Posts Tagged ‘Benedict XVI’

Five Good Reasons Why Every Catholic Should Go Green

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Solar Panels on top of Paul VI Audience Hall

Solar Panels on top of Paul VI Audience Hall

Looking around the Internet, TV and all printed matter it’s easy to find good and highly popularized secular reasons to reduce, reuse and recycle, but did you know there are at least five good reasons why every Catholic should go green? Not that the secular reasons don’t apply to Catholics or that they aren’t good enough. In fact some of them are quite motivating such as: boosting your home’s value through more durable and sustainable materials, lowering your utility bills, improving the air quality in your home, reducing your exposure to toxins and generally enhancing your health. Add to that the fact that recycling is smarter, safer and more efficient in many cases and the argument is increasingly solidified. As good as these reasons are there are five that, for Catholics, outshine the others because they are motivated by the crown jewel in the royal trio[1] of virtues; Charity.

1. Examples of the Saints
There are many saints whose life stories include fantastical legends involving nature and animals (Saints Philip Neri, Martin de Porres, Bernard of Corleone, Anthony, Jerome, Ambasius, Aphrodisius, Phocas, Patrick etc.) but the pinnacle of this category of saints seems to be Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis fully understood the dominative power of man and the austere responsibility to respect all of creation because of the creator. It is said that St. Francis was so filled with joy and thanksgiving for creation that, “All creatures, therefore, tried to give their love in return to the saint and to reply by their own gratitude according as he deserved; they were glad when he caressed them, they agreed when he requested anything, they obeyed when he commanded anything.”[2]

2. Green Goods are Generally More Humane
When foods are imported from other countries you cannot be assured how the workers are treated or paid. While there are still labor problems in the U.S. at least when buying locally grown organically based foods you have the opportunity to inquire about fair labor practices. The same holds true not just for food but for the many products we purchase regularly. Buying products from companies with green practices can assure you that they were not made in a sweatshop.

3. Protecting the Environment is for the Greater Good
Reason and natural law help us to see that our ecological responsibility to society is more than a tree-hugger argument. Man is obliged through his free will to observe an inalienable and eternal law that God has written in his heart (2 Corinthians 3:2 Romans 2:15 Hebrews 8:10 Jeremiah 31:33 Psalm 40:9). When we act in accordance with this law we do what is morally right. When we act against it we do what is morally wrong. That sounds simple at the outset yet there are situations where telling right from wrong can get complicated especially where there is a greater good involved. Understanding our obligation to the greater good requires us to acknowledge that there is a natural subordination to creation. For example the beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and so it rightly inspires respect and submission of man’s intellect and will (CCC 341) but not his worship which belongs to the creator alone. That good and proper respect for creation certainly includes proper care for creation.

In Genesis the description of the creation of all things is hierarchically ordered (CCC 342) and describes man as the pinnacle of creation (Genesis 1:1-31 and CCC 343). God also pronounces each of these categorical creations good. So from the beginning all things are ordered toward justice and righteousness and all things have their end and fulfillment in Him who is all righteousness. Since God may be observed to be in each of even the smallest parts of creation the Catechism explains that, “Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.” (CCC 339). This phrase, “disordered use of things” is important because man does have just dominion over creation although it is self limiting (CCC 2415). By that, I mean that the self same hierarchy and dominion over creation demands recognition of the equality of fellow man through brotherly and neighborly love. Our obligation to love each other as God loves us (Mark 12:29-31) requires us to preserve the goods of the Earth for posterity. The Catechism puts it this way:

CCC 2451
¶2451 The seventh commandment enjoins the practice of justice and charity in the administration of earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor.
CCC 2452
¶2452 The goods of creation are destined for the entire human race. The right to private property does not abolish the universal destination of goods.
CCC 2456
¶2456 The dominion granted by the Creator over the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be separated from respect for moral obligations, including those toward generations to come.

Looking at the same issue through Natural Law we can see why it is right for man to make use of his natural resources for the health and welfare of society but exploiting natural resources for personal gain when it adversely effects his fellow man is wrong. Such actions are contrary to our social nature which is necessary for our proper development. It’s like earning a driver’s license which in itself is a good privilege and is part of becoming a responsible citizen in many countries. Yet, just because you have one doesn’t mean you can go around tearing up the road and putting others at risk. Its the same way with the environment.

