This is the first in a three-part series exploring the seventh theme of Faithful Citizenship, care for creation, and discussing how Catholics can use the resources God has blessed us with responsibly to meets our needs and preserve a clean and hospitable environment for future generations.
The U.S. Bishops’ document Faithful Citizenship provides a blueprint to help Catholics form their consciences—using reason and the teaching of the Church—to engage in public life. We are called to apply our faith to a myriad of public policy issues to uphold human dignity, advance social and economic justice, and protect and support the institutions of marriage and family.
But the seventh theme of Faithful Citizenship, care for creation, is often treated as an afterthought, or an issue of minor importance. However, Faithful Citizenship reminds us that we cannot focus on some moral obligations at the expense of others.
Care for creation supports all the other issues outlined in Faithful Citizenship. An essential part of ensuring the dignity of the human person and family is making sure that our brothers and sisters around the world have basic access to a clean environment in which to live, clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. “Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment,” Pope Francis said in his inaugural homily. Faithful Citizenship echoes, “Care for the earth and for the environment is a moral issue….Protecting the land, water, and air we share is a religious duty of stewardship and reflects our responsibility to born and unborn children, who are most vulnerable to environmental assault.”
The world is increasingly harmed by devastating effects of deforestation, drought, and extreme weather events. Here in Virginia, mountaintop removal for coal has irreparably damaging effects, including flooding, drinking water contamination and other adverse environmental effects on Virginia’s mountain communities. What can we do?
The U.S. Bishops call for “a change of heart to preserve and protect the planet for our children and generations yet unborn,” as well as “a distinctive call to seriously address global climate change…” (Faithful Citizenship, no. 87) While opinions can differ on the cause and severity of the environmental calamities around us, we still have a duty to seek ways to reduce harm done to God’s creation. In addition, these efforts must consider “the impact on the poor, particularly on vulnerable workers and the poorest nations.”
We can begin by starting an open dialogue with friends and neighbors about how we can implement policies that balance preserving God’s creation with laws that ensure social and economic justice for regions that rely on coal and other industries for jobs and economic security. Answering our call to care for creation is not an either/or proposition, but requires both prayerful action and prudence.