Social Action Office

Church Teaching
on the Environment

Quotes from relevant documents
and further reading

From the Catholic Catechism

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 (sic) 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 neighbour, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation. (No. 2415)

God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrows: the spectacle of their countless diversities and the inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other. 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. (Nos. 340-341)

From Pope John Paul II

(Humanity), especially in our time, has without hesitation devastated wooded plains and valleys, polluted waters, disfigured the earth's habitat, made the air unbreathable, disturbed the hydrogeological and atmospheric systems, turned luxuriant areas into deserts and undertaken forms of unrestrained industrialization.

We must therefore encourage and support the "ecological conversion" which in recent decades has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading. (Humanity) is no longer the Creator's "steward", but an autonomous despot, who is finally beginning to understand that (it) must stop at the edge of the abyss… At stake, then, is not only a "physical" ecology that is concerned to safeguard the habitat of the various living beings, but also a "human" ecology which makes the existence of creatures more dignified, by protecting the fundamental good of life in all its manifestations and by preparing for future generations an environment more in conformity with the Creator's plan. (Call to the Faithful, 2001)

The ecological crisis is a moral issue ... respect for life and for the dignity of the human person extends also to the rest of creation... We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations. (World Day of Peace Message, 1990)

It was the Creator's will that (we) should communicate with nature as an intelligent and noble master and guardian and not as a heedless exploiter and destroyer. (Redemptor Hominis - The Redeemer of Man, 1979, No. 15)

Man (sic) thinks he can make arbitrary use of the Earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray. Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of god and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature. (Centesimus Annus - On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, 1991, No. 37)

From Archbishop Renato Martino, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations (UN)

The activities of twenty-five percent of the world's population are responsible for almost seventy-five percent of the global emission of greenhouse gases. Global warming, as it is popularly called, is global in scale. It recognizes no boundaries, no nationalities, no cultural divides. It is the great equalizer with unpleasant consequences .(Address to the UN, 28 November 2001)

St Francis of Assisi
is the
Patron Saint of the Environment

Suggested Further Reading:

  • Gaia and God - An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing by Rosemary Radford Ruether 1992
  • The Body of God - An Ecological Theology by Sallie McFague 1993
  • God's Earth - Religion as if Matter Really Mattered by Paul Collins 1995
  • Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor - by Leonardo Boff 1997
  • Embracing Earth - Catholic Approaches to Ecology by Albert LaChance and John Carroll (eds) 1994
  • Befriending the Earth - A Theology of Reconciliation Between Humans and the Earth by Thomas Berry CP with Thomas Clarke SJ 1991
  • Super, Natural Christians - How We Should Love Nature by Sallie McFague 1997

These resources are available for loan from the Social Action Office. Please email SAO or phone (07) 3891 5866 if you are interested.

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