Ever since we read in Genesis that humans were told to “subdue the earth,” it seems we have been in conflict about how to treat the creation. So no one pictures Popes saving whales and redwood trees, or picketing to stop strip-mining or fracking or the oil pipeline from Alberta to Texas.
But did you know that for 120 years, all of the Popes have made strong statements on how social justice demands that we have a partnership with the earth? In 1891, Pope Leo XIII said that God gave the earth to us to hold “in common.” No matter how land is privately divided, the earth serves “the common interest of all,” since “no living being is sustained except by what the fields bring forth. The goods of nature and the gifts of divine grace belong in common and without distinction to all human kind.” (Rerum Novarum)
Our common good now depends on global interdependence which means making sure of an equitable use of world resources. We must promote “cooperation and a just structure of sharing in the world community.”
Finally, we must maintain the Christian option for the poor. This means that we promote “authentic development, which offers a direction for progress that respects human dignity and the limits of material growth.”
“The whole universe is God’s dwelling.” We are privileged to share life on this small corner of the cosmos we know as earth. So—plant a garden, do animal rescue work, find your own way to respect God’s Creation.
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