Human beings should neither despise subpersonal creation nor esteem it more than it deserves; they should respect it and treat it in accord with its true value. The right attitude is compatible with using and consuming subpersonal realities. Human use of material things transforms the world, humanizing and personalizing it in the case of morally good use, alienating it from humans and harming it in the case of abuse. The intrinsic goodness of subpersonal realities and their significance for human fulfillment imply some general norms.
Because human beings are by nature social and most human actions involve some sort of cooperation, human relations with subpersonal things usually are not individualistic but interpersonal and communal. Often, the agent who uses something is not a single person but a couple, a family, a group working together, or some larger society. This is assumed throughout the remainder of this chapter, even though, for simplicity’s sake, statements relevant both to individuals and groups often speak only of the former.29
Vatican II observes: “According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to humankind as their center and crown” (GS 12). Still, before creating humans, God looks on the other parts of his creation and finds them good (see Gn 1.4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25); and faith teaches that God creates all his works in wisdom and loves everything he makes (see Ps 104.24, Prv 8.25–31, Wis 11.24–25). Thus, each creature has inherent meaning and value which it can never lose.
Most people of all times and places have acknowledged that human action can achieve good results only with God’s help, but the contemporary secularized world denies this truth. While some nonbelieving humanists rightly acknowledge human responsibility for the environment without falling into nature worship, the denial of the reality of God the creator removes the basis for a correct appreciation of subpersonal realities and a sound view of how humans should relate to them. Thus, false opinions on these matters flourish in the secularized world, and Christians who become forgetful of God as creator tend to absorb them.
a) People should not regard nature as mere material for exploitation. Many people who do not believe in God imagine that human beings are the sole source of meaning and value in the universe. Supposing subpersonal realities to lack intelligibility and value of their own, which humans can grasp and ought to respect, they think of nature as being at humankind’s disposal: individuals, businesses, and governments may do with it whatever they please. Then scientific research is pursued mainly in order to discover ways of controlling nature by technology; technology is applied to serve not only genuine human needs (see E.1.b, below) but insatiable and often perverse human desires; and natural beauty is considered nothing more than a feature of things which happens to occasion subjective satisfaction in human beings.
This irreligious view provides a rationale for treating nature without piety, that is, without limits grounded in deep respect for subhuman things. Development then means unrestricted exploitation, which leads to irreversible changes in the natural world and tends to exhaust natural resources. Yet many people pursue this sort of development without recognizing any limit except self-interest, which, at best, embraces the long-term welfare of themselves and those they care for. As they treat the world without reverence toward God the creator, those enjoying the fruits of such development are further enriched and the poor further impoverished.30
Of course, people generally claim to be acting within their rights in pursuing self-interest. But the so-called rights claimed by people who think they are the sole source of meaning and value often have nothing to do with justice; instead, the powerful decide which claims will count as fair and even which human individuals will count as persons. For example, while ignoring the misery of the poor, the wealthy and powerful, a mere handful of the world’s population, not only engage in wanton waste and the spoliation of the earth but kill millions of unborn children every year.31
b) People should not regard nature as if it were sacred in itself. Even some who deny or are forgetful of God the creator recognize the intelligibility and value immanent in subpersonal realities, whose meaning and beauty arouse their wonder and awe. Feeling a quasi-religious reverence for nature and a kinship with subhuman things, they may even go so far as to ascribe rights to them (see C.1, below). On this view, any human intervention in nature is, as it were, a sacrilege if it markedly alters the world or destroys any unusual feature of the landscape or any species of living thing; while contemplation is the only unquestionably legitimate human use of the subhuman world which, insofar as possible, should be preserved intact and allowed to develop according to its own dynamics and without technological intervention.
