Above: Gulf Coast Prairie. [Copyright information at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gulf_Coast_Prairie_LCC_(14281044052).jpg]
My purpose here is to show the continuity between the theology of creation articulated by Augustine and Aquinas and the environmental teachings of the last three popes, as well as to outline some of the developments in Catholic environmental teaching. As we will see, the popes are faced with factors that contribute to the manifest environmental problems of our day, factors that were not existent, at least not to any significant extent, in Augustine’s or Aquinas’s day, namely, technology, the population explosion, and globalization.
It wasn’t until fairly recently that humanity became aware of its ability to disrupt nature in significant ways. While there are some indications that early in our history the expansion of human populations into new areas caused animal extinction, there are few, if any, historical records of this.1 The secular environmental movement began in England during the industrial revolution in the mid-nineteenth century when some laws were passed to reduce pollution. In the United States, in the nineteenth century, the conservation movement arose, which sought to preserve wide open spaces, wildlife, and natural resources in general. However, it wasn’t until Rachel Carson’s book The Silent Spring in 1962 that the environmental movement really took off.2
Less than ten years after Carson’s book, Pope Paul VI sounded the alarm in the Catholic world in his 1971 encyclical, Octogesima adveniens: “Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation.” From the pontificate of John Paul II onward, the popes have shown increasing concern for the environment, mirroring the increasing solicitude of society at large.3
Pope St. John Paul II
Pope St. John Paul II first spoke about the environment in his 1987 encyclical “On Social Concern.” 4 We, however, will focus here on his most extensive treatment of the environment, his Address for the World Day of Peace, January 1st, 1990, “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation.” This address contains many points that Pope Francis will later incorporate into Laudato Sí.
Pope John Paul II opens his New Year’s address by noting that lack of respect for nature threatens peace among peoples:
In our day, there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflicts and continued injustices 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. The sense of precariousness and insecurity that such a situation engenders is a seedbed for collective selfishness, disregard for others and dishonesty.
Faced with the widespread destruction of the environment, people everywhere are coming to understand that we cannot continue to use the goods of the earth as we have in the past.5
The kind of conflict the Pope is referring to here include those that arise concerning the management of water,6 as well as those between indigenous peoples and oil and mining companies.7 Augustine and Aquinas were aware that the earth’s resources are not unlimited and that this could result in fighting. Indeed, chapter thirteen of Genesis recounts fighting between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen “because the land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once” (Gen. 13:6). However, with the increase in human population and the advent of technology, which draws more heavily on the earth’s resources, the number of these conflicts has gone up dramatically.
Pope John Paul II goes on to link unnecessary environmental destruction to sin:
Adam and Eve’s call to share in the unfolding of God’s plan of creation brought into play those abilities and gifts which distinguish the human being from all other creatures. At the same time, their call established a fixed relationship between mankind and the rest of creation. Made in the image and likeness of God, Adam and Eve were to have exercised their dominion over the earth (Gen 1:28) with wisdom and love. Instead, they destroyed the existing harmony by deliberately going against the Creator’s plan, that is, by choosing to sin. This resulted not only in man’s alienation from himself, in death and fratricide, but also in the earth’s ‘rebellion’ against him (Gen 3:17-19; 4:12).8
It is an interesting question exactly how original sin has had an impact upon non-rational creatures, such that after the fall “painful toil” is required for us to grow food (Gen. 3:17-19). In any case, it is undeniable that bad moral choices can lead to unnecessary environmental destruction. Thus, Pope John Paul II identifies the cause of the environmental crisis to be a moral crisis, consisting in the indiscriminate application of technology, the quest for instant gratification, consumerism, and a lack of appreciation of the value of the human person.9 Like Augustine and Aquinas, John Paul II speaks of the age-old vices of selfishness and greed, and in addition he talks about the imprudent use of technology: “Certain elements of today’s ecological crisis reveal its moral character. First among these is the indiscriminate application of advances in science and technology.” 10 From this point onward, technology will receive increased attention in Church statements on the environment because of the havoc it can wreak, both in its production and in its usage.11
Before John Paul II speaks of the solution to the environmental crisis, he clarifies the purposes that creation is intended by God to serve:
Theology, philosophy and science all speak of a harmonious universe, of a ‘cosmos’ endowed with its own integrity, its own internal, dynamic balance. This order must be respected. The human race is called to explore this order, to examine it with due care and to make use of it while safeguarding its integrity.
