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Bishops and Priests (Page 4)
Catholics conserving nature and protecting life.™

Monsignor Charles M. Murphy

At Home on Earth (excerpts from the book)

The thesis of [At Home on Earth: Foundations for a Catholic Ethic of the Environment] is that the earth was created by God to be our home, as the Book of Genesis says it was, that we humans are "made of earth," that we are by nature earthly creatures and that the earth, our home, has a future that we can responsibly determine... A Christian ethic, whether of the environment or of any other aspect of our life, must be based upon the values of the coming reign of God which Jesus preached. That reign encompasses not only personal salvation of individual believers but of society as well, the body and the soul, the heavens and the earth...    The world for the Christian is not an illusion but God's own creation with a structure and a goodness that cannot be vitiated even by sin. The God of the creation and the God of the redemption are one, as the Creed professes: "I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and of earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary..." The Christian faith, then, is a decidedly "worldly" faith... The Book of Genesis ... attests that it is by God's will and design that the earth and everything that is in it have been made specifically to be our home, and that God has made us his surrogates in caring for it and tending it. "You have made us the masters over all your creatures," Psalm 8 declares; "you have put everything under our feet." We are invited by Genesis to delight with God in his creation and to find it "good." But even more than our home, according to Genesis, the earth was made to be the home of God. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. It is he who at the beginning walks in its gardens in the cool of the evening. It is he who enjoys his Sabbath rest after all things are made and who invites his creatures to join him in it. It is to him that the eyes of all his creatures hopefully look, and he gives them their food in due season; he opens his hands and satisfies the desire of every living thing. The beauty of the creation betrays traces of its Maker, for the "heavens declare the glory of God and all the firmament discloses his handiwork." It was furthermore into this world that God's creative Word became incarnated in Christ, the temple of his glory, so that through his Spirit the whole world might become his dwelling place once more. In the past the development of science and the encouragement of human inventiveness were made possible by a religious belief in God's transcendence from his creatures having their own "objectivity." Similarly today, many believe, the religious belief in God's immanence within his creation as his home - even more than it is ours - can have enormous impact upon our renewed sense of respect for the world and the setting of proper ethical limits upon its human use and manipulation. To be avoided, of course, is any blurring of the distinction between God and creation as in the old pantheist heresies... The mystery hidden from the ages that is now revealed is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. It is a mystery that is expressed in the Eucharistic sacrament and is related to the sacramentality of the universe itself. These sacramental moments are anticipations, present signs of the kingdom's coming... Ethics, as the tragic history of the world shows, does not arise out of logic but out of the religious imagination... For the religious person, in any age, nature is never just "nature" but retains a sacred quality as "creation," something made and sustained by God. Nature as creation is a sacrament ["sacramental"], a visible representation of God, to whom it ultimately belongs... It is possible ... for Christians to discuss rationally the right ordering of nature with non-believers because nature apart from grace has its own rationality. But such rational discourse does not exhaust the full meaning of nature which must be seen, from the Christian viewpoint, as both created and redeemed by God. Nature is alive with its own life and with the life of God... The author of the First Letter of Peter addressed his disparate flock and told them "once you were no people, but now you have become the people of God." They were "no people" because they did not form one ethnic group as did Judaism of old. We moderns, or postmoderns, are "no people" for other reasons as well. In our greed, individualism, and selfishness, we, like the epistle's "no people," have a need, an even more urgent one, to acquire the virtues it regards as hallmarks of the Christian life: "brotherly and sisterly affection, kindness, and humblemindedness." The letter concludes, "Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength... Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Whatever gift each of you may have received, use it in service to one another, like good stewards dispensing the grace of God in its varied forms... Indeed, all of you should wrap yourselves in the garment of humility towards each other because God sets his face against the arrogant but favors the humble."   How exotic this catalog of virtues. Yet they comprise not just a survival kit for continued life upon the earth. They are the first lights of the dawning kingdom of God. + At Home on Earth: Foundations for a Catholic Ethic of the Environment, by Charles M. Murphy, The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1989 The disparities between human beings who live in squalor and those who have everything money can buy are glaring in a world brought closer together through amazing advances in communication. This great disparity denies social justice, leads to ecological tragedy, and most of all, creates a misperception of what the good life really is, which ultimately makes excessive consumption a religious question.    + Monsignor Charles Murphy is pastor of St. Pius X Church in Portland, Maine (1995), and author of the book, At Home on Earth: Foundations for a Catholic Ethic of the Environment STATEMENT BY CARD. PIETRO PAROLIN SECRETARY OF STATE DURING THE UN SUMMIT ON CLIMATE New York Tuesday, 23 September 2014 Mr. Secretary General, I am pleased to convey the cordial greetings of His Holiness Pope Francis to all those here present for this important Summit, which has gathered together high governmental and civil officials, as well as leaders from the private sector and civil society, in order to identify significant initiatives that will address the concerning phenomenon of climate change. It is well known that climate change raises not only scientific, environmental and socio-economic considerations, but also and above all ethical and moral ones, because it affects everyone, in particular the poorest among us, those who are most exposed to its effects. For this reason, the Holy See has often stressed that there is a moral imperative to act, for we all bear the responsibility to protect and to value creation for the good of this and future generations. Pope Francis, from the beginning of his Pontificate, has underlined the importance of "protecting our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 22 March 2013). The scientific consensus is rather consistent and it is that, since the second half of the last century, warming of the climate system is unequivocal. It is a very serious problem which, as I said, has grave consequences for the most vulnerable sectors of society and, clearly, for future generations. Numerous scientific studies, moreover, have emphasized that human inaction in the face of such a problem carries great risks and socio-economic costs. This is due to the fact that its principal cause seems to be the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere due to human activity. Faced with these risks and costs, prudence must prevail, which requires thoughtful deliberations based on an accurate analysis of the impact our actions will have on the future. This requires a great political and economic commitment on the part of the international community, to which the Holy See wishes to make its own contribution, being aware that "the gift of knowledge helps us not to fall into attitudes of excess or error. The first lies in the risk of considering ourselves the masters of creation. Creation is not some possession that we can lord over for own pleasure; nor, even less, is it the property of only some people, the few: creation is a gift, it is the marvellous gift that God has given us, so that we will take care of it and harness it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude" (Pope Francis, General Audience, 21 May 2014). Mr. Secretary General, The long debate on climate change, which gave rise in 1992 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its subsequent implementation, shows how complex this issue is. Since then until our own day, much has changed: the dynamics of international relations have given life to changing geopolitical contexts, while the scientific and informational technologies have become extremely refined. A principle element which has emerged from the more than thirty years of study on the phenomenon of global warming is the increasing awareness that the entire international community is part of one interdependent human family. The decisions and behaviours of one of the members of this family have profound consequences for the others; there are no political frontiers, barriers or walls behind which we can hide to protect one member from another against the effects of global warming. There is no room for the globalization of indifference, the economy of exclusion or the throwaway culture so often denounced by Pope Francis (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 52, 53, 59). In the actions undertaken to counter global warming we have too often seen the predominance of special interests or so-called "free-riders" over the common good; we have too often noted a certain suspicion or lack of trust on the part of States, as well as on the part of other participants. However, if we really wish to be effective, we must implement a collective response based on a culture of solidarity, encounter and dialogue, which should be at the basis of normal interactions within every family and which requires the full, responsible and dedicated collaboration of all, according to their possibilities and circumstances. In this regard, it seems opportune to recall a concept which was also developed within the forum of the United Nations, that is, the responsibility to protect. States have a common responsibility to protect the world climate by means of mitigation and adaptation measure, as well as by sharing technologies and "know-how". But above all they have a shared responsibility to protect our planet and the human family, ensuring present and future generations have the possibility of living in a safe and worthy environment. The technological and operational bases needed to facilitate this mutual responsibility are already available or within our reach. We have the capacity to start and strengthen a true and beneficial process which will irrigate, as it were, through adaptation and mitigation activities, the field of economic and technological innovation where it is possible to cultivate two interconnected objectives: combating poverty and easing the effects of climate change. Market forces alone, especially when deprived of a suitable ethical direction, however, cannot resolve the interdependent crisis concerning global warming, poverty and exclusion. The greatest challenge lies in the sphere of human values and human dignity; questions which regard the human dignity of individuals and of peoples are not able to be reduced to mere technical problems. In this sense, climate change becomes a question of justice, respect and equity, a question which must awaken our consciences. Mr. Secretary General, The ethical motivations behind every complex political decision must be clear. At present, this means consolidating a profound and far-sighted revision of models of development and lifestyles, in order to correct their numerous dysfunctions and deviations (cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 32). This is also needed due to the many crises which present society is living in economic, financial, social, cultural and ethical contexts. Within this perspective, an authentic cultural shift is needed which reinforces our