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Environment

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.

World Day of Peace Letter (“The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility”), Pope John Paul II, 1990, 1.

The fact that God has given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race can in no way be a bar to the owning of private property… Moreover, the earth, even though apportioned among private owners, ceases not thereby to minister to the needs of all, inasmuch as there is not one who does not sustain life from what the land produces. Those who do not possess the soil contribute their labor; hence, it may truly be said that all human subsistence is derived either from labor on one’s own land, or from some toil, some calling, which is paid for either in the produce of the land itself, or in that which is exchanged for what the land brings forth.

Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of Labor and the Working Classes”), Pope Leo XIII, 1891, #9


 

Whether you abound in, or whether you lack, riches, and all the other things which are called good, is of no importance in relation to eternal happiness. But how you use them, that is truly of utmost importance…. The well-to-do are admonished that wealth does not give surcease of sorrow, and that wealth is of no avail unto the happiness of eternal life but is rather a hindrance; that the threats pronounced by Jesus Christ, so unusual coming from Him, ought to cause the rich to fear; and that on one day the strictest account for the use of wealth must be rendered to God as Judge.

Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of Labor and the Working Classes”), Pope Leo XIII, 1891, #21-22.


 

Whoever has received from the bounty of God a greater share of goods, whether corporeal and external, or of the soul, has received them for this purpose, namely, that one employ them for one’s own perfection and, likewise, as a servant of Divine Providence, for the benefit of others. “Therefore, those who have talent, let them constantly see to it that they be not silent; they who have an abundance of goods, let them be on the watch that they grow not slothful in the generosity of mercy; they that have a trade whereby they support themselves, let them be especially eager to share with their neighbors the use and benefit thereof.”

Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of Labor and the Working Classes”), Pope Leo XIII, 1891, #22.


 

We are convinced that the farming community must take an active part in its own economic advancement, social progress and cultural betterment. Those who live on the land can hardly fail to appreciate the nobility of the work they are called upon to do. They are living in close harmony with Nature–the majestic temple of Creation. Their work has to do with the life of plants and animals, a life that is inexhaustible in its expression, inflexible in its laws, rich in allusions to God the Creator and Provider. They produce food for the support of human life, and the raw materials of industry in ever richer supply. Theirs is a work which carries with it a dignity all its own.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXIII, 1961, #144-145.


 

Genesis relates how God gave two commandments to our first parents: to transmit human life–“Increase and multiply”[44]–and to bring nature into their service–“Fill the earth, and subdue it.”[45] These two commandments are complementary. Nothing is said in the second of these commandments about destroying nature. On the contrary, it must be brought into the service of human life. We are sick at heart, therefore, when We observe the contradiction which has beguiled so much modern thinking. On the one hand we are shown the fearful specter of want and misery which threatens to extinguish human life, and on the other hand we find scientific discoveries, technical inventions and economic resources being used to provide terrible instruments of ruin and death.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXIII, 1961, #196-198.


 

The Church teaches–and has always taught–that scientific and technical progress and the resultant material well-being are good things and mark an important phase in human civilization. But the Church teaches, too, that goods of this kind must be valued according to their true nature: as instruments used by people for the better attainment of human ends. They help to make men and women better people, both in the natural and the supernatural order.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXIII, 1961, #246.


 

By the work of our hands or with the help of technology, we till the earth to produce fruit and to make it a dwelling place fit for all of humanity; we also play our part in the life of social groups. In so doing we are realizing God’s plan, revealed at the beginning of time, to subdue the earth and perfect the work of creation; at the same time we are perfecting ourselves and observing the command of Christ to devote ourselves to the service of our sisters and brothers.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #57.


 

God destined the earth and all it contains for all people and nations so that all created things would be shared fairly by all humankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #69.


 

By its very nature private property has a social quality which is based in the law of the common destination of earthly goods. If this social quality is overlooked, property often becomes an occasion of a passionate desire for wealth and serious disturbances, so that a pretext is given to those who attack private property for calling the right itself into question.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #71.


