Ecological sin: the idea of ​​updating the catechism sparks debate

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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis’ announcement that the Catechism of the Catholic Church would be updated to include a definition of “ecological sin” has caused a frenzy on Catholic Twitter.

Reactions ranged from praise for the seriousness with which the Church took the obligation to care for creation to cynicism or even outrage at the Church’s involvement in what many saw as an issue. highly politicized.

“This ‘creating sin’ is absurd,” one person tweeted.

Another Tweet argued that “harming people is a sin, but not” harming the common house “as if the environment were a being. “

If the wording of the catechism change “is vague or broad,” the tweet continues, it will do nothing “except promote politicized interpretations.”

Ecological sin was discussed at length at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in October, and several synod members called on the Church to deepen its theology in a way that would help people recognize such sins.

In their final document, the synod members proposed that the Church define ecological sin as “an act of commission or omission against God, against his neighbor, the community and the environment”.

Almost three weeks after the synod, Francis told members of the International Association of Criminal Law that there were plans to include a definition of ecological sin in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The “Twitterverse” often reacts to the news with sarcasm, and the mention of “ecological sin” was no exception. One tweeter speculated that a change in the Sunday school would mean considering “how many more squares of toilet paper a Catholic can use before it becomes a sin.”

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession. I turned on the air conditioning four nights, used 9 pieces of single-use plastic, forgot to compost, ran the engine twice, ate imported fruit and neglected to recycle aluminum cans 6 times, ”tweeted another Twitter user.

Theologian Celia Deane-Drummond, director of the UK-based Laudato Si ‘research institute, said Catholic Information Service at the end of November that ecological sins “are in a sense simple to understand, but in another sense complex, because they fall between the category of natural evil and moral evil”.

“These natural disasters that occur, for example, with greater frequency as a result of climate change, can, at least in part, be attributed to human activity,” Deane-Drummond said.

While some argue that sins against creation in general cannot be equated with sins against other human beings, Deane-Drummond has said that ecological sins “join human suffering and that of other creatures”, on the theological basis “on a doctrine of creation”.

“The story of Genesis depicts the fall of mankind as a breakdown in the relationship between God, one another, and the natural world. Everything, as Pope Francis says dozens of times, is interconnected, ”she said. Catholic Information Service.

“It is therefore not surprising and very much in keeping with many centuries of Christian thought that ecological sins are an integral part of what it means to sin,” she added. “That is, direct and indirect damage to other creatures and other people that are related to our human activities. “

Talking about “ecological sin” is not without precedent, said Deane-Drummond, referring to the Joint Declaration on Environmental Ethics, a joint declaration signed in 2002 by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Saint John Paul II .

The degradation of the environment and its natural resources, according to the statement, is not a problem “simply economic and technological; it is moral and spiritual.

“An economic and technological solution can only be found if we undergo, in the most radical way, a change of inner heart, which can lead to a change in lifestyle and unsustainable consumption and production patterns. . True conversion to Christ will allow us to change the way we think and act, ”the document states.

“This idea has been around for a while,” Deane-Drummond said. SNC. “What Pope Francis has done is find a way to anchor her more firmly in the Church.”

Deane-Drummond said SNC that, in a practical sense, providing a definition in the catechism will help Catholics to be more aware of harmful practices such as overconsumption of resources, lifestyles that promote a culture of waste, indifference to the suffering of those affected through climate change and actions that lead to the extinction of species.

“By calling it an ecological sin, it makes our actions more visible,” she said. “The problem with the challenge we face is that these changes are both cumulative but also often invisible – it’s difficult to take moral responsibility for them because we don’t visibly see what’s going on.”


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