Pope Francis: Protecting nature "demands goodness"

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Pope Francis in his homily at his Mass of Inauguration. The Feast of St. Joseph 2013.

A significant tension in the environmental regulatory community is which emphasis to take in going about our business—especially in a poor economy.

Should we first assist our clients as they navigate our rules, and so become helpers of people and businesses? Or should we first and primarily protect the environment?

I’ve always thought that this tension is an artificial one. Many regulators can—and do—do both. It simply requires one to adhere to truth and law while simultaneously loving one’s neighbor, even if we can't always grant everyone's wishes.

In helping businesses and citizens of good will, we help our brothers and sisters by helping families and society. In protecting nature, we again help people—born and unborn—as we respect and protect the precious ecosystems that God created good and orderly in the beginning.

And so I was delighted that in his homily at his Mass of Inauguration on this Feast of St. Joseph—the protector of the Universal Church—Pope Francis reflected on what it means for Catholics to be a “protector” and to be “tender.”

In using St. Josephas his model, the pontiff offered wisdom and balance for my colleagues and me—and anyone who cares about the natural environment. In other words, as did Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, this gentle pastor spoke clearly about what it means to be a Catholic ecologist.

Let us celebrate and give thanks to Almighty God for this man, this pastor and Successor of St. Peter—this Bishop of Rome—as we reflect on these words in his homily:

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

We environmental protectors may easily overemphasize our roles as protectors and, in doing so, forget that they are working with—and for—people. But being a regulator requires balance—balance for the good of all and the good of the person before you.

To strike this balance, we rely on God’s grace.

Pope Francis preached this, too, in his final words of this important homily:

Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.
To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me!

Amen.

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.