VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis’ announcement that the Catechism of the Catholic Church would be updated to include a definition of “ecological sin” has sent Catholic Twitter into a frenzy.
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 a sin’ is nonsense,” one person tweeted.
Another Tweet asserted that “harming people is a sin but not ‘harming the common home’ 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 foster 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 ways that help people recognize these 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 one’s neighbour, the community and the environment.”
Nearly three weeks after the synod, Pope Francis told members of the International Association of Penal 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 to the catechism would amount to 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’s been two weeks since my last confession. Turned on the air conditioning four nights, used 9 pieces of single-use plastic, forgot to compost, I turned on the engine twice, ate imported fruit and neglected to recycle aluminum cans 6 times,” another Twitter user tweeted.
Theologian Celia Deane-Drummond, director of the UK-based Laudato Si’ Research Institute, told Catholic News Service in late November that ecological sins “are in one sense simple to understand, but in another sense complex. , because they fall between the category of natural evil and moral evil”.
“These natural disasters occurring, for example, with greater frequency due to 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 said that ecological sins “come together with human suffering and that of other creatures”, based on theological “of a doctrine of creation”.
“The Genesis story portrays the fall of mankind as a severing of relationships between God, each other and the natural world. Everything, as Pope Francis has said dozens of times, is interconnected,” said she told Catholic News Service.
“It is therefore not surprising and very much in line 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 is related to our human activities.”
Talk of “ecological sin” is not unprecedented, Deane-Drummond said, pointing to the Joint Declaration on Environmental Ethics, a joint statement signed in 2002 by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Saint John Paul II.
The degradation of the environment and its natural resources, the statement states, is not a “simply economic and technological problem; it is moral and spiritual.
“A solution at the economic and technological level can only be found if we undergo, in the most radical way, an inner change of heart, which can lead to a change in lifestyle and unsustainable consumption and production patterns. . A true conversion to Christ will enable us to change the way we think and act,” the document states.
“This idea has been around for a while,” Deane-Drummond told CNS. “What Pope Francis has done is find a way to anchor it more firmly in the church.”
Deane-Drummond told CNS that, from a practical perspective, providing a definition in the catechism will help Catholics 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 by climate change. and actions that lead to species extinction.
“By calling it an ecological sin, it makes our actions more visible,” she said. “The problem with the challenge we face is that such changes are both cumulative but also often invisible – it’s hard to take moral responsibility for them because we don’t visibly ‘see’ what’s happening.”
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