This view has led to radical proposals to limit and even reduce world population. It also tends to obstruct some uses of natural resources which are necessary to serve the needs of already-living people. Since the affluent are more likely to have the time and money for study and recreation, their interests in these activities tend to prevail over the interests of less developed nations and poorer people in using natural resources to satisfy their basic needs. Thus, some proposed environmental policies take no account of the burdens they would impose by eliminating jobs or increasing the cost to the poor of food, shelter, home heating, transportation, and so on.32
c) In dealing with nature, people must cooperate with its creator. Even people who practice a non-Christian religion can see the falsity of these ways of regarding the subhuman world, insofar as they ignore God the creator, on whom human dealings with subhuman creatures always depend. In dealing with nature, people ordinarily seek some benefit, some element of human fulfillment, for themselves and, usually, for others; but the realization of the anticipated benefit always depends not simply on them but on the concurrence of factors beyond their control. For example, a farmer plants in order to harvest, but the harvest also depends on the weather; a researcher works on a problem in order to find a solution, but the solution also depends on “inspiration.” In acting, one must always hope for the best; but, falsely supposing the outcome to depend on chance, contemporary unbelievers regard all action as something of a gamble in which the only really accurate expression of encouragement is: “Good luck!”
Except for people schooled in the systematic nonbelief of post-Christian culture, however, not only Christians but people of virtually every time and place have realized more or less clearly, and realize now, that the hope essential to human action involves reliance on God. From the greatness and beauty of created things—not least, from their own being and actions—people become aware of the creator. Moreover, people are aware that, like their being as a whole, the principles of their practical reasoning, directing them to the good, are the creator’s gift. They realize, at least in some confused and inarticulate way, that in acting for the goods to which those principles direct them, they are only doing part of what is necessary to achieve the benefits they hope for, and that they must count on God to give success to the work of their hands. This is to say that, in acting, human beings naturally experience themselves, not as autonomous agents, but as cooperators with the creator (see 1.C.1.d, above). This experience is an important source of the various religions, of prayers for the favor of God or the gods, of sacrifices to acknowledge gifts received and share the fruits of efforts with the unseen power whose cooperation contributed to bringing them about.33
d) Technology tends to obscure human cooperation with the creator. Today, the prevalence of technology, along with other factors, causes even firm believers to have less sense of cooperating with God than people had in times past. But technological instruments and processes not only presuppose created nature but remain part of it, entirely dependent on God’s providence and conserving power.
Moreover, technological performances are not complete human actions; and while technology systematically organizes outward behavior to achieve definite goals, the goals achieved do not always constitute benefits, that is, contributions to the fulfillment of persons as such. To achieve benefits, the technology must be used properly, in accord with sound judgments which take into account the whole good of all the persons and communities affected. Yet fascination with technology tends to focus attention on it, while distracting attention from other aspects of a complete human act: its moral sources in the heart and its contribution or detriment to the fulfillment of persons. In a culture pervaded by technology, even Christians often overlook the fact that they can do nothing to achieve any good except by cooperating with God, in accord with the law which he has written on the human heart.
Placed by God in charge of subpersonal creation, human beings are responsible to him for how they treat these creatures. Respecting the meaning and value God has placed in his humbler creatures, humans should treat them as his gifts, which are not to be abused, and should use them to give God glory and fulfill genuine human needs (see E.1.b).34
a) God calls human beings to subdue the earth by their work. “Man is the image of God partly through the mandate received from his creator to subdue, to dominate, the earth. In carrying out this mandate, man, every human being, reflects the very action of the creator of the universe.”35 From the beginning, then, as was explained above (in A.1), people have been called to fulfill themselves by work, which always more or less directly involves interacting with and transforming subhuman things.36
In their work, humans share in God’s superiority over subhuman creation. They are responsible for it, but not to it, as if it shared in the dignity and fundamental rights which they themselves enjoy as persons made in God’s image. Rather, they are responsible to God and one another—not least, future generations—for their treatment of the things God has given to all humankind.
b) Human dominion over nature is limited by moral norms. What is the dominion which Genesis says God has given to humans? The sacred writers do not view it as unrestricted power, but make it clear that, in God’s eyes, subhuman things and human beings form, as it were, a community of creatures, for which humans bear responsibility.37 Thus, human sin provokes a disaster which affects the entire earth, but God preserves from the cleansing flood not only humans (Noah and his family) but other creatures, so that they can make a new beginning. The covenant God grants the survivors is inclusive: “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Gn 9.13)—“between me and all flesh that is on the earth” (Gn 9.17).