formative and educational efforts, above all in favour of the young, towards assuming a sense of responsibility for creation and integral human development of all people, present and future. For its part, Vatican City State, though small, is undertaking significant efforts to reduce its consummation of fossil fuels, through diversification and energy efficiency projects. However, as the Holy See’s delegation at the COP-19 in Warsaw indicated, "talking about emission reductions is useless if we are not ready to change our lifestyle and the current dominant models of consumption and production". The Holy See attaches great importance to the need to promote education in environmental responsibility, which also seeks to protect the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology. There are many Catholic educational institutions, as well as Bishops’ Conferences, dioceses, parishes and Catholic inspired NGOs committed to this work in the conviction that the deterioration of nature is directly linked to the culture which shapes human coexistence. Respect for environmental ecology is a condition of, and conditioned by, respect for human ecology in society. Confronting seriously the problem of global warming requires not only strengthening, deepening and consolidating the political process on a global level, but also intensifying our commitment to a profound cultural renewal and a rediscovery of the fundamental values upon which a better future for the entire human family can be built. The Holy See commits itself to this end, so that, in this work, the international community may be guided by the ethical imperative to act, inspired by the principles of solidarity and the promotion of the common good, in the knowledge that "the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies" (Evangelii Gaudium, 203). Thank you. The Cry of the Earth Our home, planet earth, God’s creation, is an extraordinarily beautiful and fruitful place. It is appropriately called ‘the garden planet’ of the universe. We humans, with every other species, depend totally on the proper functioning of the planet for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food that sustains us and the multiple other ways in which the earth supports us and every other creature. Though the earth appears very robust, we know that it can be quite fragile and that small changes, over time, can have enormous consequences for life... The universal destination of goods requires a common effort to obtain for every person and for all peoples the conditions necessary for integral development, so that everyone can contribute to making a more humane and sustainable world. + The Cry of the Earth, A Call to Action for Climate Justice, A Pastoral Reflection on Climate Change by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 2014 “You Love All That Exists… All Things Are Yours, God, Lover of Life…” The beauty and grandeur of nature touches each one of us. From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine. Humans live within a vast community of life on earth. In the Jewish and Christian religious traditions, God is first described as the Creator who, as creation proceeded, “saw that it was good.” God’s love for all that exists was wondrously evident then, remains so now, and invites the active response of humankind. + A Pastoral Letter on the Christian Ecological Imperative from the Social Affairs Commission, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, October 4, 2003, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi Reverence for Life Both nature and humanity have been exquisitely created by God's hands. Humans, animals and plants cooperate with each other and are linked to each other through a great interwoven ecosystem. It is a mysterious link. The present generation must not be allowed to use up the world's resources and by its egoism and stupidity destroy living beings created by God. Human beings must take a new look at our relation to the environment and make a new start. Each of us must correct our pride and comprehend the God-given balance of nature. We must recognize what it is that sustains us and know our limits. We need nature in order to live, to eat and to love... God cares even for the flowers of the field, dressing each with beauty and loving it. To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God's love and hope. When we become aware of the abundant richness of other creatures' existence, our eyes are opened to an intuitive sense of God's own existence. The human task is not to destroy the environment, but to cooperate with God in creating it. It is important that we continue to hope as we correct problems and engage in a calm dialogue in search of solutions. Reverence for Life, A Message for the Twenty-First Century, from The Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan, January 1, 2001 We Stand in Wonder Often we stand in wonder at the beauty and perfection of God's creation, and marvel at the variety of forms in which life is expressed on earth. At the same time we become aware of how easily the delicate and complex system that allows life to continue can be damaged by irresponsible human intervention. Scientists have been warning us for over thirty years of the rapid deterioration of the natural environment and of the impact this has on every living being. Our country is affected by the global environmental crisis. We now face the consequences of the economic development of the past which revolved around the exploitation of South African mineral and natural resources, with minimum concern for the environment. Environment is not only about landscapes and the survival of endangered animals, but it is also about the life of the people, the conditions in which women and men are living, working and recreating... Everyone's talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God's creation. This we must do because it is not just the beauty of the environment that is at stake here, but the survival of the human race and of creation entrusted to its stewardship. + SOUTHERN AFRICAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS' CONFERENCE, Pastoral Statement on the Environmental Crisis, September 5, 1999
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