Monday, November 19, 2012

Nature: and the Responsible Use of Freedom

Worshiping nature is off limits for me. Doing so would be idolatry, and a very bad idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2110-2114) I've written about idolatry before:
One paragraph, and I'm already wandering off-topic.

I'm wrapping up "Caritas in Veritate," 48, today. Benedict XVI's encyclical letter says that we need to respect the natural world. We must also respect human nature.

Scraping Nature Off the Windshield

I'm no outdoorsman, but I like nature: partly because it photographs well.

Another week come and gone. Sauk Centre sunset, November 10, 2005.
Sauk Centre, Minnesota, sunset. November 2005.

Frost on Ash Street near Our Lady of the Angels church
Frost on Ash Street. December 2005.

These photos are from my Sauk Centre Journal, a weekly post about what I've noticed in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. It's not always picture-postcard weather here. We get the occasional tornado, blizzard, downpours, and hail: plus dreary gray days.


Sauk Centre, Minnesota's, lakeside park. November 2008.


Storm clouds, Sauk Centre. July 2010. (from "Tornado Sirens, Hail, and a Parade Coming This Evening," Through One Dad's Eye (July 17, 2010))

Freezing rain happens, too. Minnesota weather is not boring.


Freezing rain left a nice, even coat of ice on the windshield. November 2010.

Nature and Priorities

Benedict XVI wrote that nature is:
  • Important
  • Not more important than a person
  • For our wise use
  • Not something to be
    • Worshiped
    • Recklessly exploited
    ("Caritas in Veritate," 48)
That's from last week's post. (November 12, 2012)

Nature is important: we need it to survive. But it's not more important than we are. Not according to the Catholic Church. We're told that nature isn't divine - but it isn't a pile of raw material for us to use or waste, either:
"...Reducing nature merely to a collection of contingent data ends up doing violence to the environment and even encouraging activity that fails to respect human nature itself...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 48)
That's an important point: human beings have a 'nature,' characteristics that make us different from other parts of creation.

Human Nature: Matter and Spirit

We are material beings: and we also have a spiritual nature:
  • Animals
    • Are under our dominion
      • Moral law applies to our actions
        • We must remember
          • Our neighbor
          • Generations to come
        (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2415)
    • Are not people
      • Deal with human misery first
        (Catechism, 2418)
    • May be used for
      • Clothing
      • Food
      • Pets
      • Research
        (Catechism, 2417)
    • Belong to God
      • We owe them kindness
      • Remember how St. Francis of Assisi treated animals
        • And St. Philip Neri
        (Catechism, 2416)
  • Human beings are
    • Animals
      • A special sort of animal
        • Endowed with reason
        • Capable of
          • Understanding
          • Discernment
        (Catechism, 1951)
    • People
      • Rational and therefore like God
        • Made in the image and likeness of God
          (Catechism, 1700)
      • Created with free will
      • Master over our actions
        (Catechism, 1730)
    (August 13, 2011)

Great Power, Great Responsibility

Because we are rational beings, we can make decisions: and be responsible for what we decide.
"...Human beings interpret and shape the natural environment through culture, which in turn is given direction by the responsible use of freedom, in accordance with the dictates of the moral law...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 48) [emphasis mine]
In this context, "moral law" isn't just about the zipper issues that make headlines now and then. This sort of 'morality' includes all ethical standards. (June 3, 2011)

This section ends with a reminder that we're responsible for managing nature for ourselves: and for folks who haven't been born yet.
"...projects for integral human development cannot ignore coming generations, but need to be marked by solidarity and inter-generational justice, while taking into account a variety of contexts: ecological, juridical, economic, political and cultural[117].
("Caritas in Veritate," 48)

More posts about "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in Truth)
"Caritas in Veritate"

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