William L. Patenaude, a regular CWR contributor, has penned some thoughts on the Holy Father’s general audience yesterday, which focused on ecology and the “culture of waste”. Patenaude writes:
Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the “culture of waste.”
Western cultures—and those tempted to follow the ways of the West—have come to expect that one can and deserves to attain and consume whatever (and whomever) one wants. Advertisements not only insist that you can have it your way and have as much as you want, but that you deserve to have whatever it is that’s being sold—even if you have lived all these years quite well without it. The makers of such ads understand the fractures in the human soul. They intuitively know that the effects of original sin can be used as a foothold for profit. They create characters and settings that excite our passions. They use language that tugs at our insecurities and at the faint awareness of our incompleteness—a lack of love that all humans crave to fill. In all, the vocation of advertising has become a means to convince us that fulfillment comes only from the attainment of earthly goods.
One thing I appreciate about Patenaude’s writings on ecology is that he grounds it in a deeply orthodox and theologically informed perspective. In addition, he is not given to overstatements and sweeping declarations that often mark (or marr) the writings of secular environmentalists.
Sadly, many good Catholics, for a variety of reasons, flinch or otherwise recoil in horror at the mention of “ecology” or “the environment.” It shouldn’t be that way. Yes, there is a lot to debate and there is certainly a fair amount of both disinformation and confusion when it comes to matters related to the environment. All the more reason for serious, orthodox Catholics to study it, read about it, reflect on it, and pay heed to what recent popes have said about it.