On the other hand, the earth is ultimately a common heritage, the fruits of which are for the benefit of all. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, ‘God destined the earth and all it contains for the use of every individual and all peoples’ (Gaudium et Spes, 69). This has direct consequences for the problem at hand. It is manifestly unjust that a privileged few should continue to accumulate excess goods, squandering available resources, while masses of people are living in conditions of misery at the very lowest level of subsistence. Today, the dramatic threat of ecological breakdown is teaching us the extent to which greed and selfishness — both individual and collective — are contrary to the order of creation, an order which is characterized by mutual interdependence.12
In the above, Pope John Paul II speaks of our responsibility to respect the harmony and intrinsic goodness of creation, while at the same time ensuring that it be used in a way that sustains every human being, a view articulated earlier by Augustine and Aquinas.
Earlier in his address, Pope John Paul II, like Augustine and Aquinas, speaks of how the beauty of creation is meant to lead us to praise God:
Finally, the aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The Bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation, which is called to glorify God (cf. Gen l:4ff; Ps 8:2; 104:1ff; Wis 13:3-5; Sir 39:16, 33; 43:1,9). 13
Having clarified the purposes of creation, and having pointed out that the environmental crisis stems from a moral crisis that disregards these purposes, the pope indicates that the solution lies in the practice of virtues, such as moderation:
Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its life style. In many parts of the world society is given to instant gratification and consumerism while remaining indifferent to the damage which these cause. As I have already stated, the seriousness of the ecological issue lays bare the depth of man’s moral crisis. If an appreciation of the value of the human person and of human life is lacking, we will also lose interest in others and in the earth itself. Simplicity, moderation and discipline, as well as a spirit of sacrifice, must become a part of everyday life, lest all suffer the negative consequences of the careless habits of a few.14
The pope also notes the importance of actions to be taken by nations, individually and in cooperation with others:
The concepts of an ordered universe and a common heritage both point to the necessity of a more internationally coordinated approach to the management of the earth’s goods. In many cases the effects of ecological problems transcend the borders of individual States; hence their solution cannot be found solely on the national level. …
The need for joint action on the international level does not lessen the responsibility of each individual State. Not only should each State join with others in implementing internationally accepted standards, but it should also make or facilitate necessary socio-economic adjustments within its own borders, giving special attention to the most vulnerable sectors of society. The State should also actively endeavor within its own territory to prevent destruction of the atmosphere and biosphere, by carefully monitoring, among other things, the impact of new technological or scientific advances. The State also has the responsibility of ensuring that its citizens are not exposed to dangerous pollutants or toxic wastes. The right to a safe environment is ever more insistently presented today as a right that must be included in an updated Charter of Human Rights.15
The notion that care for the environment requires laws and international cooperation in addition to individual efforts is a recurring theme in the environmental discourses of the recent pontiffs.
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI was fittingly dubbed by some the “Green Pope,” for he spoke so frequently about the environment that two entire books have been published containing excerpts from his various writings and discourses.16
Pope Benedict follows closely in Augustine’s footsteps. He sees one purpose of creation to be to lead us to praise God. Thus, for example, he notes that St. Francis of Assisi “always asked the monk in charge of the garden of the convent not to cultivate all the land for vegetables, but leave some for flowers, moreover, to cultivate a beautiful bed of flowers, so that the people who passed by would raise their thoughts to God, the creator of such beauty.” 17 And he also affirms that: “Christian people, in giving thanks to God through the Eucharist, should be conscious that they do so in the name of all creation, aspiring to the sanctification of the world and working intensely to that end.” 18 This echoes Augustine’s view that while creation silently give praise to God, it leads us to do so in a conscious manner.
