January 15, 2010

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

‘Charity in Truth’: The environment and energy

John F. Fink(Sixth in a series of columns)

Pope Benedict XVI has become our “green” pope—an environmentalist—and he proved that again in his encyclical Charity in Truth.

“The environment is God’s gift to everyone,” he wrote, “and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.”

As believers in God the creator, we recognize the wonderful result of God’s creation, he said. We may use nature to satisfy our legitimate needs, but we must also respect the intrinsic balance of creation. We should not consider nature an “untouchable taboo” on the one hand, or abuse it on the other.

Thus, nature is not more important than the human person. We are meant to use God’s gifts for their intended purpose, but the environment must not to be manipulated at our pleasure. Projects for integral human development cannot ignore coming generations.

This is particularly true, the pope wrote, when it comes to the energy problem. He said, “The fact that some states, power groups and companies hoard non-renewable energy resources represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries.” This is especially unjust when the natural resources that are being stockpiled are in the poor countries themselves.

Technologically advanced societies can and must lower their energy consumption, he said, while at the same time they find alternative forms of energy. However, what is really needed, he said, is a “worldwide redistribution of energy resources” so that countries lacking those resources have access to them. “The fate of those countries cannot be left in the hands of whoever is first to claim the spoils,” he said.

This is true, though, not only with energy, but with the whole of God’s creation. There is room for everyone on the earth, the pope wrote, and it’s our obligation to find the resources to live with dignity through the help of nature itself as well as through hard work and ingenuity.

“The way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa,” he said. Therefore, he said in a passage obviously aimed at us in the United States as well as those in other wealthy countries, there’s a need for people “prone to hedonism and consumerism” to seriously review their lifestyles.

That’s followed by a passage possibly aimed at Israel: “The hoarding of resources, especially water, can generate serious conflicts among the people involved. Peaceful agreement about the use of resources can protect nature and, at the same time, the well-being of the societies concerned.”

Pope Benedict wrote about this because of his conviction that the Church has a responsibility towards creation. He said that the Church must not only defend earth, water and air as gifts of God that belong to everyone, but must “above all protect mankind from self-destruction.”

We need a “human ecology,” he said, so that the world’s ecological system will be “based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature.” †

Local site Links: