What better time than during the beauty of summer to reflect on the gift of God’s creation and our role in it. After Pope Francis’ summit on global warming at the Vatican, he plans to to issue the first-ever papal encyclical on climate change and its effect on the world’s poor. The news has tended to focus on the fact that the contents of the document were leaked. However, I’m interested in the content of the encyclical. Pope Francis writes that the Earth
“is protesting for the wrong that we are doing to her, because of the irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God has placed on her. We have grown up thinking that we were her owners and dominators, authorized to loot her. The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.”
His statements are in line with Care for God’s Creation as one of the seven tenants of Catholic Social Teaching. We are stewards of the Earth, which is a gift from God. Pope Francis calls all people to take a look at their energy consumption and make lifestyle changes that care for our common home.
Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. 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. Instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him. —On the Hundredth Year
Care for the Earth is in relationship to our care for other people. We are called to care for the Earth for the sake of our children and in the realization that the effects of climate change most severely affect the vulnerable members of our global community. This encyclical is timely and specific, asking us to eliminate those things obstructing real change:
“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions.”
It will be interesting to watch the global reaction to the encyclical, yes, but I am also taking it as challenge on a personal level to evaluate my own lifestyle choices while celebrating nature.