Catholicism and the Environment


Hi can someone help me clear up the fundamental points of the Church’s teaching on the Environment with references to Scripture and Documents?



What do you need cleared up, exactly?


I dunno just a general position I suppose.


I think the general position of the Church on the environment is that as Christians, we are to be good stewards of the World God provided us. Ultimately the needs of humans must come first, but we are responsible for preserving the Earth and making wise use of it.



CCC 307 To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of “subduing” the earth and having dominion over it. God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors. Though often unconscious collaborators with God’s will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers and their sufferings. They then fully become “God’s fellow workers” and co-workers for his kingdom.

CCC 373 In God’s plan man and woman have the vocation of “subduing” the earth as stewards of God. This sovereignty is not to be an arbitrary and destructive domination. God calls man and woman, made in the image of the Creator “who loves everything that exists”, to share in his providence toward other creatures; hence their responsibility for the world God has entrusted to them.


Environmental questions are largely technical issues. In some cases, such as global warming, they are very difficult technical questions. Clearly prudence dictates that we must not damage the world for out children and grandchildren. How to protect the environment without damaging the economy or society is largely a matter for politicans, though occasionally the church may intervene is a particular policy is unfair or foolish.

I would like to see some better thinking about population levels and the teaching on contraception. The present tacit acceptance of contraception and public line against it isn’t doing anyone’s credibility any good.

Those who see it as something more than this, and try to read spiritual meaning into the natural world, are by and large deluding themselves, usually even in their own terms. Healthy-natural-good for the environment-kind to animals is a powerful metaphor, but in fact none of these ideas have any necessary connection with each other. And they are used by those most capitalist of organisations, supermarkets, to sell high margin goods to people with cars.


Apart from these big global issues like global warming & destruction of habitat, I think the church would say:

(a) God created the heavens and the earth, and saw that it was Good (cf. Genesis).
(b) God gives man dominion or stewardship over the animals and all of creation (cf. Genesis).

so if God created it, and it was good, and we have stewardship over it, we should treat it with some reverence. Not worship it, or treat trees & animals the same as people, or whatever, but still be in awe, and thankful for, God’s creation.

To me, a little thing that makes a big difference is, don’t treat the world like it’s your personal trashcan. I live in California where people are supposedly very “environmentally friendly”, but I see trash everywhere, along the roads and in parks and neighborhoods and rural places. Much worse than I remember in the midwest. I don’t think God likes it when people use the sandy beach as an ashtray, or toss their Jack In The Box cup out the window of their car.


I hear what McLean is saying though. For some people, especially liberals, the gospel is turned into a social justice and environmentalists-only message.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to take care of what we’ve been given. We owe it to future families to care.


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