Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day, 2007

The environment, which sustains us, has rightly come to occupy a significant place in public discourse in recent years. The papal magisterium has not been silent on the need for us to be responsible stewards of the creation entrusted to us by the Creator. Perhaps the most comprehensive document issued by the Holy See, composed by the International Theological Commission in 2003, a papal commission under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at that time under the prefecture of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in the course of exploring the implications of human beings created in imago dei, explores ecology, which, is the study of the relationship of human beings to the natural environment, is Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God.

As mentioned, the document is comprehensive and discusses the vast implications of human beings created in the imago dei. However, it deals in detail with ecology in chapter three, which is entitled, In The Image of God: Stewards of Visible Creation: "Created in the image of God to share in the communion of Trinitarian love, human beings occupy a unique place in the universe according to the divine plan: they enjoy the privilege of sharing in the divine governance of visible creation. This privilege is granted to them by the Creator who allows the creature made in his image to participate in his work, in his project of love and salvation, indeed in his own lordship over the universe. Since man's place as ruler is in fact a participation in the divine governance of creation, we speak of it here as a form of stewardship" (C&S, 57).

Later in this same chapter, we read "The steward must render an account of his stewardship, and the divine Master will judge his actions. The moral legitimacy and efficacy of the means employed by the steward provide the criteria for this judgment. Neither science nor technology are ends in themselves; what is technically possible is not necessarily also reasonable or ethical. Science and technology must be put in the service of the divine design for the whole of creation and for all creatures. This design gives meaning to the universe and to human enterprise as well. Human stewardship of the created world is precisely a stewardship exercised by way of participation in the divine rule and is always subject to it. Human beings exercise this stewardship by gaining scientific understanding of the universe, by caring responsibly for the natural world (including animals and the environment), and by guarding their own biological integrity."

The document ends on this note:

"Our ontological status as creatures made in the image of God imposes certain limits on our ability to dispose of ourselves. The sovereignty we enjoy is not an unlimited one: we exercise a certain participated sovereignty over the created world and, in the end, we must render an account of our stewardship to the Lord of the Universe. Man is created in the image of God, but he is not God himself (C&S, 94).

Today is also the 2,760th birthday of the city of Rome.

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