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Pope Francis drafting potential encyclical on ecology

January 27, 2014

Pope Francis “has begun work on a draft text on the topic of ecology, which could become an encyclical,” according to a Vatican Radio report.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said that the Pope “intends to put particular emphasis on the theme of ‘human ecology,’ a phrase used by Pope Benedict to describe not only how people must defend and respect nature but how the nature of the person – masculine and feminine as created by God – must also be defended,” according to Vatican Radio.

Pope Benedict XVI referred several times to “human ecology,” most notably in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate (no. 51):

The Church has a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere. In so doing, she must defend not only earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone. She must above all protect mankind from self-destruction. There is need for what might be called a human ecology, correctly understood. The deterioration of nature is in fact closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when “human ecology” is respected within society, 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. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. 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.


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jan. 27, 2014 11:37 AM ET USA

    The excerpt above from Benedict's encyclical reminds me of the fundamental theology that he expressed in his "Intro. to Christianity:" DEEP! His genius lies in his ability to cut directly to the heart of the matter at hand. Man's stewardship of creation cannot be effectively managed until he first properly orders his own life. The economy of his stewardship over creation resembles the priorities of the economic Trinity. Service to God 1st, service to man 2nd, service to material creation 3rd.