Summary: The real problem with environmental movements is that they begin with the earth, not with God's image and earth's steward--human beings.

March 8, 2010

Caritas in Veritate

The role of prophet is not and should not be an easy one. Human beings are, because of our fallen condition, rebellious and resistant to change. When someone tells us we are on the wrong path, we reflexively become defensive. “Who is he to tell me what I should be doing? He doesn’t walk in my shoes?” At the end of life, if we fail to listen to God’s voice speaking through the true prophet, we may sing “Regrets–I have a few–but then again, too few to mention. . .I did it my way.” And, in so saying, we may defend our sin so much that we die out of union with God and learn regret the hard way. Today’s Gospel implies that the defensive citizens of Nazareth may have gotten some perverse satisfaction out of trying to assassinate Jesus, but in the end they may have been the ones thrown over a hill.

Prophetically, as he concludes his treatment of human development and the environment, Pope Benedict returns to the notion of the gratuitous nature of God, and to our earth as gift. We must act as good stewards of that gift, not just for today, but for future generations. Much about our modern culture reeks with the stench of poor stewardship. Before we talk about non-human ecology, we must see that “human ecology is respected within society.” Then environmental ecology also benefits. “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. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves.” (51) “Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift. Their ultimate source is not, and cannot be, mankind, but only God, who is himself Truth and Love.” (52)

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