 2). Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called ‘mystical’ because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments – ‘the holy mysteries’ – and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all. The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (Cf. 2Tim 4). Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes: He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Hom. in Cant. 8). The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus (cf. Council of Trent). Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the ‘blessed hope’ of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the ‘holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband’(Rev 21:2). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2012-2016)

Pius XII

The perfection and the order of the world of some sort of immanent process, which is a return to the old superstition that deified nature; but is a vital happening of the same history as the divine Word - the form of this world passes and its final destiny to the glory of the Father and the triumph of the Word

Therefore, it is useless to await the perfection and the order of the world of some sort of immanent process, in which man would be merely a spectator, according to what some have affirmed. This obscure immanentism is a return to the old superstition that deified nature; and cannot be based, as some wish, on history without artificially falsifying of the explication of the facts. The history of humanity in the world is very different than that of a process of blind forces; it is an admirable and vital happening of the same history as the divine Word, that had its beginning in Him and will be fulfilled by Him, on the day of the universal return to the first principle, when the Incarnate Word will offer to the Father, as testimony of his glory, his property redeemed and illuminated by the Spirit of God. Therefore, many facts, especially those of history, that seem now as disharmonies, will be revealed as elements of authentic harmony: as, for example, the continuous ensuing of new things, while the old things disappear, because one and the other participate or will participate in some way in the truth and divine goodness. The passing nature of something or of a happening does not take from them, when they possess it, the dignity of expressing the divine Spirit. The entire world, as well, is like this, as the Apostle adverted: ‘For the form of this world is passing away’ (1Cor 7:31) but its final destiny to the glory of the Father and the triumph of the Word, that is in the foundation of all process, conferred it and conserved in the world the dignity of the testimony and instrument of the truth, goodness and eternal harmonies. (Pius XII, Christmas message to the faithful, December 22, 1957)

John XXIII

There will be no peace nor justice in the world until men return to a sense of their dignity as creatures and sons of God; separated from God a man is but a monster, in himself and toward others

The most fundamental modern error is that of imagining that man’s natural sense of religion is nothing more than the outcome of feeling or fantasy, to be eradicated from his soul as an anachronism and an obstacle to human progress. And yet this very need for religion reveals a man for what he is: a being created by God and tending always toward God. As we read in St. Augustine: ‘Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts can find no rest until they rest in you’ (Confessions I, 1). Let men make all the technical and economic progress they can, there will be no peace nor justice in the world until they return to a sense of their dignity as creatures and sons of God, who is the first and final cause of all created being. Separated from God a man is but a monster, in himself and toward others; for the right ordering of human society presupposes the right ordering of man’s conscience with God, who is Himself the source of all justice, truth and love. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, no. 214-215, May 15, 1961)

Scientific and technical progress: goods of this kind must be valued according to their true nature, as instruments used by man for the better attainment of his end in the natural and the supernatural order

In Our paternal care as universal Pastor of souls, We earnestly beg Our sons, immersed though they be in the business of this world, not to allow their consciences to sleep; not to lose sight of the true hierarchy of values. Certainly, the Church teaches—and has always taught—that scientific and technical progress and the resultant material well-being are good things and mark an important phase in human civilization. But the Church teaches, too, that goods of this kind must be valued according to their true nature: as instruments used by man for the better attainment of his end. They help to make him a better man, both in the natural and the supernatural order. May these warning words of the divine Master ever sound in men’s ears: ‘For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?’ (Mt 16:26) (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, nos. 245-247, May 15, 1961)

Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

The growing conviction that there exists an essence of truth in the heart of every religious experience has led to the idea that they must gather elements from different religions in order to reach a universal form of religion

Today, together with Archbishop Fitzgerald, I have the honour of presenting a Document on the phenomenon, which was drafted by Rev. Peter Fleetwood, at that time an official of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and by Dr. Teresa Osório Gonçalves of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. It is the fruit, therefore, of a long and authentic collaboration between offices [of the Holy See] in order to help provide an answer, with ‘gentleness and respect’, as the Apostle Peter once recommended (1 Pt 3,15) to this religious and cultural challenge. […] The reasons for such a change are numerous and diverse, but they all come down to the noticeable cultural shift from traditional forms of religion to more personal and individualistic expressions of what is now being called ‘spirituality’. It seems that there are three specific reasons at the heart of such a change. The first lies in the feeling that traditional religions or institutions no longer give what they once claimed they could provide. Some people in their view of the world are really unable to find any room for believing in a transcendent, personal God, and the experience for many has driven them to ask whether this God has the power to bring about change in this world, or if He really even exists at all. The dreadful experiences that have convulsed the world have made some people very cynical towards religion. […] There is another reason to explain a certain anxiety and a certain rejection of the traditional Church. Let us not forget that in ancient Europe, pre-Christian, pagan religions were very strong, and often, unseemly conflicts took place linked to political change that have been inevitably labelled as Christian oppression of ancient religions. One of the most significant developments in what may roughly be called the ‘spiritual’ sphere in the last century was a return to pre-Christian forms of religion. […] The complex series of phenomena, known by the term of ‘neo-pagan’ religions, reveal the need felt by some to invent new ways to ‘counter-attack’ Christianity and return to a more authentic form of religion, a religion more closely bound to nature and the earth. For this reason, one has to recognize that there is no place for Christianity in the neo-pagan religions. Like it or not, a struggle is taking place to win the hearts and minds of people in the interrelations between Christianity, ancient, pre-Christian religions, and their more recently developed ‘cousins’. The third reason, at the origin of the rather wide-spread disillusionment with institutional religion, derives from a growing obsession in Western culture with Oriental religions and the paths of wisdom. When it became easier to travel outside of their own continent, adventurous Europeans began exploring places that they had previously known only by consulting the pages of ancient texts. The lure of the exotic put them into a closer contact with the religions and esoteric practices of various Oriental cultures from Ancient Egypt to India and Tibet. The growing conviction that there exists a deep-down truth, an essence of truth in the heart of every religious experience has led to the idea that they can and must gather the various elements from different religions in order to reach a universal form of religion. Once again, in such an enterprise there is little room for institutionalized religions, especially for Judaism and Christianity. (Pontifical Council for Culture and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Presentation by Cardenal Paul Poupard of the Holy See’s Document on the ‘New Age’, no. 1, February 3, 2003)


Laudato si’
The ‘Earth Charter’ asked us to leave behind a period of self-destruction and make a new start, but we have not as yet developed a universal awareness needed to achieve this. Here, I would echo that courageous challenge

76 - A laudato-si400The Earth Charter asked us to leave behind a period of self-destruction and make a new start, but we have not as yet developed a universal awareness needed to achieve this. Here, I would echo that courageous challenge: ‘As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning… Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life’ (Earth Charter, The Hague, 29 June 2000). (LS 207)


The ‘Earth Charter’: a document with notoriously pantheistic overtones, proposing the foundations of a new global society, that should change ‘values, institutions, and ways of living’, in other words a new universal ecological religion in which ‘the forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution.’

To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

Humanity is part of a vast evolving universe. Earth, our home, is alive with a unique community of life. The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution. There salience of the community of life and the well-being of humanity depend upon preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air. The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples. The protection of Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust. […] The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. […] To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked. Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature. (Text of ‘The Earth Charter’, Preamble, The Hague, June 29, 2000)


 

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