Where do we, as Catholics, stand on this issue? Does the Catholic Church share in these concerns for the environment? What does the Church teach us about our responsibility to the planet?
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2415-2418 deal with the subject of respect for the integrity of creation.
2415 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.195 Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s 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 neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.196 (226, 358, 373, 378)
2416 Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory.197 Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. (344)
2417 God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image.198 Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives. (2234)
Pope Francis voiced his concern for the environment in the very first homily of his Papacy on March 19th when he was installed.
“Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill, let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it," he said. "Be protectors of God's gifts."
The Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document entitled Building a New Culture – Central Themes in Recent Church Teaching on the Environment. The document identifies and explains eight central themes in recent Church teaching on the environment. It concludes with the following statement:
For it is our duty “to encourage and to support all efforts made to protect God’s creation, and to bequeath to future generations a world in which they will be able to live.” May the
Lord grant to Catholics and to all people of good will the virtue of hope, so that we will not lose heart as we strive to safeguard our environment.
The document in its entirety may be read by following the link below.