Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

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Newsletter n. 222 Verona, 05 June, 2009


Rt. Rev. Giampaolo Crepaldi Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and President of the Observatory

 In his homily at Mass on Pentecost Benedict XVI expressed some very interesting thoughts also from the viewpoint of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

As we know, the Magisterium has always situated environmental ecology within human ecology. The main text in this regard is the paragraph in Centesimus Annus where John Paul II affirms that man needs not only a healthy natural environment, but has an even greater need for a sound human environment where he can grow in the virtues and in openness to God.

He went on to indicate the family as the principal reality at the service of a true human ecology. Ever since then it has become customary in the Church’s social doctrine to link environmental degradation to moral degradation in a systematic manner, since the defiling of nature is always a consequence of lacerations in the human fabric of society.

This is a very important hermeneutic criterion, since proposed quite often on the contrary are technical measures applied to nature in order to avoid ecological disasters, while at the same time acting on life itself or the family. This is the schizophrenia of ecologism, which devotes its efforts to saving seals and not children in their mother’s womb.

Nature is not to be looked upon only as a theatre of our technical endeavors – technology alone will not save us from ecological degradation – but as an instrument of humanization, and when men deface the natural foundations of their togetherness they end up inflicting wounds on the environment as well. Man too has a nature, and the human community has natural bonds, beginning with the ones linked to matrimony and the generation of life.

The worsening of the natural environment is always consequential to the worsening of the human envronment (cf. the book by G. Crepaldi e P. Togni, Ecologia ambientale ed ecologia umana. Politiche dell’ambiente e Dottrina sociale della Chiesa [Environmental ecology and human ecology. Environmental policies and the Social Doctrine of the Church], Cantagalli, Siena 2007).

Now, in the homily delivered during the Mass of Pentecost in 31 May 2009 Benedict XVI raised this subject once again, linking environmental ecology with spiritual ecology. He was talking about tempest and wind as symbols of the Holy Spirit. What air is for biological life – he said – the Holy Spirit is for the spiritual life, and “just as there is atmospheric pollution that poisons the environment and living beings, there is also a pollution of the heart and the spirit, which mortifies and poisons spiritual existence”.

This too is liberty people say, but everything that intoxicates and pollutes the soul also ends up by limiting liberty.

Behold the connection linking spiritual ecology, human ecology and environmental ecology. Without the “powerful wind” of the Spirit human souls become intoxicated and thus the liberty of man is weakened also in attending to nature. Governing nature is a spiritual and moral task before being a technical and material one, and how will man be able to govern nature if he knows not how to govern himself?

 “The metaphor of the powerful wind”, continued the pope. “makes us think just how precious it is to breathe clean air, physical air with our lungs, and with our hearts spiritual air, the healthy air of the spirit which is love”. With this statement about the Holy Spirit it can be said that Benedict XVI closed the circle of the ecology: environmental ecology depends on human ecology, but human ecology depends on spiritual ecology.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Social Doctrine, Spirituality