To ensure that Christianity and ecology are compatible, one cannot depart from the conception of creation as a work and gift of God. The most frequent error in which an ideological approach expires is found in the tendency to absolutise nature starting from the good intention of wanting safeguard.
The Instrumentum laboris for the Synod on the Amazon ignited a vigorous dialogue centred upon environmental issues. The centrality assumed by the topic in recent years should not lead one to think that the care of creation represents a novelty for the Church. The Catholic position has always been characterised by a reading of the ecosystem crisis from a extramundane perspective, and to a large extent, assigning ethical connotations to it.
This we owe to the established interdependence between environmental ecology and human ecology, a connection that characterised the catholic magistries on this issue. To ensure that Christianity and ecology are in harmony, Christianity cannot deviate from the concept of creation as an act of God. The most frequent error in which an ideological approach tends to expire, is caused by a tendency of absolutising nature by wanting to safeguard it primarily an act of altruism in wanting to safeguard it.
The Catholic Church have always maintained their own balanced approach, considering man’s relationship to the land in terms of a custodian and not as a possessor. Humanity as collaborating with God in the government of creation: from this standpoint it is vital that we fully apprehend God’s centrality within creation, which, to be honest with you, is far removed from the current modern secularised ‘pink and fluffy’ anthropocentric view that is being perpetuated by the Catholic Church today.
Not just a few of the environmental movements that were born on either side of the twentieth and twenty-first century, are precisely the one’s that have blamed Christian anthropocentrism and the [misconceived] biblical notion that humanity is all ‘supreme’ over nature and postulate that this is the genesis of humanities ecological disaster. A protestation resulting from the explicitly ideological approach from which these groups emerged and on the basis of which these groups operate and which should discourage the Catholic universe from ‘pursuing them’ on the subject. The agenda of the so-called climate activists is in fact scarcely in harmony with the Church’s teaching on environmental protection.
On the contrary, Catholicism today, seems to be the messenger of a new religiosity with an ancient element of pantheism which only goes to distort the relationship between humanity and the cosmos, whilst radically and completely excluding God from all discourse. God, being denied the existence of His creative Spirit, humanity has been placed on an equal footing with every other living creature and —from a biocentric point of view— God has been depleted of all spiritual overtones. The ‘nostrum’ of the most quintessential environmentalists does not unfortunately ‘heal’ the ‘ailing,’ but rather, risks ‘exacerbating the situation’ owing to the fact that it advances an exclusivist approach to the environmental crisis, disconnecting it entirely from the break-down and decay of human ecology.
The call of the Catholic Church to date has not just limited itself to denouncing the deterioration of nature, but has always framed this phenomenon into a broader moral crisis: as was stated by the Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI, “Young people cannot be asked to respect the environment if they are not helped, within families and society as a whole, to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics. Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others.” [Benedict XVI, For the Celebration of the World day of peace January 1, 2010. See also Encyclical LetterCaritas in Veritate, 15, 51.]
The dangers inherent for a Catholic to be tempted to join the “green cause” were incontrovertibly analysed in a 2007 text edited by Cantagalli and co-written by the jurist Paolo Togli and by Monsignor Giampaolo Crepaldi “Environmental ecology and human ecology. Environment and social doctrine of the Church” in Italian. Already at the time when NGOs, parties and environmental movements, began to zealously condemn any interference with air and water, whilst tolerating and feasibly even promoting interventions of artificial insemination, which involves sacrificing numerous human embryos, Preimplantation genetic profiling (PGP) to determine embryo quality, late-term abortion after the 20th week of gestation in the event of a foetus malformation, bioengineering surgical interventions on DNA and therapeutic human cloning. And whilst I might understand the benefits derived from human cloning it cannot be morally supported because it deposes God as our Creator —to the extent that whilst an embryo is being used, a human life is being murdered.
A contradiction that is so evident that it must serve as a cautionary example to every single person calling themselves a Christian; a warning to every single Christians that they should not abandon balanced approaches in the face of our environmental problem. The prominence given by today’s media to certain causes must not be allowed to conceal and enshroud the chinks and cracks, nor the cultural distortions from which they themselves are not exempt from and which are so easily identifiable from the marginalisation that the spiritual dimension’s assume within them.
In the late 1970s, just a few years after the oil crisis effected by the events in the Middle East, alarm bells gave rise to an energy panic and the first considerations on climate change, the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger presciently observed: “Today the newspapers report a lot about the atmospheric pollution caused by our civilisation. In our cities we can observe this first hand, that together with the air, a vital element, we are also breathing in the poisons that destroy life. But no one speaks about the spiritual pollution that destroys the atmosphere in which the spirit can live. Yet the poisoning of the heart and the spirit is altogether far more alarming than the evils caused by atmospheric pollution.”