Pope Benedict maintains that another purpose of creation is to serve the material well-being of every human individual:
Christians in particular, conforming their lives to the Gospel, recognize that all people are brothers and sisters; that life is a stewardship of the goods received from God, which is why each one is responsible for the other, and whoever is rich must be as it were [in the words of St. Basil] an “executor of the orders of God the Benefactor.” 19
Pope Benedict, like John Paul II before him, sees the environmental crisis as stemming from our immoral behavior, our selfishness and greed. Thus, for example, in his encyclical Caritas in veritate he observes: “The way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa. This invites contemporary society to a serious review of its lifestyle…prone to hedonism and consumerism.” 20
Pope Benedict often speaks of worldwide interdependence or “globalization” in conjunction with environmental concerns, as it affords human selfishness and greed greater scope: “it cannot be said that ‘globalization’ is synonymous with ‘world order’ — it is quite the opposite. Conflicts for economic supremacy and hoarding resources of energy, water and raw materials hinder the work of all who are striving at every level to build a just and supportive world.” 21
According to Pope Benedict, the solution to the environmental crisis lies in the practice of virtues which moderate our use of created things so that other people do not go without and so that that beauty of creation is maintained:
What is needed is an effective shift in mentality which can lead to the adoption of new life-styles “in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments. Every violation of solidarity and civic friendship harms the environment, just as environmental deterioration in turn upsets relations in society.” 22
Pope Benedict is the first Pontiff to use the expression “human ecology.” He says that we are “to defend the earth, the water, the air as gifts of creation belonging to all. It is also necessary that there be something like an ecology of man, properly understood. … One must reread Humanae vitae starting from this perspective: the intention of Pope Paul VI to defend…the nature of man against manipulation of him.” 23 Janet Smith points out the irony of people worrying about the negative effect of hormones in waterways on frog reproduction while blithely put hormones in their own bodies to shut down their reproductive systems. In the same vein, the American bishops affirm: “Respect for nature ought to encourage policies that promote natural family planning.” 24 Indeed, I think that one reason that the recent popes have spoken so frequently about the environment is that it is a way of rehabilitating natural law morality.
Without doubt, Pope Francis’s most noteworthy contribution to Catholic environmentalism is his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Sí. What is ground-breaking is not so much the content of the encyclical, but the fact that an entire encyclical is devoted to care of the environment. Pope Francis explicitly credits previous popes for much of what he says, beginning with Pope Paul VI, and he frequently quotes them. While Pope John Paul II had already affirmed in his 1990 New Year’s address: “Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith,” 25 Pope Francis’s affirmation of this truth in Laudato Sí carries the greater authority of an encyclical: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” 26
In the opening chapter of Laudato Sí, “What is Happening to Our Common Home,” Pope Francis refers to the environmental problems specific to our day and how they impact especially the poor: pollution, scarcity of drinking water, loss of biodiversity, and human isolation from nature. The beginning of Laudato Sí thus resembles Pope John Paul II’s New Year’s address in that it first highlights problems that result from the misuse of creation, problems that were largely unknown in Augustine and Aquinas’s day.
In chapter one, Pope Francis also addresses the issue of population growth:
Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development”. To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption. Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and “whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.” Still, attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density, on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations, as a result of the interplay between problems linked to environmental pollution, transport, waste treatment, loss of resources and quality of life.27
While Augustine and Aquinas were aware that population growth can lead to conflicts, they were not faced with the claims made by some environmentalist that humans are “a cancer on the earth” and that human populations must be reduced at whatever cost. Pope Francis’s declaration here summarizes previous statements coming from the Vatican. Here is not the place to investigate them in detail, but only to note that in our day the Church needed to take a position on population growth as part of her environmental ethic.28
Pope Francis goes on to reiterate the Church’s longstanding theology of creation. Following Augustine and Aquinas, he flatly rejects the notion the human species is just one species among other species. He affirms that existence of each individual human “presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life.” 29 And he points out that “Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.” 30 Pope Francis affirms that: “We are meant to be ‘stewards of creation.’” 31 We are to ensure that creation gives glory to God and serves humanity.
Regarding the need to respect non-rational creatures insofar as they have intrinsic goodness, and by that goodness give glory to God, Pope Francis quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
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 that would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.32
Throughout Laudato Sí, Pope Francis speaks of the beauty of creation leading us to praise God. Near the beginning of the encyclical, he says:
What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty. Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.33
When it comes to our using the earth in a way that allows for the sustenance and well-being of the whole human family, Pope Francis references the New Zealand bishops’ rhetorical question what “Thou shall not kill” means when “twenty percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.” 34
Pope Francis then names two of the root causes for why we fail to properly care for the environment: (1) a love of technology coupled with a desire to maximize profits that sidelines moral reflection, and (2) “practical relativism” which consists in measuring the value of both things and persons in terms of how they serve us.35 These are the age-old vices of greed and selfishness, the ill-effects of which are amplified by technology and our infatuation with technology. Pope Francis speaks about technology and the techno-economic mentality repeatedly. For example, he says:
Often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation. For example, many birds and insects which disappear due to synthetic agrotoxins are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will have to be compensated for by yet other techniques which may well prove harmful. We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.36
Here Pope Francis points out that technology is a double-edged sword, often creating new problems as it solves other problems. He speaks of a mentality which regards the products we produce from the earth’s resources as if they could substitute for the beauty of nature.37 Elsewhere he speaks of the technocratic mentality as one which seeks solutions to problems through technology without regard for moral concerns, and which thus places the possession of technological gadgets above concern for the poor and the beauty and integrity of creation.38
Given our environmental problems stem from our moral problems, their solutions lie in the practice of various virtues. Pope Francis urges us to resist compulsive consumerism and to cultivate the virtue of “sobriety,” meaning moderating our desires for creature comforts.39
The Pope also points to the need for solutions at an international level and national level:
In the meantime, economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment. Here we see how environmental deterioration and human and ethical degradation are closely linked.40
This kind of problem requires a solution beyond the level of the individual.
