November 3, 2006

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Care for God’s creation

We have now reached the seventh and final principle of Catholic social teaching referred to as the care for God’s creation.

This principle is founded on the very fact that everything on Earth was created by God, and as we read in the book of Genesis, God declares after each day that all that was created is good. On the seventh day after creating man, God declares him to be very good.

We read further in Genesis that human beings are to be given dominion over the Earth and all that is in it. This dominion is most appropriately described as a unique responsibility to care for the Earth—to practice good stewardship of all of creation. Just as a daughter would take exceptional care of a precious gift given by her mother, we are each called to take exceptional care of the gifts of nature that God has given us.

One does not have to be an “environmental extremist” or a “tree hugger” to appreciate the fantastic gifts of creation.

I am sure that all of us have at one time or another marveled at a sunset, a gentle rain, a majestic mountain, the vastness of the stars or many other ways that God has demonstrated care for us.

To show our appreciation for these marvelous gifts, we are compelled to do all that we can to protect the resources that God has bestowed on us.

This seventh principle of Catholic social teaching overlaps in some very profound ways with several other social principles. For instance, our respect for human life, to be consistent, extends to our care of creation since all of creation was given by God to sustain and enhance human life.

Our preferential option for the poor directs us to pay special attention to the effects of environmental degradation on the most vulnerable members of our human family.

It is most often the poor and powerless who most directly bear the burden of environmental carelessness. The neighborhoods and lands of the poor are the most likely to contain toxic waste dumps, more likely to be polluted and where children are vulnerable to the long-term harmful effects of exposure to these dangerous environments.

The principle of solidarity also overlaps with the principle of the care of creation in that the environment of the world is not separated by borders. The land, the sea and the sky belong to all of us, and what happens to the environment in one part of the world affects every other part of the world.

This reflection on the whole of creation reminds us of our interdependence and solidarity with one another. The borders of countries, states and cities are human creations, whereas God intended for the resources of the world to be shared to benefit all of humankind.

As Catholics, this important principle of our social teaching should serve as a guide for us as we make decisions about our habits as consumers of the world’s resources and how our own lives affect the environment, and therefore, the lives of others in the human family in this generation and all future generations.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries.) †

Local site Links: