The recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si, is a comprehensive treatment of our ecological responsibilities. A summary cannot do it justice, but these selected excerpts may give a helpful overview.
Who? “The Earth, our common home, is like a sister with whom we share our life and a mother who opens her arms to embrace us. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use of the goods with which God has endowed her.”
What? “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will be felt by the poor in developing countries. Thousands of species are in danger of no longer giving glory to God by their very existence, nor conveying their message to us. These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it reduces things to rubbish.
Water is indispensable for human life and for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”
Where? “We need an international conversation since the environmental challenge affects us all. Honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. But we need only look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. While some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance valuable for society also wither away. “
When? “One expression of hope is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. That moment of blessing reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labors provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need.”
Why? “Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. Instead of thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. Yet demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral development. To blame population growth instead of extreme consumerism is one way of refusing to face the issues.”
How? “God, who calls us to a generous commitment, does not abandon us, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Laudato Si — Praise Be to You, My Lord.”
Fr. Earl Meyer
St. Fidelis Friary