160 – We implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live

In the Epistle to the Romans, Saint Paul speaks clearly to them and to all posterity concerning the relation existing between Creation – the work of God’s hands, and eternal morality. The Apostle preached that God manifests his wrath in face of the impiety and wickedness of men, who should have come to know Him through Creation, and glorified Him for his work. For ‘although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes’ (Rom 1, 21).
Something very similar happens in our day, when humanity strays from truth and morals through vain reasoning. With the resulting loss of the Christian concept of Creation, it is increasingly held that the current crisis is not caused by humanity’s estrangement from God, but rather, its neglect of nature. The solution would then lie in ‘ecological conversion,’ and not a conversion unto holiness.
Based on Saint Paul’s words, we wish to clearly establish what kind of conversion humanity needs today, and identify the real problems behind the current ecological crisis. The essential aspects of a virtuous existence as God planned it must also be established. Is caring for creation really the primordial objective of Christian life?

 

Francis

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Quote A

As Christians we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so, we must first rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation. We need always to keep in mind that, for believers in Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became man for our sake, ‘the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us’ (Laudato Si’, 216). The ecological crisis thus summons us to a profound spiritual conversion: Christians are called to ‘an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them’ (ibid., 217). For ‘living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience’ (ibid.). The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation will offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live. (Letter for the establishment of the ‘World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation’, August 6, 2015)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of contents

I – Does man need an ecological conversion or a moral one? What are the true world problems behind the current ecological crises?
II – What are the essential aspects of a virtuous existence? Is care for creation a primordial objective of Christian life?
III – What do Scripture and the Church teach about sin? Does sin offend God or the world? Does God pardon ‘sins’ committed against the world without regard for the sins against Himself?


I – Does man need an ecological conversion or a moral one? What are the true world problems behind the current ecological crises?


Sacred Scripture
-They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator

John Paul II
-The true nature of the evil which faces us is a question of moral evil
-The lack of a disinterested attitude enabling man to see in visible things the message of the invisible God who created them
– Humanity is heedless of the Creator’s will that man should communicate with nature as an intelligent and noble ‘master’ and ‘guardian’
-People are worried about preserving the natural habitats of animals but little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic ‘human ecology’
-The solution to the problem of the ecological threat is in intimate relation with the truth regarding creation and the Creator

Catechism of the Catholic Church
-Use of the resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives

John XXIII
-Moral goodness and the cultivation of religious values must keep pace with scientific knowledge and continually advancing technical progress
– Man is not just a material organism, and purely material solutions do not have the greatest validity for problems relating to his life
– The world’s Creator has stamped man’s inmost being with order; disorder comes when men disobey the ‘law written in their hearts’

Pius XII
– The Christian’s action is carried out in the full observance of the moral law, which touches, through its effects, on the harmony of the world

Benedict XVI
-What about the contamination of our thinking, the pollution of our souls?
-Is it not true that an irresponsible use of creation begins precisely where God is marginalized or even denied?
-Human beings should interpret and shape the natural environment in accordance with the dictates of the moral law
-The re-edification of the earth can only be achieved by rediscovering God
-When man turns his back on the Creator’s plan he provokes disorder

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
-If the relationship with God is placed aside, nature is stripped of its profound meaning and impoverished


II – What are the essential aspects of a virtuous existence? Is care for creation a primordial objective of Christian life?


Paul VI
-The rational creature should direct his life to God, the highest good

Pius XI
– The Author of nature, established purposes for each kind of action; moral law subordinates such immediate purposes to our supreme and last end
-What are natural disasters compared with the loss of souls?

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
-The human person transcends the limits of the created universe: his ultimate end is God

Leo XIII
– The proper valuing of the things of earth: God has given us this world as a place of exile, and not as our abiding place
-Life on earth is not the final purpose for which man is created, it is only the way to that attainment of truth in which the full life of the soul consists

Saint Thomas Aquinas
-For a just man to be made from a sinner is greater than to create heaven and earth
-The good of grace in one is greater than the good of nature

Saint John Chrysostom
-Man is more precious in the eyes of God than the entire creation


III – What do Scripture and the Church teach about sin? Does sin offend God or the world? Does God pardon ‘sins’ committed against the world without regard for the sins against Himself?