4. Examples of the Popes and the Vatican.
The Vatican and the two most recent Popes strongly advocate environmental responsibility. In summer 2007 the Vatican announced its plans to become the first carbon neutral state in the world by offsetting its carbon emissions through planting trees in the newly renamed Vatican Climate Forrest. The Vatican has also installed solar panels on top of Paul VI audience hall which produce 300,000 kilowatt hours per year. They are planning a larger solar farm outside Rome and they are not stopping there. The Vatican’s commitment to conservation has reached inside its buildings where experts are working at reducing wasted energy. Some see all of this as a grand political move to gain a moral advantage from which to homilize stewardship and they may be right. So what’s wrong with that? The theory of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming has been accused of being a much exploited neo-pagan myth. The problem is that the myth issue eclipses our Christian duty as stewards of the Earth. In my humble opinion, just because there is evidence to justify flushing global warming down the drain doesn’t mean we should let stewardship drown with it. The fact that the Vatican recently appears to be truly concerned about global warming should not detract from the fact that it has always preached stewardship. Here’s a few examples of Popes promoting stewardship with regard to the environment (emphasis mine):

“In our day there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflicts and continued injustice among peoples and nations, but also by a lack of due respect for nature, by the plundering of natural resources, and by a progressive decline in the quality of life.[3]

“Although people are rightly worried, though much less than they should be, about preserving the natural habitats of the various animal species threatened with extinction, because they realize that each of these species makes a particular contribution to the balance of nature in general, too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic “human ecology.”[4]

The ecological crisis is essentially a moral crises and the solution of many of the ecological problems confronting the entire human family requires strategies and motivation “based on a moral coherent worldview.”[5]

“While population growth is often blamed for environmental problems, we know that the matter is more complex. Patterns of consumption and waste, especially in developed nations, depletion of natural resources, the absence of restrictions or safeguards in some industrial or production processes, all endanger the natural environment.”[6]

“Indeed, questions of security, development goals, reduction of local and global inequalities, protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate, require all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law, and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet. I am thinking especially of those countries in Africa and other parts of the world which remain on the margins of authentic integral development, and are therefore at risk of experiencing only the negative effects of globalization.”[7]

Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family. No nation or business sector can ignore the ethical implications present in all economic and social development. With increasing clarity scientific research demonstrates that the impact of human actions in any one place or region can have worldwide effects.”[8]

5. Stewardship is a Grave Moral Obligation
Environmental responsibility is not just for global organizations, nations and large corporations. Rather it an individual responsibility. As tenants and custodians of the world we have a responsibility to care for the environment especially when that environment directly affects our health. A quick glance at our world will show that we have caused it to slide from its already fallen state. This is true even when excluding global warming as a myth. There is plenty of damage done in other areas such as the destruction of rain forests resulting in the loss of entire species of organisms. In many places of the world water and food supplies are contaminated with toxic chemicals. Managing waste materials and landfills is an epidemic problem. Much of the damage done to the Lord’s vineyard has come out of the abuse of the earth’s resources. Pope John Paul II taught us this in no uncertain terms and offered us a plan of action to undo what can be undone, “Economic activity carries with it the obligation to use the goods of nature reasonably. But it also involves the grave moral obligation both to repair damage already inflicted on nature and to prevent any negative effects, which may later arise… especially in regard to toxic residue.[9] ” This, he said is “the responsibility of everyone,” and then continued, “I should like to address directly my brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church, in order to remind them of their serious obligation to care for all of creation.[10] ” Our responsibility to ensure the basic right for wellness through a healthy environment is a now a matter of repair and prevention, and the matter is a grave one. Certainly this responsibility is secondary to the threat against life as evidenced in issues like abortion and euthanasia, yet if we can do something to repair and prevent the ravages of toxic chemicals we should do it. Otherwise by our indifference we cause the suffering of others as well as ourselves; and that is tantamount to a sin of omission.

Conclusion – What to do about it
OK, so maybe this article has convinced you that you should be doing something about the environment… but what should you do and where do you start? John Paul II gives us this direction, “Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyle.[11] .” So you should start right where you are with your immediate cirle of influence. You start with your own home, your own car, and your own office space. Many people do not fully realize the degree to which they are exposed to harmful chemicals right in their own homes. Studies conducted prove that indoor air is far more polluted than outdoor air[12] . Many of our daily activities involve chemicals that directly affect not just our overall environment but also our personal health in adverse ways. These same chemicals when handled in industrial plants have a strict set of rules called Hazmat[13] governing their safe use but once they are in your home there are no rules. And your exposure to them is not limited to when you are using them. They leave a residue on every surface where you apply them and they absorb into your skin when you touch that surface. Even before you use them they seap into the air through a process known as off-gassing. The good news is that there are alternatives that are safer, more effective, more affordable and more convenient. If you would like to know more about alternative products that I personally use go to .

