B16 to German Parliament: Ecology has a human dimension

Photo: M.Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk

In his historic talk to the German Parliament today, the Holy Father made the following statement on ecology. It explains much about his interest in ecology as both a scientific and moral issue as well as a topic that teaches us something of what it means to be human. It's no wonder this section of his talk received a loud, spontaneous round of applause.

How can reason rediscover its true greatness, without being sidetracked into irrationality? How can nature reassert itself in its true depth, with all its demands, with all its directives? I would like to recall one of the developments in recent political history, hoping that I will neither be misunderstood, nor provoke too many one-sided polemics. I would say that the emergence of the ecological movement in German politics since the 1970s, while it has not exactly flung open the windows, nevertheless was and continues to be a cry for fresh air which must not be ignored or pushed aside, just because too much of it is seen to be irrational. Young people had come to realize that something is wrong in our relationship with nature, that matter is not just raw material for us to shape at will, but that the earth has a dignity of its own and that we must follow its directives. In saying this, I am clearly not promoting any particular political party – nothing could be further from my mind. If something is wrong in our relationship with reality, then we must all reflect seriously on the whole situation and we are all prompted to question the very foundations of our culture. Allow me to dwell a little longer on this point. The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.
As this blog’s banner shows us, we find the Holy Father specifically discussing this very topic in his third letter to the Church, Caritas in Veritate (see my commentary here), and he makes use of ecology brilliantly in a 2008 World Youth Day talk in Australia (see my posting on it), in which he connects the reality of pollution with the reality of sin.

More to come, but for now, once more we need to say: God bless this pope! And please offer a brief prayer for him and his homeland during these days in travel to Germany.

For more, see the Rome Reports clip below, or here for a full-length video from Catholic TV.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.