John Paul II
-An essential characteristic of sin is that of being an offense toward God
-Sin corrodes the relationship with God, violating his law, refusing his plan in history and overturning his set of values
-Disobedience to God destroys the bond that unites man with his life principle
-Sin is aversio a Deo
-…and conversio ad creaturam
-Every sin entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures
-Mortal sin is a rejection of God’s love for humanity and the whole of creation

Saint Thomas Aquinas
-Sin comprises turning away from the immutable good, which is infinite

Saint Basil the Great
-Sin is a deviated use of the faculties that God has given us to practice good

Catechism of the Catholic Church
-Sin is thus love of oneself even to contempt of God
-Sin sets itself against God’s love for us

Catechism of Trent
-By sin we become guilty before God and incur a debt of punishment
-By sinning we disturb the order of God’s wisdom
-Our faults violate the sanctity of the soul, and the temple of the Lord is profaned


I – Does man need an ecological conversion or a moral one? What are the true world problems behind the current ecological crisis?


Sacred Scripture

  • They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator

The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1, 18–32)

John Paul II

  • The true nature of the evil which faces us is a question of moral evil

I have wished to introduce this type of analysis above all in order to point out the true nature of the evil which faces us with respect to the development of peoples: it is a question of a moral evil, the fruit of many sins which lead to ‘structures of sin’. To diagnose the evil in this way is to identify precisely, on the level of human conduct, the path to be followed in order to overcome it. This path is long and complex, and what is more it is constantly threatened because of the intrinsic frailty of human resolutions and achievements, and because of the mutability of very unpredictable and external circumstances. Nevertheless, one must have the courage to set out on this path, and, where some steps have been taken or a part of the journey made, the courage to go on to the end. In the context of these reflections, the decision to set out or to continue the journey involves, above all, a moral value which men and women of faith recognize as a demand of God’s will, the only true foundation of an absolutely binding ethic. One would hope that also men and women without an explicit faith would be convinced that the obstacles to integral development are not only economic but rest on more profound attitudes which human beings can make into absolute values. Thus one would hope that all those who, to some degree or other, are responsible for ensuring a ‘more human life’ for their fellow human beings, whether or not they are inspired by a religious faith, will become fully aware of the urgent need to change the spiritual attitudes which define each individual’s relationship with self, with neighbor, with even the remotest human communities, and with nature itself; and all of this in view of higher values such as the common good or, to quote the felicitous expression of the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the full development ‘of the whole individual and of all people.’ For Christians, as for all who recognize the precise theological meaning of the word ‘sin,’ a change of behavior or mentality or mode of existence is called ‘conversion,’ to use the language of the Bible (cf. Mk 13:3, 5, Is 30:15). This conversion specifically entails a relationship to God, to the sin committed, to its consequences and hence to one’s neighbor, either an individual or a community. (John Paul II. Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, no. 37–38, December 30, 1987)

  • The lack of a disinterested attitude enabling man to see, in visible things, the message of the invisible God who created them

Equally worrying is the ecological question […] In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. […] 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. […] In all this, one notes first the poverty or narrowness of man’s outlook, motivated as he is by a desire to possess things rather than to relate them to the truth, and lacking that 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. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 37, May 1, 1991)

  • Humanity is heedless of the Creator’s will that man should communicate with nature as an intelligent and noble ‘master’ and ‘guardian’

This state of menace for man from what he produces shows itself in various directions and various degrees of intensity. We seem to be increasingly aware of the fact that the exploitation of the earth, the planet on which we are living, demands rational and honest planning. At the same time, exploitation of the earth not only for industrial but also for military purposes and the uncontrolled development of technology outside the framework of a long-range authentically humanistic plan often bring with them a threat to man’s natural environment, alienate him in his relations with nature and remove him from nature. […] Yet 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’. The development of technology and the development of contemporary civilization, which is marked by the ascendancy of technology, demand a proportional development of morals and ethics. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, no. 15, March 4, 1979)

  • People are worried about preserving the natural habitats of animals but little effort is made to safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic ‘human ecology’

In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural environment, we must also mention the more serious destruction of the human environment, something which is by no means receiving the attention it deserves. 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’. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 38, May 1, 1991)

  • The solution to the problem of the ecological threat is in intimate relation with the truth regarding Creation and the Creator

