Pope Francis: Care for creation is one of the ‘great moral issues of our time’

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA


Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Rome campus of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Nov. 5, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has called care for God’s creation one of “the great moral issues of our time” in a letter expressing his regret that he could not attend the COP26 meeting in Glasgow.

“Time is running out; this occasion must not be wasted, lest we have to face God’s judgment for our failure to be faithful stewards of the world he has entrusted to our care,” the pope wrote in a letter to Catholics in Scotland signed Nov. 9.

The pope’s message was read out by Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the papal nuncio to Great Britain and Scotland, at a live-streamed Mass at St. Augustine’s Church in Coatbridge, a town eight miles east of Glasgow.

In the message, Pope Francis said that he was pleased to hear that Catholics in Scotland were praying for a fruitful outcome to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, taking place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.

The Glasgow climate summit is meant to “address one of the great moral issues of our time: the preservation of God’s creation, given to us as a garden to be cultivated and as a common home for our human family,” he said.

“Let us implore God’s gifts of wisdom and strength upon those charged with guiding the international community as they seek to meet this grave challenge with concrete decisions inspired by responsibility towards present and future generations.”

Pope Francis has sought to galvanize efforts to protect the environment since his election in 2013. He issued the encyclical Laudato si’ in 2015, ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, which negotiated the Paris Agreement.

One of the goals of COP26 is to encourage governments to implement the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“As you know, I had hoped to take part in the COP26 meeting in Glasgow and to spend some time, however briefly, with you. I regret that this did not prove possible,” Pope Francis said.

The 84-year-old pope expressed his affection for Catholics in Scotland and asked them to pray for him.

“In these challenging times, may all Christ’s followers in Scotland renew their commitment to be convincing witnesses to the joy of the Gospel and its power to bring light and hope to every effort to build a future of justice, fraternity, and prosperity, both material and spiritual,” he said.

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  1. “Time is running out” (Pope Francis). Misplaced priorities? “We have to face God’s judgment for our failure to protect” the millions upon millions of infants entrusted to our care, to us, the Church, who are being slaughtered by abortionists and advocates Jeffrey Sachs recently appointed to a Vatican Dicastery. My penultimate addition to Francis’ most urgent concern for the welfare of planet Earth [no need to supplement my comment with a helpful response since I’m well aware of John Paul II’s fine, balanced concern with the environment].
    Developmental economist Sachs’ appointment to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a strong advocate for population control via contraception, abortion, abortifacients makes a statement. Does it not? Where is there as herculean an effort [Francis’ message to save our planet persistently pounds our ears] to save life created in God’s image. Which creation has the greater value? Perhaps it will be thought a cheap shot if I mention devotion to Pachamama, goddess of the Andes protector of Mother Earth enshrined at the Vatican as having more influence with Pope Francis than the silent screams that keep pounding my ears so I won’t mention it here. I’ll be reverently silent.

    • A sequence of five points, here, adding to Fr. Morello who acknowledges John Paul II’s “balance” versus the less-so presentation by team Francis.

      All to make the point that the moral witness of the Church, in future decades, depends upon telling the whole truth. As Pope John XXIII still taught on the eve of the Second Vatican Council: “But WHATEVER THE SITUATION, we clearly affirm these problems should be posed and resolved in such a way that man does not have recourse to methods and means CONTRARY TO HIS DIGNITY. . .” (Mater et Magistra, 1961, n. 191, caps added).

      FIRST, the care for God’s creation is accurately defended when clearly presented as not only a moral issue (Pope Francis), but as also fully within Catholic Social Teaching. That is, as comprehended by “moral theology” (Centesimus Annus, n. 55)—rather than a mongrelized and possibly double-speak message as might be misunderstood by an “integral ecology.”
      SECOND, the moral issue, then, is one of solidarity, foresight, and prudential judgment—ever careful not to be skewed by the urgency for some kind of action, e.g., uncertainties over the share of climate change (etc.) due to anthropological causes, the crafting of needed programs, the temptation to cast these kinds of issues in ideological terms.
      THIRD, adding to #2, the problematic risk that the finite natural-resource baseline supporting a globalized industrial cultural is limited and subject to now-foreseeable exhaustion. In terms of solidarity, are future populations subject to indeliberate triage, say, as water tables decline, or as food source species are endangered or overharvested?
      FOURTH, adding to #3, nature is not as “fragile” as is portrayed, but the resilience of ecosystems and food chains do work within boundaries (there really are boundaries!) beyond which irreversible collapse is likely, e.g., the risk to all oceanic life (and human food sources) if the surface-layer microscopic plankton are compromised by even slight atmospheric changes.
      FIFTH, complexity and urgency of foresight, such as the above, invites slogans and blunt-instrument solutions. The Catholic Social Teaching, on the other hand, is charged, with articulating and bringing to bear the moral issues without fully identifying them with particular proposals.
      Too much cognitive dissonance as moral theology and incremental science are too-much mingled together. As Fr. Morello points out, it is simply insufficient and misleading to spotlight traumatic ecosystem scenarios for tomorrow (and our indirect sins of omission, or lack of foresight) while discounting, it seems, the traumatic killing of innocent lives today (our direct sins of commission). Another of the “great moral issues of out time.”

      What ever happened to the personal moral absolutes affirmed in Veritatis Splendor alongside the global concerns flagged in Laudato Si? To get all of this stuff right is a tough assignment for the apostolic Church, even for those clerical and lay witnesses to Christ who might be so inclined.

      • Valid points. Meeting the future successfully requires a coherent State Church effort [political moral coherence]. Pope Francis’ global involvement would be promising if it weren’t for his distancing as alluded from Veritatis Splendor and those irritating moral absolutes. Amoris and Laudato Si are designed to amalgam not revitalize. Maybe next papacy.

  2. In Genesis 2:15, we read: “The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and the keep it.” Yes, to Till it and to Keep it.
    In the same book, (1:28), we are told: “And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’”

    So, what Pope Francis teaches is exactly what God wanted Adam and Eve to do in the world He created. Being well endowed (created in the likeness of God) we have the capacity to follow the instructions in our Creator’s “manual”.

    Does this mean that we have to accept the unfounded belief that our CO2 is causing global warming and, hence, climate change?
    No, but it does mean that we should not pollute our environment (air, land, and water), and greedily, wastefully exploit our resources.

    The Vicar of Christ is right in telling the Christians in Scotland (and us): “In these challenging times, may all Christ’s followers in Scotland renew their commitment to be convincing witnesses to the joy of the Gospel and its power to bring light and hope to every effort to build a future of justice, fraternity, and prosperity, both material and spiritual,”

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