Consequently, the divine mandate to have dominion by no means authorizes people to do whatever they please with God’s good and beautiful subhuman creatures. John Paul II points out three ecological considerations: the need to take into account each thing’s nature and place in the cosmos, the limits and nonrenewability of natural resources, and the impact of some kinds of development on the quality of human life. Then he teaches:
The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to “use and misuse”, or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to “eat of the fruit of the tree” (cf. Gn 2.16–17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity.38
c) God makes humans responsible for subhuman creation. It follows that dominion expresses not only the superiority of human beings over subpersonal creation but their divinely given responsibility with regard to all material creatures. God has, as it were, appointed people his agents: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gn 2.15); they are to govern subhuman creation on God’s behalf, administering “the world in holiness and righteousness” (Wis 9.3).39 Thus, John Paul II teaches:
Certainly humanity has received from God himself the task of “dominating” the created world and “cultivating the garden” of the world. But this is a task that humanity must carry out in respect for the divine image received, and, therefore, with intelligence and with love, assuming responsibility for the gifts that God has bestowed and continues to bestow. Humanity has in its possession a gift that must be passed on to future generations, if possible, passed on in better condition.40
Elsewhere he sums up the point: “It was the Creator’s will that man should communicate with nature as an intelligent and noble ‘master’ and ‘guardian,’ and not as a heedless ‘exploiter’ and ‘destroyer.’ ”41
Secularized culture fails to see the human relationship to nature in the wider context of the relationship of both human and subhuman creatures to God, while technology tends to obscure the constant need for human cooperation with God. Today, therefore, Christians must make a special effort to bring the light of faith to bear in understanding their responsibilities for subhuman creation.
d) Contemplation of natural beauty fulfills both human beings and nature. The beauty of nature should lead people to know and praise God: “Look at the rainbow, and praise him who made it; it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness. It encircles the sky with its glorious arc; the hands of the Most High have stretched it out” (Sir 43.11–12). The universe manifests God’s wisdom and love: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Ps 19.1). This manifestation has an important result: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Rom 1.20). “For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (Wis 13.5).
Hence, one way for Christians to use subpersonal things is as a mirror in which to contemplate God’s beauty and goodness (see S.c.g., 2.2).42 For its part, nature too is called on to praise its creator (see, for example, Ps 148.3–10). Lacking intelligence and freedom, however, subpersonal creatures cannot know and worship their creator by themselves; they need the help of human beings, as Vatican II teaches: “The human person is a unity of body and soul. By one’s bodily condition, one gathers in oneself the elements of the material world, so that, through the human person, these elements reach their most exalted condition and raise their voice in free praise of the creator (cf. Dn 3.57–90)” (GS 14). Therefore, in contemplating the beauty of nature, people fulfill not only themselves but natural things, without in any way harming them.
e) God provides subhuman things for good human uses. Included in the dominion God gives humans over subpersonal creatures is the authority to use them to meet human needs. In completing the account in Genesis of God’s original gifts to man and woman, the sacred writers make this point by referring to God’s provision to meet the paradigmatic need for food: “God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food” (Gn 1.29; cf. Ps 104.14–15). Again, in the renewal of the covenant:
God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (Gn 9.1–3; cf. S.t., 2–2, q. 64, a. 1)
A subsequent sacred writer having a more analytic bent of mind offers a fuller list of human needs (see Sir 29.21, 39.26), then, speaking in comprehensive terms, declares God to have provided subhuman creatures to meet these needs: “All the works of the Lord are good, and he will supply every need in its time” (Sir 39.33), and “How desirable are all his works, and how sparkling they are to see! All these things live and remain forever; each creature is preserved to meet a particular need” (Sir 42.22–23).