The ecological imbalance […] is born of an arbitrary – and overall harmful – use of creatures, whose laws and natural order are violated, ignoring or rejecting the purpose that is inherent to the work of creation. Also this way of behavior is derived from a false interpretation of the autonomy of earthly things. When man uses these things ‘without any reference to their Creator’ – to use the words of the conciliar Constitution – he does incalculable damage even to himself. The solution to the problem of the ecological threat is in intimate relation with the principles of the ‘legitimate autonomy of the earthly realities,’ that is to say, ultimately, with the truth regarding creation and regarding the Creator of the world. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 4, April 2, 1986)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • Use of the resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives

The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity (cf. Gen 128–31). Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. 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. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2415)

John XXIII

  • Moral goodness and the cultivation of religious values must keep pace with scientific knowledge and continually advancing technical progress

In traditionally Christian States at the present time, civil institutions evince a high degree of scientific and technical progress and possess abundant machinery for the attainment of every kind of objective. And yet it must be owned that these institutions are often but slightly affected by Christian motives and a Christian spirit. One may well ask the reason for this, since the men who have largely contributed – and who are still contributing – to the creation of these institutions are men who are professed Christians, and who live their lives, at least in part, in accordance with the precepts of the gospels. In Our opinion the explanation lies in a certain cleavage between faith and practice. Their inner, spiritual unity must be restored, so that faith may be the light and love the motivating force of all their actions. We consider too that a further reason for this very frequent divorce between faith and practice in Christians is an inadequate education in Christian teaching and Christian morality. In many places the amount of energy devoted to the study of secular subjects is all too often out of proportion to that devoted to the study of religion. Scientific training reaches a very high level, whereas religious training generally does not advance beyond the elementary stage. It is essential, therefore, that the instruction given to our young people be complete and continuous, and imparted in such a way that moral goodness and the cultivation of religious values may keep pace with scientific knowledge and continually advancing technical progress. (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem in Terris, no. 151–153, April 11, 1963)

  • Man is not just a material organism, and purely material solutions do not have the greatest validity for problems relating to his life

The result is a vast expenditure of human energy and natural resources on projects which are disruptive of human society rather than beneficial to it; while a growing uneasiness gnaws at men’s hearts and makes them less responsive to the call of nobler enterprises. The root cause of so much mistrust is the presence of ideological differences between nations, and more especially between their rulers. There are some indeed who go so far as to deny the existence of a moral order which is transcendent, absolute, universal and equally binding upon all. And where the same law of justice is not adhered to by all, men cannot hope to come to open and full agreement on vital issues. […] Mutual trust among rulers of States cannot begin nor increase except by recognition of, and respect for, the moral order. But the moral order has no existence except in God; cut off from God it must necessarily disintegrate. Moreover, man is not just a material organism. He consists also of spirit; he is endowed with reason and freedom. He demands, therefore, a moral and religious order; and it is this order – and not considerations of a purely extraneous, material order – which has the greatest validity in the solution of problems relating to his life as an individual and as a member of society, and problems concerning individual states and their inter-relations. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, nos. 204–205; 207–208, May 15, 1961)

  • The world’s Creator has stamped man’s inmost being with order; disorder comes when men disobey the ‘law written in their hearts’

And yet there is a disunity among individuals and among nations which is in striking contrast to this perfect order in the universe. One would think that the relationships that bind men together could only be governed by force. But the world’s Creator has stamped man’s inmost being with an order revealed to man by his conscience; and his conscience insists on his preserving it. Men ‘show the work of the law written in their hearts. Their conscience bears witness to them’ (Rom 2:15). And how could it be otherwise? All created being reflects the infinite wisdom of God. It reflects it all the more clearly, the higher it stands in the scale of perfection (cf. Ps 18:8–11). But the mischief is often caused by erroneous opinions. Many people think that the laws which govern man’s relations with the State are the same as those which regulate the blind, elemental forces of the universe. But it is not so; the laws which govern men are quite different. The Father of the universe has inscribed them in man’s nature, and that is where we must look for them; there and nowhere else. (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem en Terris, no. 4–6, April 11, 1963)

Pius XII

  • The Christian’s action is carried out in the full observance of the moral law, which touches, through its effects, on the harmony of the world