 

The Second Ecumenical Vatican Council has reminded us: “God destined the earth with all that it contains for the use of all people and nations, in such a way that created thing in fair share should accrue to all people under the leadership of justice with charity as a companion.” All other rights, whatever they are, including property rights and the right of free trade must be subordinated to this norm; they must not hinder it, but must rather expedite its application. It must be considered a serious and urgent social obligation to refer these rights to their original purpose.

Populorum Progressio (“On the Development of Peoples”), Pope Paul VI, 1967, #69.


 

The Bible, from the first page on, teaches us that the whole of creation is for humanity, that it is men and women’s responsibility to develop it by intelligent effort and by means of their labor to perfect it, so to speak, for their use. If the world is made to furnish each individual with the means of livelihood and the instruments for growth and progress, all people have therefore the right to find in the world what is necessary for them.

Populorum Progressio (“On the Development of Peoples”), Pope Paul VI, 1967, #22.


 

Although in general it is difficult to draw a line between what is needed for right use and what is demanded by prophetic witness, we must certainly keep firmly to this principle: our faith demands of us a certain sparingness in use, and the Church is obliged to live and administer its own goods in such a way that the Gospel is proclaimed to the poor. If instead the Church appears to be among the rich and the powerful of this world its credibility is diminished.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971, #47.


 

The most profound motive for our work is this knowing that we share in creation. Learning the meaning of creation in our daily lives will help us to live holier lives. It will fill the world with the spirit of Christ, the spirit of justice, charity, and peace.

Laborem Exercens (“On Human Work,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1981, #25.


 

From the patristic period to the present, the church has affirmed that misuse of the world’s resources or appropriation of them by a minority of the world’s population betrays the gift of creation since “whatever belongs to god belongs to all.”

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #34.


 

Farm owners and farm workers are the immediate stewards of the natural resources required to produce the food that is necessary to sustain life. These resources must be understood as gifts of a generous God. When they are seen in that light and when the human race is perceived as a single moral community, we gain a sense of the substantial responsibility we bear as a nation for the world food system. Meeting human needs today and in the future demands an increased sense of stewardship and conservation from owners, managers, and regulators of all resources, especially those required for the production of food.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #228.


 

Nor can the moral character of development exclude respect for the beings which constitute the natural world… [First] one cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate, animals, plants, the natural elements simply as one wishes, according to one’s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the “cosmos”. [Second] natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability not only for the present generation but above all for generations to come. [Third] the direct or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the environment, with serious consequences for the health of the population. …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 … 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.

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1987, #34.


 

Material goods and the way we are developing the use of them should be seen as God’s gifts to us. They are meant to bring out in each one of us the image of God. We must never lose sight of how we have been created: from the earth and from the breath of God. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1987, #29.
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.

World Day of Peace Letter (“The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility”), Pope John Paul II, 1990, 1.


 

The ecological crisis reveals the urgent moral need for a new solidarity, especially in relations between the developing nations and those that are highly industrialized. States must increasingly share responsibility, in complimentary ways, for the promotion of a natural and social environment that is both peaceful and healthy.

World Day of Peace Letter (“The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility”), Pope John Paul II, 1990, 10.


 

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 … delicate ecological balances are upset by the uncontrolled destruction of animal and plant life or by a reckless exploitation of natural resources. It should be pointed out that all of this, even if carried out in the name of progress and well-being, is ultimately to humankind’s disadvantage…. An education in ecological responsibility is urgent: responsibility for oneself, for others, and for the earth.”

World Day of Peace Letter (“The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility”), Pope John Paul II, 1990, 13.


 

The ecological crisis is a moral issue.

World Day of Peace Letter (“The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility”), Pope John Paul II, 1990, 14.