Of course, the human use of nature was to be limited to serving human needs within the framework of God’s plan. Thus, the law required the Israelites to allow the land itself to share in the rest of the sabbatical year (see Lv 25.1–5; cf. Ex 23.10–13). Failure to keep the law would result in many dire consequences, including the expulsion of the Israelites from the land, so that it would enjoy the rest they had not allowed it (see Lv 26.33–35).
As soon as human persons exist, they occupy a particular territory, and this portion of the material world becomes their home. Moreover, as soon as people use things to serve their purposes, they begin to transform the world of nature into a world of culture. Entering into relationship with a portion of the world by occupying it or with a particular thing by using it, human beings as it were draw that portion or thing to themselves or put themselves into it, so that it becomes in some fashion linked with their own bodies.
In this way, subpersonal creation becomes humanized and personalized. Pieces of territory and things acquire new meaning and value; they are no longer merely parts of the natural world, but pertain to the human subject, whether individual or communal. Thus, in being humanized and personalized, they become mine and ours. Although it can be a principle of property, this basic appropriation of subpersonal things is far wider than any sort of ownership. For it includes things such as “my rock” (a particular rock where I regularly stop and rest while walking in the woods) and “our sunset” (an especially beautiful sunset which my wife and I enjoyed together).
The concept of property will be clarified (in D.1). The point here is that human use of subpersonal creation transforms it for good or ill, depending on whether that use is morally good or bad. The different implications of morally good and bad acts for the subhuman creatures involved in them can be articulated both in the language of philosophical analysis (in a and b) and in the language of faith (in c).
a) Good use of a subpersonal creature transforms it in one way. In doing what is morally good, a human agent acts as an integrated whole: reason, freedom, and the outward performance are at one (see CMP, 7.F, 13.D, 25.B). Consequently, in linking a subpersonal creature with a human agent’s body, a good act links that thing with the person as a whole; and since the whole, integrated person is present in the act, the subpersonal entity is humanized and personalized in an unqualified sense.
Moreover, the meaning and value given the entity by a good human act in no way conflict with its inherent meaning and value. Rather, because the good human act is in accord with the God-given direction of practical reason, such an act fulfills the subpersonal creature’s inherent meaning and value. If the action is morally good, culture perfects nature as the garden replaces the wilderness, for then God, working through good human actions, completes the creative work which he began without human cooperation.
Finally, good human acts involving subpersonal things perfectly link those things to the human agents. For the morally upright agent accepts and treats subpersonal creatures as gifts of God, and so fully realizes the dominion which God gives humans over them.
b) Bad use of a subpersonal creature transforms it in another way. In doing what is morally bad, a human agent acts more or less against reason rather than as an integrated whole. Hence, in linking a subpersonal creature with a human agent’s body, a bad act fails to link that thing with the person as a whole; and since the whole person is not present in the immoral act, the subpersonal entity is not humanized and personalized in an unqualified sense. The new meaning and value it receives are of a limited and distorted sort, corresponding to the self-mutilation an immoral choice brings about in the wrongdoer, whose freedom and reason are subordinated to his or her unintegrated feelings and fantasies.
Moreover, while the new meaning and value given the entity by the human act are logically compatible with its inherent meaning and value, misusing anything harms it, for, rather than completely fulfilling the thing’s divinely given potentialities, immoral use always partly displaces and blocks their fulfillment. Thus, because the bad human act conflicts with the God-given direction of practical reason, it violates the subpersonal creature’s inherent meaning and value. If the action is morally bad, culture damages nature as devastation replaces the wilderness, for in this case bad human acts fail to cooperate with and complete God’s creative work.