We have seen that the teachings of last three popes accord with the theology of creation developed by Augustine and Aquinas. All five acknowledge the intrinsic goodness of non-rational creatures and the goodness of the greater whole that these creatures contribute to, and they ultimately see the goodness of creation to be ordered to the glory of God, especially insofar as it leads us to praise God. All five acknowledge that creation is also intended to serve the material and spiritual well-being of every human individual. In addition, they all advocate the practice of virtues such as simplicity, moderation, justice, and liberality in our usage of the earth’s bounty.
What we see in the writings of the last three popes that we do not see in Augustine and Aquinas is the urgency of the environmental problems we have caused, urgent both because they result in harm to people,41 especially the poor, and because they result in the loss of species, ecosystems, and the beauty of the environment.
In addition to speaking about the age-old moral failings that are at the root of our environmental calamities, it was incumbent on the recent popes to speak about the modern phenomena of technology and globalization, as these are apt to amplify the vices of selfishness and greed and their harmful effects. Reflecting on technology and globalization, the popes saw a need to propose that moral solutions to environmental problems be sought at the national and international level, as well as at the level of the individual. The enormous growth of human populations was yet another factor in our day that the recent popes addressed, due to its significant environmental impact.42
Lastly, both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have united considerations of respect for the harmony of nature with considerations of respect for the natural order inscribed in the human body, thereby recovering, at least in part, the natural law morality that dates back to Augustine and Aquinas.43
[Prof. George is the author of Christianity and Extraterrestrials? (2005) and A Catholic Perspective and Stewardship of Creation: What Catholics should know about Church teaching on the environment (2009)]
1..See Emma Byrce, “What’s the first species humans drove to extinction?”, Live Science, October 10, 2020, https://www.livescience.com/first-human-caused-animal-extinction.html
2.. Silent Spring is about the effect of pesticides on the environment.
3.. See Lucia Silecchia, “Discerning the Environmental Perspective of Pope Benedict XVI,” Journal of Catholic Social Thought, 4, 2 (2007), 228 “Although environmental problems clearly existed before the papacy of Pope John Paul II, the years of his papacy (1978-2005) were closely aligned with the years during which many national governments and secular international entities concerned themselves with ecological matters to a far greater extent than ever before. This greater attention—coupled with more urgent appreciation for and evidence of ecological harms—prompted the unprecedented intervention of the Holy See in environmental matters during the papacy of Pope John Paul II.”
4.. See Pope John Paul II, On Social Concern (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987), no. 34: “It is evident that development, the planning which governs it, and the way in which resources are used must include respect for moral demands. One of the latter undoubtedly imposes limits on the use of the natural world. The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to ‘use and misuse,’ or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to ‘eat of the fruit of the tree’ (cf. Gen 2:16-17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity.”
5.. Pope John Paul II, “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation,” Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 1990, no. 1. Available at: https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/messages/peace/documents/hf_jp-ii_mes_19891208_xxiii-world-day-for-peace.html
6 ..See Adrien Detges, Benjamin Pohl, and Stella Schaller, eds., “Editor’s Pick: 10 Violent Water Conflicts,” Adelphi Magazine (August 20, 2017), https://climate-diplomacy.org/magazine/conflict/editors-pick-10-violent-water-conflicts
7.. In the last few years, environmentalists, defending the rights of indigenous peoples that are threatened by oil, mining, and other companies, are killed at a rate of three to four each week.
8.. “Peace with God the Creator,” no. 3.
9.. See ibid., no. 13.
10.. Ibid., no. 6.
11.. A discussion of technology appears in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (promulgated in 2004 under John Paul II); here are a couple of excepts: “[T]he Magisterium has repeatedly emphasized that the Catholic Church is in no way opposed to progress, rather she considers ‘science and technology are a wonderful product of a God-given human creativity, since they have provided us with wonderful possibilities, and we all gratefully benefit from them’” (no. 457). “A central point of reference for every scientific and technological application is respect for men and women, which must also be accompanied by a necessary attitude of respect for other living creatures” (no. 459).