The divine symphony of the cosmos, particularly on the earth and among men, is confided by its supreme Author to humanity itself, so that, as an immense orchestra, distant in times and multiform in ways but united under the direction of Christ, it be faithfully executed, interpreting with the greatest perfection possible its sole and brilliant theme. In effect, God gave his plans to men, so that they could put them into act, personal and freely, pledging full moral responsibility and demanding, when necessary, fatigue and sacrifices, following the example of Christ. Under this aspect, the Christian is, in the first place, an admirer of the divine order in the world, one who loves its presence and does everything to see it recognized and affirmed. He will be, therefore, necessarily, its ardent defender against the forces and tendencies that hinder the operation, be those that he has hidden in himself – the evil inclinations – or those that come from the exterior – Satan and his superstitions. This is how Saint Paul saw the Christian in the world, when he pointed out the adversaries of God and exhorted to cloth oneself in his armor, in order to resist the assails of the demon, girding the waist with truth and clothing oneself with the breastplate of justice (cf. Eph 6: 11,14). The vocation of Christianity is not, therefore, an invitation of God only for an aesthetic complacency in the contemplation of his admirable order, but rather the obligatory calling toward an incessant action, austere, and directed to all of the senses and aspects of life. His [the Christian’s] action is carried out, before all else, in the full observance of the moral law, no matter what its object, small or great, secret or public, of abstention or positive realization. The moral life does not only belong to the interior sphere in such a way that it also does not touch, through its effects, on the harmony of the world. Man is never so alone, so individual and segregated to himself, in any event, even the most singular, that his decisions and acts do not have a repercussion in the surrounding world. Executer of the divine symphony, no man may presume that his action as something exclusively his own, that speaks only with respect to himself. The moral life is, without doubt, in the first place, an individual and interior work, but not in the sense of a certain ‘interiorism’ and ‘historicism’, with which some try to weaken and slight the universal value of the moral norms. (Pius XII. Christmas message to the faithful, December 22, 1957)

Benedict XVI

  • What about the contamination of our thinking, the pollution of our souls?

We have acknowledged the problem of environmental destruction. However, the fact that saving our spiritual ozone layer and especially saving our spiritual rainforests is the prerequisite for saving the ecology seems to penetrate our consciousness only very slowly. Shouldn’t we have asked long ago: What about the contamination of our thinking, the pollution of our souls? Many things that we permit in this media-and-commerce-driven society are basically the equivalent of a toxic load that almost inevitably must lead to a spiritual poisoning. There is no overlooking the fact that there is a poisoning of thought, which in advance leads us into false perspectives. To free ourselves again from it by means of a real conversion – to use that fundamental word of the Christian faith – is one of the challenges that by now are becoming obvious to everyone. In our modern world, which is so scientifically oriented, such concepts no longer had any meaning. A conversion, as faith understands it, toward the will of God who shows us a way was considered old-fashioned and outmoded. I believe, though, that gradually it is becoming evident that there is something to it when we say that we must reconsider all this. (Benedict XVI. Light of the World. The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times. A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 26)

  • Is it not true that an irresponsible use of Creation begins precisely where God is marginalized or even denied?

The Earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us bearings that guide us as stewards of his creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers matters concerning the environment and its protection intimately linked to the theme of integral human development. In my recent Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, I referred more than once to such questions, recalling the ‘pressing moral need for renewed solidarity’ (n. 49) not only between countries but also between individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, and in particular towards the poor and towards future generations (cf. n. 48). Bearing in mind our common responsibility for creation (cf. n. 51), the Church is not only committed to promoting the protection of land, water and air as gifts of the Creator destined to everyone but above all she invites others and works herself to protect mankind from self-destruction. In fact, ‘when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits’ (ibid.). Is it not true that an irresponsible use of creation begins precisely where God is marginalized or even denied? If the relationship between human creatures and the Creator is forgotten, matter is reduced to a selfish possession, man becomes the ‘last word’, and the purpose of human existence is reduced to a scramble for the maximum number of possessions possible. (Benedict XVI. General Audience, August 26, 2009)

  • Human beings should interpret and shape the natural environment in accordance with the dictates of the moral law