Finally, while bad human acts involving subpersonal things link the latter in some way to human agents, they also alienate those who do them from the entities which are misused. Linked to the wrongdoer’s body, the misused entity either causes the latter to share in its alienation from reason or shares in the body’s own alienation from the rational self. In either case, a subpersonal thing is not perfectly appropriated by being misused in a morally bad act. Even though a person feels that the thing is completely dominated by his or her wayward will, in reality the individual is failing to accept and exercise the dominion God has given humankind over it. Insofar as the person does not accept the thing as God’s gift, he or she refuses it, thus losing the opportunity to make it fully and rightly his or her own.
c) As the earth shared in Adam’s fall, it shares in redemption. Revelation also teaches that human sin harms the earth itself: “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Gn 3.17; cf. 4.12). The prophets develop this idea:
The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth.The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants;for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.(Is 24.4–5; cf. Jer 5.24–25, 12.4; Hos 4.1–3)
Correspondingly, the prophecies of postexilic restoration include the promise of the earth’s renewal (see Is 30.23–26, Jer 33.10–13, Ezk 36.8–12).
St. Paul teaches that the whole of creation has been subjected to futility, so that it “has been groaning in labor pains until now” (Rom 8.22), but now it waits expectantly for redemption (see Rom 8.18–21). John Paul II, after calling attention to the relevant teaching of Scripture, comments:
These biblical considerations help us to understand better the relationship between human activity and the whole of creation. When man turns his back on the Creator’s plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order. If man is not at peace with God, then earth itself cannot be at peace.43
Precisely how subpersonal creation will exist in the kingdom remains mysterious; but that it is to share in redemption is certain. For in Jesus, all things are to be saved and reintegrated (see Eph 1.9–10, Col 1.19–20) to form new heavens and a new earth (see 2 Pt 3.13; cf. Rv 21.1–5; GS 39).
d) Christians should help to renew the subhuman world. The liberation of subpersonal creation does not happen automatically. Rather, Christians are called to deal with nature according to God’s plan, and in this way to reintegrate it with themselves; and material goods employed by persons in living their lives of faith according to their particular vocations share in the holiness of those lives, and so are restored to God through Christ.
The Church often invokes God’s blessing not only on things and places related to the liturgy and other specifically religious acts but also on those involved in the work of the faithful and their other daily activities. These blessings, of course, praise and thank God for his gifts, and seek his help in achieving the good purposes to which the faithful mean to put them. But a blessing also signifies and contributes to the process by which Christians help to renew the subhuman world, so that by God’s grace it will share in his salvific plan for the whole of creation. Consequently, it is appropriate to use blessings, which the Church provides, for dwellings and other places, means of transportation, tools and other equipment, animals, fields, flocks, seeds, and so on. The Church has made it easier to use many of these blessings by authorizing any layperson to administer them.44
The two norms to be stated here flow directly from the preceding considerations. Additional norms, specifically concerned with property, will be articulated in questions D through G. Still, these two general norms apply to actions bearing on subhuman realities in general, whether or not they are anyone’s property, and a violation of one or both of them underlies any injustice regarding property.
a) In enjoying and using nature, one should revere its creator. Since the meaning and value immanent in natural things and their source in God should be acknowledged, God should be praised by someone enjoying nature’s goodness and beauty. A person should pray for the material goods he or she needs, accept what he or she receives as God’s gift, use this gift according to the directions God provides through reason illumined by faith, and thank God while using and enjoying things.
Since eating is a paradigmatic use of natural goods, Christians traditionally have prayed before and after meals. For this prayer, the Church now provides several forms of blessing, with appropriate variations for the liturgical seasons.45 Christians today also should make a habit of looking to the reality which technology tends to obscure; and so they will strive to be conscious of constantly using natural goods even in the most highly processed products—for instance, medications, synthetic fabrics, and electronic devices—not neglecting to praise and thank God for his gifts when using such things.
b) One should use natural things reasonably and with restraint. To abuse any gift shows contempt for the giver, and material creation is God’s gift to humankind. Reverence for the creator therefore requires respecting his subpersonal creation and using his gifts as he intended. Since beautiful and good natural things serve as objects of contemplation leading to God, there always is a reason to leave nature undisturbed. At the same time, God subordinated subpersonal nature to persons, and people constantly have reasons to use things to meet human needs. Therefore, people should never disturb natural things except to serve some human good, their own or others’, in a reasonable way; but they always may deal with nature as that purpose requires.
