Monday, November 12, 2012

Nature: "Wise Use," Yes;
"Reckless Exploitation," No

Nature came first. God set it up as a place where we can live:
"...Nature expresses a design of love and truth. It is prior to us, and it has been given to us by God as the setting for our life. Nature speaks to us of the Creator (cf. Rom 1:20) and his love for humanity...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 48)
That's where I left Benedict XVI's "Caritas in Veritate" two weeks ago. (October 29, 2012)

Nature: a Balanced View

Nature is:
  • Important
  • Not more important than a person
  • For our wise use
  • Not something to be
    • Worshiped
    • Recklessly exploited
That's my opinion. More importantly, that's part of what these excerpts from "Caritas in Veritate" say:
"...Nature is at our disposal not as 'a heap of scattered refuse'[116], but as a gift of the Creator who has given it an inbuilt order, enabling man to draw from it the principles needed in order 'to till it and keep it' (Gen 2:15)...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 48)
Nature is special: a wonderful gift that we're just beginning to understand.

Nature being important probably isn't hard to believe today. Putting it in perspective might be.
"...But it should also be stressed that it is contrary to authentic development to view nature as something more important than the human person. This position leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism - human salvation cannot come from nature alone, understood in a purely naturalistic sense...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 48)
I like nature. I think it's a "wondrous work of the Creator." But as a Catholic, I can't treat nature as if it is divine. That's idolatry: and a very bad idea. (Catechism, 2097, 2112-2114, 2534) (July 15, 2012)

"Dominion," Yes: Ownership, No

As I said before, "Information Age America isn't Victoria England." (October 29, 2012) About a century back, folks hadn't learned that:
I think part of the problem was a mechanistic view of nature popular in some circles. It's possible that another lot didn't read much past this verse:
"4 Then God said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.' "
(Genesis 1:26)
Sure, we've got "dominion" over creatures of this world. But that doesn't mean we own them. The relationship is more like steward and estate. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2416-2418) I've been over that before. (August 17, 2009)

The next chapter of Genesis outlines what we're supposed to do with the natural world:
"The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it."
(Genesis 2:15)

"Wise Use, Not ... Reckless Exploitation"

Worshiping nature is a bad idea.

Seeing nature as a thing that can be used any way we like is wrong, too.

Acting as if either is true gets in the way of human development.

The Catholic Church sees nature as "a wondrous work of the Creator:" with the respect that implies.
"...This having been said, it is also necessary to reject the opposite position, which aims at total technical dominion over nature, because the natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure; it is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a 'grammar' which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation. Today much harm is done to development precisely as a result of these distorted notions...."
(Genesis 1:26)
Recklessly exploiting nature harms the environment: and "fails to respect human nature itself."

More about that next week. That's the plan, anyway.

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