Today much harm is done to development precisely as a result of these distorted notions. Reducing nature merely to a collection of contingent data ends up doing violence to the environment and even encouraging activity that fails to respect human nature itself. Our nature, constituted not only by matter but also by spirit, and as such, endowed with transcendent meaning and aspirations, is also normative for culture. Human beings interpret and shape the natural environment through culture, which in turn is given direction by the responsible use of freedom, in accordance with the dictates of the moral law. Consequently, projects for integral human development cannot ignore coming generations, but need to be marked by solidarity and inter-generational justice, while taking into account a variety of contexts: ecological, juridical, economic, political and cultural. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Caritas in veritate, no. 48, June 29, 2009)

  • The re-edification of the earth can only be achieved by rediscovering God

In the Encyclical Spe Salvi I wanted to speak precisely about the Last Judgement, judgement in general, and in this context also about Purgatory, Hell and Heaven. I think we have all been struck by the Marxist objection that Christians have only spoken of the afterlife and have ignored the earth. […] Now, although it is right to show that Christians work for the earth – and we are all called to work to make this earth really a city for God and of God – we must not forget the other dimension. Unless we take it into account, we cannot work well for the earth: to show this was one of my fundamental purposes in writing the Encyclical. When one does not know the judgement of God one does not know the possibility of Hell, of the radical and definitive failure of life, one does not know the possibility of and need for purification. Man then fails to work well for the earth because he ultimately loses his criteria, he no longer knows himself – through not knowing God – and destroys the earth. All the great ideologies have promised: we will take things in hand, we will no longer neglect the earth, we will create a new, just, correct and brotherly world. But they destroyed the world instead. We see it with Nazism, we also see it with Communism which promised to build the world as it was supposed to be and instead destroyed it. In the ad limina visits of Bishops from former Communist countries, I always see anew that in those lands, not only the planet and ecology, but above all and more seriously, souls have been destroyed. Rediscovering the truly human conscience illuminated by God’s presence is our first task for the re-edification of the earth. This is the common experience of those countries. The re-edification of the earth, while respecting this planet’s cry of suffering, can only be achieved by rediscovering God in the soul with the eyes open to God. (Benedict XVI. Address to the Parish Priests and the Clergy of the Diocese of Rome, February 7, 2008)

  • When man turns his back on the Creator’s plan he provokes disorder

The relationship between individuals or communities and the environment ultimately stems from their relationship with God. 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’ (Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 5). (Benedict XVI. Message to the participants of the Seventh Symposium of the Religion, Science and the Environment Movement, September 1, 2007)

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

  • If the relationship with God is placed aside, nature is stripped of its profound meaning and impoverished

The attitude that must characterize the way man acts in relation to creation is essentially one of gratitude and appreciation; the world, in fact, reveals the mystery of God who created and sustains it. If the relationship with God is placed aside, nature is stripped of its profound meaning and impoverished. If on the other hand, nature is rediscovered in its creaturely dimension, channels of communication with it can be established, its rich and symbolic meaning can be understood, allowing us to enter into its realm of mystery. This realm opens the path of man to God, Creator of heaven and earth. The world presents itself before man’s eyes as evidence of God, the place where his creative, providential and redemptive power unfolds. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 487)


II – What are the essential aspects of a virtuous existence? Is care for creation a primordial objective of Christian life?


Paul VI

  • The rational creature should direct his life to God the highest good

Just as the whole of creation is ordered toward its Creator, so too the rational creature should of his own accord direct his life to God, the first truth and the highest good. […] United with the life-giving Christ, man’s life is newly enhanced; it acquires a transcendent humanism which surpasses its nature and bestows new fullness of life. […] Man’s personal and collective fulfillment could be jeopardized if the proper scale of values were not maintained. (Paul VI. Encyclical Populorum progressio, nos. 16; 18, March 26, 1967)

Pius XI

  • The Author of nature, established purposes for each kind of action; moral law subordinates such immediate purposes to our supreme and last end

But it is only the moral law which, just as it commands us to seek our supreme and last end in the whole scheme of our activity, so likewise commands us to seek directly in each kind of activity those purposes which we know that nature, or rather God the Author of nature, established for that kind of action, and in orderly relationship to subordinate such immediate purposes to our supreme and last end. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, no. 43, May 15, 1931)

  • What are natural disasters compared with the loss of souls?

