The Church has been Green for a long time

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt

Remember when green was just a color, like red and blue, or black and white? It’s so much more than that now. Green has become a political party, a sociological movement, and even amoral commitment. It’s all about the environment, of course; and the issue is way up there at the top of hot button list, along with the war in Iraq, gay marriage and illegal immigration.

Want to start a lively discussion? Just ask a few people what they think about global warming. Chances are the opinions will vary widely and the discussion itself will heat up enough to contribute to the warming of the atmosphere. It’s an issue that has resurrected the dormant career of former Vice-President Al Gore, who has traveled the world warning about the effects of global warming, all the while encouraging others to travel less and reduce their consumption of fossil fuel.

The burning question (excuse the pun) is this: Is global warming the result of the normal cycle of nature, experienced periodically during the earth’s history, or the result of unprecedented and uncontrolled human activity? According to some dire predictions, if the warming of the earth continues unabated, glaciers will melt, animals will migrate to unusual habitats, hurricanes will intensify to deadly proportions, and the climate in Providence will soon rival that of Puerto Rico. I’m sure that scientists and politicians will continue the debate, and that liberals and conservatives will continue to throw verbal stones at each other across the ecological divide.

Personally, I suspect that global warming is a lethal mélange of both factors – the recurring cycles of nature and destructive human activity. It seems tome, then, that in approaching the question of global warming and the broader issue of the environment we need to strike a balance – to avoid hysteria but approach the question deliberately and seriously.

Political jockeying aside, the protection of the environment is a very serious moral issue, one that the Church has addressed for a long time, long before it became the issue-du-jour. Consider the following . . .

The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation . . .Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2415)

“To men and women, the crown of the entire process of creation, the Creator entrusts the care of the earth. This brings concrete obligations in the areas of ecology for every person . . . All people of good will must work to ensure the effective protection of the environment, understood as a gift of God.” (Pope John Paul II, The Church in America, #25)

“The continuing debate about how the United States is responding to the questions and challenges surrounding global climate change is a test and an opportunity for our nation and the entire Catholic community . . . At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God’s creation and the one human family.”(United States Catholic Bishops, Global Climate Change.)

The Vatican is leading the way and becoming greener. The Paul VI Centre (the audience hall) is getting an environmentally friendly makeover with the installation of a giant rooftop garden of solar panels that will power all of the building’s heating, cooling and lighting needs year-round.

And Pope Benedict himself, while still wearing white, has become green. In

responding to a question presented to him recently, the Pope said: “We can all see today that man could destroy the foundation of his existence, the earth. Therefore we can no longer just simply do whatever we want with this earth which has been entrusted to us. We must respect the inner law of creation, of the earth, to learn these laws and obey these laws if we are to survive.” The Pope went on to speak of “obedience to the voice of the earth,” a neat little phrase that places concern for the environment in the context of the natural law.

For his environmental sensitivity, including his use of an electric- powered popemobile, Pope Benedict has been ranked as one of the top green religious leaders

in the world by the online environmental magazine, Grist. “When he speaks out on an issue, the world listens,” said the editor of Grist.

The protection of the environment is a legitimate moral question. It’s an issue that should spark interest and inspire discussion in our Diocese and our parishes, schools and organizations. We need to ask if there are effective ways in which we, as an institution, can promote a healthy environment. But in the end, like so many other things, it begins with you and me. What are you doing (and what am I doing) top reserve the beautiful home God has given us?

“God looked at everything He had made and found it very good.” (Gn 1:31) That

divine perspective of creation should be enough to inspire us.