c) People have diverse motives for violating the preceding norms. Many violations of the preceding norms result, not from a moral defect bearing specifically on the use of material things, but from some more general vice. Unbelief and irreverence toward God lead to the wrong attitudes described above (in 1); as also has been explained, it is an abuse to use a material thing in any sinful act. But diverse nonrational motives bearing specifically on the use of material things also account for various characteristic ways of misusing them.
Since material things have their own natures and dynamisms, using them and limiting their use require attention and effort. Often, though, laziness leads to waste: people prepare too much food and throw away leftovers, allow doors and windows in heated or cooled buildings to remain open, fail to maintain automobiles and appliances, and so on.
Subhuman things lack the rights of persons. People can and often do treat them with contempt, without risking punishment or retaliation; for example, a man vents his rage by kicking his dog.
Some material things correspond to human bodily appetites; thus, their use can be unreasonable because it is at odds with some true human good and motivated only by an emotional desire for sensory gratification: for pleasure, people eat and drink in unhealthy ways (see S.t., 2–2, q. 148; q. 150).
Material goods can serve as means for bringing about or protecting various goods intrinsic to persons; thus, people can be led by experience to imagine that these extrinsic entities are in themselves fulfilling for persons, even though at the intellectual level they know better. As a result, emotional desire comes to focus on potentially instrumental goods, which are sought or retained without being ordered rationally to any basic human good. For instance, people seek and amass wealth as if it were an end in itself; the irrational “logic” is: some is good, more is better. In the absence of rational ordering, the desire for wealth becomes insatiable (see S.t., 1–2, q. 30, a. 4; 2–2, q. 118).
In a somewhat similar way, a use which initially was ordered to realizing or protecting some true human good becomes unreasonable when emotional desire or fear motivates excess, even without the illusion that the instrumental good is an end in itself. Some collectors amass good and beautiful things—which certainly can be used and enjoyed—until they have more than will ever provide any real benefit to themselves or anyone else. Again, people anxious about possible deprivation and eventual death are tempted to accumulate goods—diverse forms of wealth and property— which they probably never will be able to use, piling up more and more in a vain quest for absolute security. “Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they heap up, and do not know who will gather” (Ps 39.6; cf. Sir 14.3–10, Lk 12.15–21).
Last but not least, because using subhuman things links them with the bodily person and appropriates them, people frequently try to establish and experience, or confirm and manifest, their own importance or power by possessing, dominating, or destroying material things. But the motive is unreasonable because the good pursued is only apparent. For example, people want fine clothing in order to think of themselves as persons of quality; a woman drives a large automobile, impractical for her, to show her status; a man panels his office with a rare wood as a sign of his power. The point is not that people should never dress well, drive large automobiles, or have attractive offices, but that they should do so only for good reasons.
d) Only right uses of natural things fulfill human beings. Violations of the basic norms for using subpersonal things often are rationalized by the thought that merely possessing things and/or merely using them, whether reasonably or not, somehow makes humans better as persons. But that plainly is not so. People only become better as persons by willing and acting in accord with integral human fulfillment, so that they participate individually and in communion with others in basic human goods (see CMP, 5.D–H, 7.F). Possessing money and property does nothing whatever of itself to make people better, while the wrong use of natural things impedes their true fulfillment. Thus, Vatican II teaches: “People are more valuable for what they are rather than for what they have [note omitted]” (GS 35), and John Paul II explains: “To ‘have’ objects and goods does not in itself perfect the human subject, unless it contributes to the maturing and enrichment of that subject’s ‘being’, that is to say, unless it contributes to the realization of the human vocation as such.”46
29. Working in the Calvinist tradition, Peter De Vos et al., Earthkeeping in the Nineties: Stewardship of Creation, ed. Loren Wilkinson, rev. ed. of Earthkeeping: Christian Stewardship of Natural Resources (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1991), provide a careful and well-informed treatment of the matters dealt with in this question. While a few positions in the book are inconsistent with Catholic teaching, as a whole it is theologically sound, balanced, and worth careful reading.
