Six statements to impress your friends when discussing the eco-encyclical

In minutes you can prepare for the conversations taking place in the days and weeks ahead

Chances are that sometime this week the topic of the Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical will come up at work, home, or when out with friends. If so, what should you say to sound up-to-speed?

To help—and exclusively only at Catholic Ecology—are six statements to throw into the mix (and the reasons why you should) if you want to sound like an expert on the Church’s take on environmental protection.

  1. “It’s wonderful how Pope Francis is in continuity with his predecessors.” You want to say this when anyone says that Pope Francis is “finally” bringing the Church into the world of environmental protection. Whoever would say that doesn’t know that as far back as John XXIII popes have been concerned about environmental protection. And they don’t know that Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI planted environmental protection firmly in the life of the Church. So remember, it’s all about continuity.
  2. “The sacramental life of the Church makes it pro-creation!” This one is simple: Catholics teach that God uses bread, wine, water, oil, and people to create seven special encounters with him. The sacraments wouldn’t exist if God didn’t think very much of His creation, would they?
  3. “’The Word became flesh’ just screams ‘creation is good!’” This one is even simpler. The Gospels are startling historical statements that God entered history as a human being—as an embryo, really, then taking the normal series of events to enter the world stage. Luke and Matthew look at this from the perspective of human reality. John looks at it from the vantage of the divine (“The Word became flesh,” we read in John 1:14). In any event, if God thinks this much of humanity—to become a body made of water, minerals, etc—then chances are He thinks creation is worth His time.
  4. “It’s amazing how revolutionary Genesis was.” We don’t often consider how different the creation accounts of Genesis were back in the day. After all, the more powerful neighbors of the Nation of Israel—like the Babylonians and Assyrians—had their creation myths, too. But theirs presumed that evil was inherent in the natural order of things—that the gods warred with each other and that’s how we ended up with the heavens and the earth. (It's a long story involving a sea monster cut in two.) In any event, the notion that creation is “very good” was a radical and unique statement and it survives with us today. Those Babylonian and Assyrian accounts did not last long. We only rediscovered them buried in the sands of the Middle East just over a century ago.
  5. “It’s a good thing the early Church defended the goodness of creation.” Following what had been revealed to the world through Genesis—and what’s mentioned above about Christ and the sacraments—the early Church fought the wish of many in the ancient world to say that the created order is evil and that we need to escape from it. (We hear people say this today, too, at funerals, which tells you how bad ideas don’t go away very easily.) But the early Church fiercely defended the goodness of creation. It fought heresies that wanted to focus only on the spiritual and that would reject the worldly. In doing so the Church brought to Western Civilization the notion that creation is something worth protecting.
  6. “It’s not human activity that causes environmental destruction. It’s human activity tainted by sin that does.” Save this for when anyone either says that being an environmentalist means you’re anti-business or when someone uses environmental protection to defend their anti-business agenda. It’s not human economic systems that rape the planet. It’s our greed and indifference that allows economic systems to operate without care for other people or the ecosystems of the world. The ecological crises of our day are symptoms of sin. If we would live in accord with God’s laws of love—if we would give ourselves over to be transformed by Christ—than we in our daily business practices would never harm the poor or the planet that we all live on.

So there you have it. Keep these handy this week. Because from the sounds of things right now, we’re in for a wild few days—and weeks, months, and years. That means we'll need you out there defending reality and spreading the truth and good news of Catholic ecology.

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.