A Christian view of humankind and nature
Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, makes a compelling plea for placing the view of nature within the context of the relationship between God and the human person. By following principles combined with the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, he steers a middle course between the errors of seeing nature in absolute terms or reducing it to a mere instrument.
Bishop Crepaldi makes the point that actions should be guided by a balance of conservation and development, and people need to realize that the created goods of this world are destined for the use of all. The main points of the Church’s teaching on ecological matters, based on the bishop’s reading of the Compendium, are presented in these ten guiding principles, or commandments:
- Christ’s incarnation and his teachings testify to the value of nature: Nothing that exists in this world is outside the divine plan of creation and redemption.
- We should not reduce nature to a mere instrument to be manipulated and exploited. Nor should we make nature an absolute value, or put it above the dignity of the human person.
- The question of the environment entails the whole planet, as it is a collective good. Our responsibility toward ecology extends to future generations.
- The central point of reference for all scientific and technical applications must be respect for the human person, who in turn should treat the other created beings with respect.
- Nature is a gift offered by our Creator to the human community, confided to human intelligence and moral responsibility. It follows, then, that it is not illicit to modify the ecosystem, so long as this is done within the context of a respect for its order and beauty, and taking into consideration the utility of every creature.
- Economic development needs to take into consideration the integrity and rhythm of nature, because natural resources are limited. All economic activity that uses natural resources should also include the costs of safeguarding the environment into the calculations of the overall costs of its activity.
- The goods of this world have been created by God to be wisely used by all. These goods should be shared with the poorest regions in a just and charitable manner. The principle of the universal destiny of goods offers a fundamental orientation to deal with the complex relationship between ecology and poverty.
- Collaboration by means of worldwide agreements, backed up by international law, is necessary to protect the environment. These laws and agreements should be guided by the demands of the common good.
- Lifestyles should be oriented according to the principles of sobriety, temperance and self-discipline, both at the personal and social levels. This change of lifestyle would be helped by a greater awareness of the interdependence between all the inhabitants of the earth.
- A spiritual response must be given to environmental questions, inspired by the conviction that creation is a gift that God has placed in the hands of humankind, to be used responsibly and with loving care. People’s fundamental orientation toward the created world should be one of gratitude and thankfulness.
The world, in fact, leads people back to the mystery of God who has created it and continues to sustain it. If nature is rediscovered in its role as something created, this would open for humankind a path toward God, creator of the heavens and the earth.
– Catholic Rural Life Magazine, Fall 2009 (original source: Zenit.org)
Editor’s Note: This article is a part of our “From the Archives” series. The series highlights articles, stories or news snippets from the CRL publication archives that are still relevant or thought provoking for us today.