 

The poor suffer more than other segments of the population from job loss, low wages, poor working conditions and environmental degradation. The Church, in the spirit of Christ, exercises a preferential, but not exclusive, option for the poor; that is, we are called as a people to help them acquire justice, respect, and an inherent sense of dignity, and to participate in transforming economic and political structures to create a just society and a sustainable environment. We urge the public and private sectors to work with the poor to secure employment at a living wage and in safe working conditions; decent and affordable housing; essential health insurance; educational opportunities; and a healthful environment. We urge the poor to become actively engaged in these efforts, and to explore cooperative enterprises in which they would be owners, managers, and workers and consequently share equitably in the distribution of profits and in the responsible care of God’s creation.

World Day of Peace Letter (“The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility”), Pope John Paul II, 1990, 19.


 

The fundamental relation between humanity and nature is one of caring for creation.

Renewing the Earth, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1991.


 

We believe our response to global climate change should be a sign of our respect for God’s creation.…. Much of the debate on global climate change seems polarized and partisan. Science is too often used as a weapon, not as a source of wisdom. Various interests use the airwaves and political process to minimize or exaggerate the challenges we face. The search for the common good and the voices of poor people and poor countries sometimes are neglected.

Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2001, Introduction.


 

At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God’s creation and the one human family. It is about protecting both “the human environment” and the natural environment.1 It is about our human stewardship of God’s creation and our responsibility to those who come after us. With these reflections, we seek to offer a word of caution and a plea for genuine dialogue as the United States and other nations face decisions about how best to respond to the challenges of global climate change.

Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good,, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2001, #3.


 

As Catholic bishops, we seek to offer a distinctively religious and moral perspective to what is necessarily a complicated scientific, economic, and political discussion. Ethical questions lie at the heart of the challenges facing us. John Paul II insists, “We face a fundamental question which can be described as both ethical and ecological. How can accelerated development be prevented from turning against man? How can one prevent disasters that destroy the environment and threaten all forms of life, and how can the negative consequences that have already occurred be remedied?”2

Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good,, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2001, #5.


 

Because of the blessings God has bestowed on our nation and the power it possesses, the United States bears a special responsibility in its stewardship of God’s creation to shape responses that serve the entire human family.

Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good,, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2001, #6.


 

Freedom and the capacity for moral decision making are central to what it means to be human. Stewardship—defined in this case as the ability to exercise moral responsibility to care for the environment—requires freedom to act. Significant aspects of this stewardship include the right to private initiative, the ownership of property, and the exercise of responsible freedom in the economic sector. Stewardship requires a careful protection of the environment and calls us to use our intelligence “to discover the earth’s productive potential and the many different ways in which human needs can be satisfied.”4

Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good,, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2001, #16.


 

True stewardship requires changes in human actions—both in moral behavior and technical advancement. Our religious tradition has always urged restraint and moderation in the use of material goods, so we must not allow our desire to possess more material things to overtake our concern for the basic needs of people and the environment. Pope John Paul II has linked protecting the environment to “authentic human ecology,” which can overcome “structures of sin” and which promotes both human dignity and respect for creation. Technological innovation and entrepreneurship can help make possible options that can lead us to a more environmentally benign energy path. Changes in lifestyle based on traditional moral virtues can ease the way to a sustainable and equitable world economy in which sacrifice will no longer be an unpopular concept. For many of us, a life less focused on material gain may remind us that we are more than what we have. Rejecting the false promises of excessive or conspicuous consumption can even allow more time for family, friends, and civic responsibilities. A renewed sense of sacrifice and restraint could make an essential contribution to addressing global climate change

Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good,, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2001, #18.