12.. “Peace with God the Creator,” no. 8. The truth that “God destined the earth and all it contains for the use of every individual and all peoples” is often referred to in Catholic documents as the “universal destination of goods.”
13.. Ibid., no. 4.
14.. Ibid., no. 13.
15.. Ibid., no. 9.
16.. See Pope Benedict XVI, The Environment, ed. Jacquelyn Lindsey (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2012) and The Garden of God: Toward a Human Ecology (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2014).
17.. Pope Benedict XVI, The Environment, 173. These books do overlap in part.
18.. Ibid., 31-21.
19.. Ibid., 39. The Pope references the same homily of St. Basil that Aquinas references in his sermon on the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). St. Basil, Hom. 6 de avaritia: PG 32, 1181-1196
20.. Caritas in veritate (2009), no. 51.
21.. Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, January 6, 2008, https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/homilies/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20080106_epifania.html
22.. Ibid. Pope Benedict XVI is quoting from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Centesimus Annus, no. 36.
23.. Pope Benedict XVI, “L’écoute du langage de la creation sauve l’homme de la destruction” (“Listening to the language of creation saves man from destruction”), Papal discourse to the Roman Curia, Dec. 22, 2008, L’Observatore Romano, 51 (December 23, 2008), trans. Marie George, 3. See Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, no. 38: “Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed.” Pope Francis quotes this in Laudato Sí, no. 115.
24.. Note that Pope Francis adopts the concept of human ecology from Pope Benedict, and develops it in Laudato Sí, no. 155: “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature…Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an ‘ecology of man’, based on the fact that ‘man too has a nature that he must respect and cannot manipulate at will.’ The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different.”
25.. “Peace with God the Creator,” no. 15.
26.. Laudato Sí, no. 217.
27.. Laudato Sí, no. 50.
28.. On the topic of population growth see Marie George, “Environmentalism and Population Control: Distinguishing Pro-Life and Anti-Life Motives,” The Catholic Social Science Review, 18 (2013): 71-90.
29.. Laudato Sí, no. 81.
30.. Ibid., no. 118.
31.. Ibid., no. 236. Some Christian environmentalists reject any talk of stewardship on the grounds that it separates man from the rest of creation. However, the notion of stewardship is that of managing something that belongs to someone else. The earth is the Lord’s, and we, being created in God’s image, have the capacities needed to be set in charge of non-rational creatures so that they serve their God-given purposes, which are to give glory to God and to serve humanity. To affirm this is not to deny that we also have solidarity with other creatures insofar as we and they are created by God and are parts of a cosmos that is ordered to giving glory to God.
32.. Ibid., no. 69, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 339.
33.. Ibid., no. 12. See Lucas Briola, The Eucharistic Vision of Laudato Si’: Praise, Conversion, and Integral Ecology (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2022).
34.. Ibid., no. 95.
35.. Ibid., nos. 122-23.
36.. Laudato Sí, no. 34. See also, no. 54: “The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests.”
37.. This mentality traces back to Francis Bacon (1561-1626). See Paul Krause, “Francis Bacon’s Conquest of Nature,”
38.. See Laudato Sí, nos. 53, 54, 60, and 105-114.
39.. Ibid., nos. 222-25.
40.. Ibid., no. 56.
41.. See Marie I. George, “The Pro-Lifer’s Pro-Life Duty to Advocate a Balanced Environmental Ethic,” Life and Learning XXIII and XXIV: Proceedings of the University Faculty for Life Conference,” ed. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J. (distributed by UFL), 169-185.
42.. The recent popes give a number of other directives pertinent specifically to our age that have not been mentioned in this essay due to their lesser importance. For example, in Laudato Sí, no. 47 Pope Francis points out how the digital world is a source of distraction from our contemplation of the “book of nature.” Also, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis speak of the importance of beautifying cities and developing them in a way that harmonizes with the surrounding environment; see Laudato Sí, no. 58 and “Peace with God the Creator,” no. 14.
43.. See Michael Baur, chap. 3, “Natural Law and the Natural Environment: Pope Benedict XVI’s Vision Beyond Utilitarianism and Deontology,” in Environmental Justice and Climate Change: Assessing Pope Benedict XVI’s Ecological Vision for the Catholic Church in the United States, eds. Jame Schaefer and Tobias Winright (Washington, DC: Lexington Books, 2013).