Choosing to make responsible use of the earth’s resources in our own little corner of the world may seem small but collectively it’s having a positive impact on our world. Once you’ve removed these toxic chemicals from your home the next step is to raise your children with an environmental awareness. Teach them about the responsible use of the Earth’s resources. This is right on track with how the Church and Pope John Paul II view all material goods, “as God’s gifts to us. They are meant to bring out in each one of us the image of God.[14] ” As simple as it may be this is no small message that is entrusted to each individual family. Again Pope John Paul II explains, “An education in ecological responsibility is urgent… The first educator, however, is the family, where the child learns to respect his neighbor and to love nature.[15] ” This can be one of those great daily opportunities to teach our children about our faith because by example we are showing them love of neighbor and God through the world he created.

Saint Francis:

Saints and Animals:

Green Goods are more Humane:

Natural Law and the Greater Good:

Stewardship a Grave Moral Obligation:
Address Of His Holiness Pope John Paul II To The Diplomatic Corps, Monday, 13 January 2003 :

The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility; Message Of His Holiness Pope John Paul II For The Celebration Of The World Day Of Peace January 1, 1990:

Pope John Paul II –Solicitudo Rei Socialis . . . in everyday language. On Social Concern, 1987:

Carbon Neutral State:

Pope John Paul II Quotes:

Pope Benedict XVI Quotes:

Indoor Air Pollution:
Environmental Protection Agency:


2 Corinthians 3:2
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
2You are our epistle, written in our hearts, which is known and read by all men:
Romans 2:15
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
15Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another,
Hebrews 8:10
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
10For this is the testament which I will make to the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my laws into their mind, and in their heart will I write them: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people:
Jeremiah 31:33
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Psalm 40:9
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
9That I should do thy will: O my God, I have desired it, and thy law in the midst of my heart.
Genesis 1:1-31
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
1In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.
2And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters.
3And God said: Be light made. And light was made.
4And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness.
5And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day.
6And God said: Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters: and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament, from those that were above the firmament, and it was so.
8And God called the firmament, Heaven; and the evening and morning were the second day.
9God also said: Let the waters that are under the heaven, be gathered together into one place: and let the dry land appear. And it was so done.
10And God called the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done.
12And the earth brought forth the green herb, and such as yieldeth seed according to its kind, and the tree that beareth fruit, having seed each one according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
13And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years:
15To shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth. And it was so done.
16And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars.
17And he set them in the firmament of heaven to shine upon the earth.
18And to rule the day and the night, and to divide the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
19And the evening and morning were the fourth day.
20God also said: Let the waters bring forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may fly over the earth under the firmament of heaven.
21And God created the great whales, and every living and moving creature, which the waters brought forth, according to their kinds, and every winged fowl according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
22And he blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the waters of the sea: and let the birds be multiplied upon the earth.
23And the evening and morning were the fifth day.
24And God said: Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds. And it was so done.
25And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds, and cattle, and every thing that creepeth on the earth after its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth.
27And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.
28And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.
29And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat:
30And to all beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. And it was so done.
31And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good. And the evening and morning were the sixth day.
Mark 12:29-31
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
29And Jesus answered him: The first commandment of all is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord thy God is one God.
30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment.
31And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
CCC 341
¶341 The beauty of the universe: The order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them. Man discovers them progressively as the laws of nature. They call forth the admiration of scholars. The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man's intellect and will.
CCC 342
¶342 The hierarchy of creatures is expressed by the order of the "six days", from the less perfect to the more perfect. God loves all his creatures and takes care of each one, even the sparrow. Nevertheless, Jesus said: "You are of more value than many sparrows", or again: "Of how much more value is a man than a sheep!"
CCC 343
¶343 Man is the summit of the Creator's work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.
CCC 339
¶339 Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the "six days" it is said: "And God saw that it was good." "By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws." Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.
CCC 2415
¶2415 The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.
  1. faith, hope and charity []
  2. Celano – Historian and Companion of Saint Francis, Ch. CXXV []
  3. World Day of Peace Message, Jan. 1, 1990 []
  4. Encyclical letter, May, 1991 []
  5. World Day of Peace Message, Jan. 1, 1990 []
  6. Address to Mrs. Nafia Sadik, Secretary General of the 1984 International Conference on Population and Development, and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, 18 March 1984, Vatican. []
  7. Pope Benedict’s address to the UN General Assembly 18 April 2008 []
  8. Letter Of His Holiness Benedict Xvi To The Ecumenical Patriarch Of Constantinople On The Occasion Of The Seventh Symposium Of The Religion, Science And The Environment Movement, 1 September 2007 []
  11. The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility; Message Of His Holiness Pope John Paul II For The Celebration Of The World Day Of Peace January 1, 1990 []
  12. Environmental Protection Agency: []
  13. a concatenated word from hazardous and materierals []
  14. Solicitudo Rei Socialis []
  15. The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility; Message Of His Holiness Pope John Paul II For The Celebration Of The World Day Of Peace January 1, 1990 []