Lesson 4: All Creation is Interrelated

God, the CreatorWhen we confess belief in a loving God who creates everything good, we acknowledge all things are unique and interrelated. Francis’ encyclical puts it this way in #86. “We understand better the importance and meaning of each creature if we contemplate it within the entirety of God’s plan…The spectacle of their countless diversities and 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.”

That, of course, means Christians appreciate biodiversity. To lose a species is to lose something good that God has created for a purpose. #69 “Together with our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly, we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes: …The German bishops have taught that, where other creatures are concerned, “we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful.”

But perhaps the most noteworthy of Francis’ ideas is that ecological issues always have a social dimension. In #49 he maintains that the cry of the earth is directly connected to the cry of poor. In #93 he claims, “Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created the world for everyone. Hence every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged.”

He goes on to talk about what this means for private property. “The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order’…” The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property. He clearly explained that “the Church does indeed defend the legitimate right to private property, but she also teaches no less clearly that there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them.”

He also is pretty eloquent when he describes how the issue is handled in international conversation. In #49 he writes, “It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an after- thought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

The pope ends his encyclical Laudato Si with a call for gratitude in “recognizing that the world is God’s loving gift” and for a spirit of humility and generosity in working to resolve the world’s problems. To confess belief in “God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth” certainly should imply dedication to ecology.

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  1. Fritz Foltz says:

    Sister Rita reminded me of one of Thomas Merton’s thoughts regarding interrelatedness: “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”

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