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Catholic Social Teaching

Ways to learn about Catholic social teaching and how to implement it at home, in the classroom, and in everyday life.

APPLYING THE THEMES OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING (Part 7 of 7)

By Sr. Joan Hart SSDN
Sr. Joan  Hart SSDN

Sr. Joan Hart, SSND, has been involved in justice and peace education for the past 30 years and served on the NCCB/USCC Task Force on Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic Education from 1996-98.


7.  Care for the Earth, God's Creation

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is usually credited for providing the inspiration behind the modern environmental movement. Indeed, industrialization and human disregard had for too long damaged this fragile sphere we call home. Carson's book helped show how seriously earth has been degraded by human actions (or inaction). Yet, we need to trace the story all the way back to the two accounts of creation in Genesis.

The first, in Genesis 1: 26 and 28, we read, "Fill the whole earth and subdue it; have dominion over all the living things that move on the earth." It is easy to see how this call to establish dominion has been wrongly used to justify industrial exploitation and the squandering of earth's precious resources. It would seem that, in order to be "like God" the human would have to "subdue" creation.

But in the second account of creation in Genesis 2, the emphasis shifts in the words "it is not good for the human being to be alone." Humans are meant to be in relationship to one another. We are stewards of this earth-garden given to us by the Creator, but we are also called to a mutuality with other humans and with non-human creation. Here, being "like God" calls us into relationships which mirror, however faintly, the inner life of the Trinity.

The response to this new environmental awareness runs the gamut from anti-littering and conscientious recycling to more radical life style changes. It has given rise to lawsuits against polluting corporations, to concern for endangered species, even to fierce battles between those who favor the dominion camp and the relationship proponents. Yet it is increasingly clear that we cannot continue to abuse the earth, closing our eyes to the harm being done to all its inhabitants, as well as to future generations.
  • What steps have you taken already to care for creation?
  • What more can you resolve to do?
  • Have you written to decision-makers, both legislative and corporate, to express your concerns and convictions about the environment?
  • How can you spread the word to others about the critical needs for our planet?





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