DAYTON, Ohio – A possible recognition of “ecological sins” in the Catholic Church’s main teaching document would help “sharpen our conscience about ecological abuse,” according to Dr. Christopher Thompson, a prominent moral theologian.
On two occasions in recent weeks, Church leaders have used the language of “ecological sin” to highlight acts and habits that pollute the environment – first in the outcome document of the Amazon synod and more recently on Friday, when Pope Francis said he was considering adding “ecological sin” to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Such a move would help cement Francis’ teaching on the need to care for the environment as a key Catholic teaching.
Thompson, Dean of the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity and author of The joyful mystery: field notes towards a green Thomism, said the language of ecological sin can provide moral clarity, noting that much will depend on moving away from “politically charged language.”
âOur knowledge of the fragility and complexity of our environmental environment has increased considerably. So it seems prudent to include, then, this new knowledge in our spiritual discernment on what constitutes a dynamic Catholic life, âhe said. Node.
A reservoir of moral clarity
Dr Vincent Miller is the Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton and editor of Laudato Si ‘theological and ecological vision: everything is connected, a volume of scholarly essays inspired by FranÃ§ois’ ecological encyclical in 2015.
He said Node that he believes “that there is a clarifying power for the Church defining these destructive acts as sins.”
âWe get so easily drawn into discussing details, asking questions about economic costs and political structures. We can easily forget that what is at stake in all of this is the evil of destroying God’s creation and leaving a ruined world for our children, âhe added.
Dr Daniel Castillo, author of An ecological theology of liberation and assistant professor of theology at Loyola University in Maryland, said Francis’s emphasis on ecology is nothing new to the Church.
He said Node that the idea of ââsin with regard to nature has been taught “in various places throughout the long Christian tradition and must be recovered today”.
Castillo noted that “adding ecological sin to the catechism would work to standardize this language for larger groups of people who may not have read Laudato Si ‘. “
It’s unclear what sort of definition of “ecological sin” would be offered for the catechism, but a good place to look would be the wording proposed by the October Synod for the Amazon.
This rooted ecological sin in the Catechism’s existing treatment of interdependence and solidarity among creatures. The synod referred to ecological sins against God, neighbor and community, as well as against the environment and future generations.
The synod’s definition draws Catholics beyond “in a superficial way of understanding the Church’s definition of a new sin, as just an addition to a list: murder, contraception, now ecological sin,” Miller explained . Instead, ecological sin “names the ignorance and destruction of our ties to the rest of God’s creation” and is “deeply rooted in the Catholic concern for communion.”
A natural progression of integral ecology
Dr Celia Deane-Drummond, Director of Laudato Si ‘ Research Institute (LSRI) at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, said Node she was not surprised by the proposal to add ecological sins to the catechism.
âTo define ecological sin in this way is a natural result of the idea of ââintegral ecology, that is to say the ontological basis for which everything is interconnected, which is based on a doctrine of creationâ, a- she declared.
âThe transgressions against the earth are intimately linked to the life of human beings; the two cannot be separated, âshe continued.
Deane-Drummond also underlined that an integral approach to ecology is in continuity with the predecessor of Francis.
âLinking poverty issues with ecology has been part of Catholic social education for some time; and particularly important in the work of Pope Benedict XVI, as in Caritas in Veritate; the difference now is that it is applied specifically to the Amazon region with specific implications as to what that might imply in terms of environmental injustice, âshe said.
âThese injustices are against future generations to the extent that the land which is part of a common heritage is degraded and disfigured as a result of human actions now, and some areas will become uninhabitable according to scientific projections where the economy is operational on one as usual, âDeane-Drummond said.
Thompson said concern for ecology is older than modern popes, suggesting that St. Thomas Aquinas’ classic definition of natural law, “the participation of the rational creature in eternal law,” could easily be used. definition of integral ecology because “both presuppose an ordered cosmos in which the incarnate human being dwells, and both seek to articulate the principles of our rational development within this ordered world.
He also said that Catholics in particular should be at the forefront of ecological efforts, “since it is precisely our proclamation of Christ, the Logos, the One by whom all things were made, that places respect for l environment at the center of our ethical concerns. “
Crux is dedicated to smart, hard-wired, independent reporting on the Vatican and the Catholic Church around the world. This kind of report does not come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by donating a small amount monthly or with a one-time gift. Remember that Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax deductible.