Minds of all, it is true, are affected almost solely by temporal upheavals, disasters, and calamities. But if we examine things critically with Christian eyes, as we should, what are all these compared with the loss of souls? (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, no. 43, May 15, 1931)

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

  • The human person transcends the limits of the created universe: his ultimate end is God

The human person, in himself and in his vocation, transcends the limits of the created universe, of society and of history: his ultimate end is God himself, who has revealed himself to men in order to invite them and receive them into communion with himself. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 47)

Leo XIII

  • The proper valuing of the things of earth: God has given us this world as a place of exile, and not as our abiding place

The things of earth cannot be understood or valued aright without taking into consideration the life to come, the life that will know no death. Exclude the idea of futurity, and forthwith the very notion of what is good and right would perish; nay, the whole scheme of the universe would become a dark and unfathomable mystery. The great truth which we learn from nature herself is also the grand Christian dogma on which religion rests as on its foundation – that, when we have given up this present life, then shall we really begin to live. God has not created us for the perishable and transitory things of earth, but for things heavenly and everlasting; He has given us this world as a place of exile, and not as our abiding place. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, nos. 21. 24, May 15, 1891)

  • Life on earth is not the final purpose for which man is created, it is only the way to that attainment of truth in which the full life of the soul consists

Life on earth, however good and desirable in itself, is not the final purpose for which man is created; it is only the way and the means to that attainment of truth and that love of goodness in which the full life of the soul consists. It is the soul which is made after the image and likeness of God; it is in the soul that the sovereignty resides in virtue whereof man is commanded to rule the creatures below him and to use all the earth and the ocean for his profit and advantage. ‘Fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth’ (Gen 1:28). (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 40, May 15, 1891)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • For a just man to be made from a sinner is greater than to create heaven and earth

A work may be called great in two ways: first, on the part of the mode of action, and thus the work of creation is the greatest work, wherein something is made from nothing; secondly, a work may be called great on account of what is made, and thus the justification of the ungodly, which terminates at the eternal good of a share in the Godhead, is greater than the creation of heaven and earth, which terminates at the good of mutable nature. Hence, Augustine, after saying that ‘for a just man to be made from a sinner is greater than to create heaven and earth,’ adds, ‘for heaven and earth shall pass away, but the justification of the ungodly shall endure.’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I–II, q. 113, a. 9)

  • The good of grace in one is greater than the good of nature

But the good of grace in one is greater than the good of nature in the whole universe (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I–II, q. 113, a. 9, ad 2)

Saint John Chrysostom

  • Man is more precious in the eyes of God than the entire creation

What is then, the being that is going to come into existence surrounded by such consideration? It is man, great and admirable living figure, more precious in the eyes of God than the entire creation, and God has given so much importance to his salvation that he has not spared his only Son for him. For God has not ceased to do all that was possible so that man would arise to him and sit at his right hand. (Saint John Chrysostom. Homilies in Genesim, Sermon 2, 1: PG 54, 587–588)


III – What do Scripture and the Church teach about sin? Does sin offend God or the world? Does God pardon ‘sins’ committed against the world without regard for the sins against Himself?


John Paul II

  • An essential characteristic of sin is that of being an offense toward God

Above all, the Council recalls that an essential characteristic of sin is that of being an offense toward God. It is a deed of momentous importance that includes the perverse act of the creature who, knowingly and voluntarily, opposes the will of its Creator and Lord, violating the law of goodness, and entering, through free choice, under the yolk of evil. […] It is necessary to say that it is also an act of betrayal of the divine charity, inasmuch as it is an infraction of the law of friendship and the covenant that God established with his people and with every man through the blood of Christ; and, therefore, an act of infidelity, and, in practice, of rejection of his love. Sin, consequently, is not a simple human error, and does not merely result in a detriment to man: it is an offense toward God, for the sinner violates the law of him, who is Creator and Lord, and offends his fatherly love. One may not consider sin exclusively from the point of view of its psychological consequences: sin acquires its significance from the relation of man with God. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 4, April 15, 1992)

  • Sin corrodes the relationship with God, violating his law, refusing his plan in history and overturning his set of values

Sin is not just a psychological and social matter, but an event that corrodes the relationship with God, violating his law, refusing his plan in history and overturning his set of values, ‘putting darkness for light and light for darkness’, in other words, ‘calling evil good and good evil’ (Is 5:20). Before finally injuring man, sin is first and foremost a betrayal of God. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 3, May 8, 2002)

  • Disobedience to God destroys the bond that unites man with his life principle

Man perceives that this disobedience to God destroys the bond that unites him with his life principle: It is a mortal sin, that is, an act which gravely offends God and ends in turning against man himself with a dark and powerful force of destruction. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia, no. 17)