30. John Paul II, Centesimus annus, 37, AAS 83 (1991) 840, OR, 6 May 1991, 11, teaches that at the root of the destruction of the natural environment is an anthropological error: “Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray. Instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him [note omitted].”
31. John Paul II, Centesimus annus, 38, AAS 83 (1991) 841, OR, 6 May 1991, 11, points out: “Although people are rightly worried—though much less than they should be—about preserving the natural habitats of the various animal species threatened with extinction, because they realize that each of these species makes its particular contribution to the balance of nature in general, too little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic ‘human ecology’. Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man too is God’s gift to man.” The Pope goes on to affirm (in 39, AAS 841–42, OR, 12): “The first and fundamental structure for ‘human ecology’ is the family”; in this context he points out: “Human ingenuity seems to be directed more towards limiting, suppressing or destroying the sources of life—including recourse to abortion, which unfortunately is so widespread in the world—than towards defending and opening up the possibilities of life.”
32. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Renewing the Earth” (14 Nov. 1991), Origins 21 (12 Dec. 1991): 426, points out: “Too often the structure of sacrifice involved in environmental remedies seems to exact a high price from the poor and from workers. Small farmers, industrial workers, lumberjacks, watermen, rubber-tappers, for example, shoulder much of the weight of economic adjustment.”
33. See John Finnis, “On Creation and Ethics,” Anthropotes 5 (1989): 199–201.
34. A unique attempt to provide a theological account of the meaning of nature: Robert Faricy, S.J., Wind and Sea Obey Him: Approaches to a Theology of Nature (London: SCM Press, 1982). While some methodological presuppositions and conclusions of Faricy’s work are arguable, it includes many sound insights and is well worth critical study.
35. John Paul II, Laborem exercens, 4, AAS 73 (1981) 585, PE, 280.13.
36. See John Paul II, Laborem exercens, AAS 577–78, PE, 1.
37. See Thomas F. Dailey, O.S.F.S., “Creation and Ecology: The ‘Dominion’ of Biblical Anthropology,” Irish Theological Quarterly 58 (1992): 1–13.
38. John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 34, AAS 80 (1988) 560, OR, 29 Feb. 1988, 9.
39. See David Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor Bible, 43 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979), 200–202.
40. John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 43, AAS 81 (1989) 477, OR, 6 Feb. 1989, 14.
41. John Paul II, Redemptor hominis, 15, AAS 71 (1979) 287, PE, 278.45.
42. John Paul II, Centesimus annus, 37, AAS 83 (1991) 840, OR, 6 May 1991, 11, teaches that one should take toward nature a “disinterested, unselfish and aesthetic attitude that is born of wonder in the presence of being and of the beauty which enables one to see in visible things the message of the invisible God who created them. In this regard, humanity today must be conscious of its duties and obligations towards future generations.”
43. John Paul II, Message for World Day of Peace (1 Jan. 1990), 5, AAS 82 (1990) 149, OR, 18–26 Dec. 1989, 1.
44. See The Roman Ritual: Book of Blessings, trans. International Committee on English in the Liturgy (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989), General Introduction and Part II.
45. See The Roman Ritual: Book of Blessings, ch. 30.
46. John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 28, AAS 80 (1988) 549, OR, 29 Feb. 1988, 7; cf. John Paul II, Centesimus annus, 36, AAS 83 (1991) 838–40, OR, 6 May 1991, 11. An extended contrast between “being” (the “personal form”) and “having” (the “commodity form”), together with a telling critique of the consumerist culture which is prevalent in the United States: John F. Kavanaugh, Following Christ in a Consumer Society: The Spirituality of Cultural Resistance, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1991).