Three takeaways for the day after Earth Day

Protecting creation is a core Catholic idea—and it goes far beyond the secular notion of eco-protection.

For Catholics, Earth Day is every day for reasons uniquely rooted in the intersection of faith and reason. Catholics look at ecological protection informed by both divine revelation and the harsh realities we know from science and human experience.

This comes with three takeaways that every Catholic should know, share, and live.

1. Our faith is deeply pro-creation. This point can’t be hammered home enough. For Catholics, creation is kind of a big deal because God made it, Christ entered it, and the Church uses it to mediate grace through the Seven Sacraments (especially the Mass)—to say nothing of the promises of the Resurrection for a new heaven and a new earth. This means that eco-protection (that is, caring for the natural order) is non-negotiable for Catholics.

2. Being pro-creation means you’re pro-life and pro-marriage. This also needs to be hammered home again and again. Eco-protection and defending human life, as well as the means by which human life is brought into the world, go hand in hand. We cannot be in the streets saving seals without also fighting for the unborn, the elderly, and the marginalized. Sure, we may have to pick and choose how we divide your time, talents, and treasures. But we can’t dismiss human life issues. We can’t say “there's too much talk about abortion.” And we absolutely can’t support abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, or any modern realities that fly in the face of the natural order. It’s one thing to say that the world is a complex place and that people find themselves in difficult positions. It’s quite another to say that our faith is complicated when it comes to defending life. The dignity of the human person from conception through natural death and our understanding of marriage as the basis for procreation and as the building block of a society oriented to the common good are also non-negotiable. After all, as Pope Francis has taught us, everything is connected.

For Catholics, creation is kind of a big deal because God made it, Christ entered it, and the Church uses it to mediate grace through the Seven Sacraments—to say nothing of the promise of the Resurrection for a new heaven and a new earth.

3. Unity. The “everything is connected” teachings of Pope Francis (and his predecessors) should be understood as ways to build unity within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church—and within the wider world. This means that Catholics cannot demean their brothers and sisters who are called to engage one core Catholic issue or another. A more timely takeaway is that we all have a responsibility to work with our brothers and sisters on the Catholic causes dearest to them because that is a means to encounter them, dialogue with them, understand them, and help them understand our fervor for the issue closest to our hearts. So, as I’ve blogged about before, if you want that conservative family member to come to one of your environmental workshops, how about you go with them to their rosary in front of an abortion clinic? If you want your neighbor to attend one of your pro-life rallies, why don't you go to one of their eco-talks? See? This isn’t rocket science. Unity is within our grasp. It’s what we’re called to by Christ Himself. We just need to swallow our pride, ask for the intercession of Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Michael, and do the very thing that Pope Francis asks of us: love thy neighbor, which often begins with talking with them, getting to know them, and finding what we have in common. (You know, like our home.)

So, after much of the world’s attention moves away from Earth Day 2021, Catholics should embrace the truth that Earth Day is every day—and that the benefits of living that truth go far, far beyond what the secular environmental movement might think to offer.

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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.