 

As people of religious faith, we bishops believe that the atmosphere that supports life on earth is a God-given gift, one we must respect and protect. It unites us as one human family. If we harm the atmosphere, we dishonor our Creator and the gift of creation. The values of our faith call us to humility, sacrifice, and a respect for life and the natural gifts God has provided. Pope John Paul II reminds us in his statement The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility that “respect for life and for the dignity of the human person extends also to the rest of creation, which is called to join man in praising God.”13 In that spirit of praise and thanksgiving to God for the wonders of creation, we Catholic bishops call for a civil dialogue and prudent and constructive action to protect God’s precious gift of the earth’s atmosphere with a sense of genuine solidarity and justice for all God’s children.

Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good,, U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2001, #40.


 

We hope that we might work together to develop and implement an integrated spiritual, social and ecological vision for our watershed home, a vision that promotes justice for people and stewardship of creation… Protection of the land is a common cause promoted more effectively through active cooperation than through contentious wrangling. We call for a thorough, humble and introspective evaluation that seeks to eliminate both economic greed that fails to respect the environment, and ecological elitism that lacks a proper regard for the legitimate rights and property of others. The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good focuses particularly on our common responsibilities for our region. In this pastoral letter we will explore biblical and Catholic Church teachings about stewardship; the need to respect nature; and the need to recognize and promote the common good. These themes are consistent with a Christian belief that the earth is a creation of God intended to serve the needs of all creation.

The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good, An International Pastoral Letter by the Catholic Bishops of the Region, 2001, #2.


 

As persons created in the image of God and as stewards of creation (Genesis 1-2), we are challenged to both use and respect created things. The watershed is ultimately God’s; human beings are entrusted with responsibility for it, concern for its species and ecology, and regulation of its competitive and complementary uses. The watershed, seen through eyes alive with faith, can be a revelation of God’s presence, an occasion of grace and blessing.

The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good, An International Pastoral Letter by the Catholic Bishops of the Region, 2001, #3.


 

Our awareness of the presence of God, who is lovingly concerned about creation, and our openness to God’s grace enlightening and strengthening us, enable us to confront the conditions that concern us, and to affirm and commend the signs of hope that we see. One of the key concepts that applies to our entire discussion is simply respect. Industry must respect people and nature and take particular care to be cognizant of its impact on the common good. People must exercise a basic respect for one another, for God, for other creatures and for the environment.

The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good, An International Pastoral Letter by the Catholic Bishops of the Region, 2001, #7.


 

Today the subject of development is also closely related to the duties arising from our relationship to the natural environment. The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes. In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God’s creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation. If this vision is lost, we end up either considering nature an untouchable taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it. Neither attitude is consonant with the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of God’s creation. Nature expresses a design of love and truth.

Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, #48.


 

“The way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa.”

Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, #51.


 

The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

Evangelii Gaudium (“Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013, Chapter 2, #56.


 

I see in it an invitation to rethink and renew our food systems from a perspective of solidarity, by overcoming the logic of an unbridled exploitation of creation and by better orienting our commitment to cultivate and care for the environment and its resources, in order to guarantee food security and progress toward sufficient and healthy food for all. This poses a serious question about the need to substantially modify our lifestyle, including the way we eat which, in so many areas of the planet, is marked by consumerism and the waste and squandering of food.

Message for the World Food Day 2013, Pope Francis, 2013.


 

The human family has received from the Creator a common gift: nature. The Christian view of creation includes a positive judgement about the legitimacy of interventions on nature if these are meant to be beneficial and are performed responsibly, that is to say, by acknowledging the “grammar” inscribed in nature and by wisely using resources for the benefit of all, with respect for the beauty, finality and usefulness of every living being and its place in the ecosystem.

Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2014, Pope Francis, 2013, #9.


 

We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet… Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015, Chapter 1, #19.


 

The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet… The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015, Chapter 1, #48.


 

When we speak of the “environment”, what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it… It is essential to seek comprehensive solutions which consider the interactions within natural systems themselves and with social systems. We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015, Chapter 4, #139.


 

What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? This question not only concerns the environment in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal. When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind… We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015, Chapter 4, #160.


 

[T]he ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion… Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015, Chapter 6, #217.

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