The Pope’s Message ….

Now, at this time of midnight mass, perhaps it is worth a moment to take a look toward Rome and Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the World Day of Peace, 1 Jan 2008:

Humanity is one great family

6. The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based. This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth. ….

We have a common house. A house that we need to maintain, clean, guard together.

The family, the human community and the environment

  1. The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships.

Home, shelter as a basic human right in which to have a rich, sustaining family. But, beyond the nuclear family.

For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment:

“Need to care for the environment.” Can it be stated any clearer than this.

Now, a problem with this message is the environment is treated as something outside all of us, even while the “home” analogy is used. This is not a “home”, as in we can (easily?) move elsewhere.  Fouling our nest does not mean that we can move elswhere.

it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion.

good of all … constant guiding criterion. Including the good of future generations. 

Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves.

Again, we must think in terms of seven generations, not seven years

Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all.

A message of equity, of inclusion. 

Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions,

Is one allowed to wonder who the Pope might have in mind? 

 and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations. Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.

While there is material to debate, this statement is a strong one about stewardship, of humanity’s responsibility to take care of the planet, if for no other reasons than to provide for future generations.  

And, this speaks to those “Delayers” who call for better evidence, who speak to some silver bullet technological solution that is always around the corner.  “Prudence … means being committed to making joint decisions” and action based on reality, on knowledge.

  1. In this regard, it is essential to “sense” that the earth is “our common home” and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions.

Any idea who the Pope might be referring to.  Who seeks “unilateral decisions” to block action rather than communal action to strengthen all?

Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this “home” of ours;

The Vatican is calling for stronger international organizational authority to combat global warming.

more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation. The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony.

The problem is serious. The problem is now. We must act together on this common recognition.

One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth’s energy resources. The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency. The emerging counties are hungry for energy, but at times this hunger is met in a way harmful to poor countries which, due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess. At times, their very political freedom is compromised by forms of protectorate or, in any case, by forms of conditioning which appear clearly humiliating.

We must act. We must act forcefully. And, we must act equitably, in an international partnership that secures a future for all.

10. Something similar must be said for that other family which is humanity as a whole. The human family, which today is increasingly unified as a result of globalization, also needs, in addition to a foundation of shared values, an economy capable of responding effectively to the requirements of a common good which is now planetary in scope. Here too, a comparison with the natural family proves helpful. Honest and straightforward relationships need to be promoted between individual persons and between peoples, thus enabling everyone to cooperate on a just and equal footing. Efforts must also be made to ensure a prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth. In particular, the aid given to poor countries must be guided by sound economic principles, avoiding forms of waste associated principally with the maintenance of expensive bureaucracies. Due account must also be taken of the moral obligation to ensure that the economy is not governed solely by the ruthless laws of instant profit, which can prove inhumane.

A questioning of what unchecked globalized capitalism is doing to the globe and humanity?

Now, that this comes from Benedict should not be a surprise, with the Vatican going Green. From a Grist discussion of green religious leaders,

Pope Benedict XVI
In addition to using an electric Popemobile on the grounds of solar-power-friendly Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI has been increasingly vocal about the suffering that climate change will cause for the world’s poor. “The world is not something indifferent, raw material to be utilized simply as we see fit,” he has said. “Rather, it is part of God’s good plan.” He has said that humans must listen to “the voice of the earth,” supported the celebration of a “day for the safeguarding of Creation,” spoken out on the need to protect the Amazon, and denounced factory farming. In his recent Sacramentum Caritatis, he endorsed the need for environmental stewardship guided by Catholic faith: “The justified concern about threats to the environment present in so many parts of the world is reinforced by Christian hope, which commits us to working responsibly for the protection of Creation.”

As to a way to start 2008 …

While not Catholic, nor wedded to midnight masses, and recognizing that there are sections and views within that I disagree with, this statement from the Pope has much that I find quite worth listening to …

Yet … how will we know the Church is truly serious?

The Vatican might become the first Green nation-state, 100% renewable power, carbon-free operations.  That is a major symbol even if it will, relative to the globe’s challenges, be relatively small in humanity’s carbon footprint.

But, as a leader of the world, symbolic and otherwise, how will we know whether the Pope and the Catholic Church are truly serious when it comes to Global Warming.  Here is a thought from one of my correspondents, Howard Park:

The day I hear that some ambitious Bishop denies someone (especially a Presidential Candidate) communion because of their views on global warming, or having a fleet of Hummers, or for burning the raiinforest, etc., instead of their views on who has the right to control thier own body or marrage, is the day I’ll believe the Vatican & the Catholic Church is serious about global warming. 

What will be the sermons coming from America’s Priests and Catholic Prelates from the pulpits around the globe in the coming year(s)? 

Will the Catholic Church, yet again, interfere in American politics, seeking a changed path toward a sustainable energy future? 


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