World Environment Day, June 5, 2023: Caring for the environment is a moral issue

The basis of Catholic concern over climate change is exemplified in psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that it holds.”

Jun 02, 2023

File photo of the children of Fatima Home planting seeds.

The basis of Catholic concern over climate change is exemplified in psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that it holds.”

In response to the wonderful gift that God has given us, clean air, life-sustaining water, fruits from the land’s harvests and even nourishment from the sea, we are called to not only honour God for these many blessings but to also do so by honouring His creation.

It is because we value our relationship with God and God’s creation that climate change is for us Catholics a profoundly spiritual, ethical, and moral issue. Climate change is not about economic theory or a political platform; it is most certainly not about partisan politics or concessions to special interest groups on either side of the argument.

Climate change is about our responsibility as God’s children and people of faith to care for each other and future generations by caring for all of God’s wondrous creation.

The human contribution to climate change represents one of the clearest examples of how human activity can be damaging to God’s wondrous creation. We need to recover the spiritual values that respect God’s creation. For those of us in economically developed countries, we have a duty to examine the ethics of responsible usage of God’s resources.

These resources do not belong exclusively to us, they belong to God, and therefore, are to be treated with reverence and used prudently. As children of God and brother and sister to each other, we need to be more prudent in the use of God’s resources so that we can share the gifts of God’s creation more fully with the poor and the marginalised.

In the Bible, we are called to love God and care for each other and all of God’s creation. If we improperly or disproportionately use the fruit of God’s earth, we not only dishonour Him but we also ultimately endanger the livelihood of our poor and marginalised siblings who most depend on God’s creation.

As a result, what was once an individual decision now becomes a moral issue since it is the poor and the marginalised who will tragically suffer the worst of the consequences, though not having contributed to climate change. Catholic Social Teaching calls on us to first consider how our actions and policies affect the poor, the marginalised, and the most vulnerable people. As God’s children, we must never forget our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters in need.

In looking at the workings of nature, it is hard to miss how interconnected all of creation is. And if we desire to love and care for all of humanity, we must love and care for all of creation as well. That is a concept that St John Paul II talked about in his statement for the World Day of Peace in 1990.

St John Paul II said, “I should like to address directly my brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church, in order to remind them of their serious obligation to care for all of creation. The commitment of believers to a healthy environment for everyone stems directly from their belief in God the Creator, from their recognition of the effects of original and personal sin, and from the certainty of having been redeemed by Christ. Respect for life and for the dignity of the human person extends also to the rest of creation, which is called to join man in praising God.

“There is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflicts, and injustices among people and nations, but also by a lack of due respect for nature, by the plundering of natural resources which leads to a progressive decline in the quality of life. The sense of precariousness and insecurity that such a situation engenders is a seedbed for collective selfishness, disregard for others and dishonesty.”

And St John Paul II was not the only person to consider respect for the environment to be a part of our commitment as a pro-life Church. In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

“Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment, and damages society.”

In the secular world and in politics, pro-life viewpoints and pro-environment viewpoints are often pitted against each other. But Catholics don’t need to accept this false dichotomy. Catholic teaching tells us that caring for and protecting all human life and caring for and protecting the environment are both important parts of living a Christian life.

We’re not pantheist. We don’t worship creation. But we recognise creation as the art of God. And we respect the Artist behind it. We know that it has its own intrinsic value and worth. And we’re for protecting that because, as St Paul teaches in Romans chapter 8, “All creation groans and is in agony awaiting the revelation of the children of God.” The more we live a full Christian life, the more we also serve and protect the environment.” -- Agencies

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