By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In a televised address to participants in the UN summit on climate change, which was held in New York City on Sept. 22, Pope Benedict XVI said that because the natural environment is given by God to everyone, “our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, particularly towards the poor and towards future generations.”
Addressing the participants in English, the Holy Father reflected upon the relationship between the Creator and the individual, who is the guardian of creation.
“The earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator Who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us guidelines that assist us as stewards of His creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers that matters concerning the environment and its protection are intimately linked with integral human development.”
As he did in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, the Pope said respect for the environment implies a pressing moral need for renewed solidarity not only between countries but also between individuals.
“How important it is then, that the international community and individual governments send the right signals to their citizens and succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment!”
The economic and social costs of using up shared resources must be recognised with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations, he said.
“The protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate, oblige all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world. Together we can build an integral human development beneficial for all peoples, present and future, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth.”
But before this can happen, “it is essential that the current model of global development be transformed through a greater, and shared, acceptance of responsibility for creation,” he said. “This is demanded not only by environmental factors, but also by the scandal of hunger and human misery.”
The Holy Father concluded his address by inviting participants in the summit to enter into their discussions constructively and with generous courage.
“Indeed, we are all called to exercise responsible stewardship of creation, to use resources in such a way that every individual and community can live with dignity, and to develop ‘that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God’.”
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1. Under what commandment does care of the environment fall? (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2415 available here http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a7.htm )
2. What does the Church teach about the inter-relationship of creation, its order and diversity? (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church #337-349 available here http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p5.htm#II )
3. Why does the Church teach that the ecological crisis is also a moral problem? (Read Nos. 6 and 7 in Pope John Paul II’s 1990 World Day of Peace Message, available here: http://www.ncrlc.com/ecological_crisis.html )
4. Pope Benedict XVI has often been referred to as the “Green Pope” because of his intense concern for the environment. What does Pope Benedict say about the inter-connection between the family, the human community and the environment? (Read Nos. 7 & 9 in the Pope’s 2008 World Day of Peace Message available here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20071208_xli-world-day-peace_en.html )
5. The virtue of temperance can play a key role in the way we personally care for our environment. For reflections on this theme, read “The Good Life from a Catholic Perspective: The Challenge of Consumption” by Msgr. Charles Murphy available here: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/ejp/climate/personal.shtml )