  • Sin is aversio a Deo…

For man also knows, through painful experience, that by a conscious and free act of his will he can change course and go in a direction opposed to God’s will, separating himself from God (aversio a Deo), rejecting loving communion with him, detaching himself from the life principle which God is and consequently choosing death. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia, no. 17, December 2, 1984)

  • and conversio ad creaturam

With the whole tradition of the church, we call mortal sin the act by which man freely and consciously rejects God, his law, the covenant of love that God offers, preferring to turn in on himself or to some created and finite reality, something contrary to the divine will (conversio ad creaturam) (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia, no. 17, December 2, 1984)

  • Every sin entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures

Because it offends the holiness and justice of God and scorns God’s personal friendship with man, sin has a twofold consequence. In the first place, if it is grave, it involves deprivation of communion with God and, in consequence, exclusion from a share in eternal life. […] In the second place, ‘every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the ‘temporal punishment’ of sin, and this expiation removes whatever impedes full communion with God and with one’s brothers and sisters. (John Paul II. Incarnationis mysterium, Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, no. 10, November 29, 1998)

  • Mortal sin is a rejection of God’s love for humanity and the whole of creation

Likewise, care will have to be taken not to reduce mortal sin to an act of ‘fundamental option’ –as is commonly said today– against God, intending thereby an explicit and formal contempt for God or neighbor. For mortal sin exists also when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered. In fact, such a choice already includes contempt for the divine law, a rejection of God’s love for humanity and the whole of creation; the person turns away from God and loses charity. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia, no. 17, December 2, 1984)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • Sin comprises turning away from the immutable good, which is infinite

Punishment is proportionate to sin. Now sin comprises two things. First, there is the turning away from the immutable good, which is infinite, wherefore, in this respect, sin is infinite. Secondly, there is the inordinate turning to mutable good. In this respect sin is finite, both because the mutable good itself is finite, and because the movement of turning towards it is finite, since the acts of a creature cannot be infinite. Accordingly, in so far as sin consists in turning away from something, its corresponding punishment is the ‘pain of loss,’ which also is infinite, because it is the loss of the infinite good, i.e. God. But in so far as sin turns inordinately to something, its corresponding punishment is the ‘pain of sense,’ which is also finite. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I–II, q. 87, a. 4)

Saint Basil the Great

  • Sin is a deviated use of the faculties that God has given us to practice good

And this is the definition of sin: a deviated use, and contrary to the will God, of the faculties that God has given us to practice good; just as, virtue, on the contrary, which God seeks of us, consists in using these faculties with an upright conscience, proceeding in accordance with the Lord’s command. (Saint Basil the Great. Greater Monastic Rule, resp. 2, 1: PG 31, 910)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • Sin is thus love of oneself even to contempt of God

Sin is thus ‘love of oneself even to contempt of God.’ (St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 14, 28) In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation (cf. Phil 2:6–9). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1850)

  • Sin sets itself against God’s love for us

Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1850)

Catechism of Trent

  • By sin we become guilty before God and incur a debt of punishment

By their commission [sins] we become guilty before God and incur a debt of punishment, which we must pay either by satisfaction or by suffering. It was of this debt that Christ the Lord spoke by the mouth of His Prophet: ‘Then did I pay that which I took not away’ (Ps 68:5). From these words of God we may understand that we are not only debtors, but also unequal to the payment of our debt, the sinner being of himself utterly incapable of making satisfaction. Wherefore we must fly to the mercy of God; and as justice, of which God is most tenacious, is an equal and corresponding attribute to mercy, we must make use of prayer, and the intercession of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, without which no one ever obtained the pardon of his sins. (Catechism of Trent, 4500)

  • By sinning we disturb the order of God’s wisdom

God it is against whom, having cast off obedience, we sin; the order of whose wisdom we disturb, as far as in us lies; whom we offend; whom we outrage by words and deeds. (Catechism of Trent, 4500)

  • Our faults violate the sanctity of the soul, and the temple of the Lord is profaned

The sanctity of the soul is violated, which we know to have been wedded to Christ. That temple of the Lord is profaned, against the contaminators of which the Apostle utters this denunciation: ‘If any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy’ (1Cor 3: 16–17). (Catechism of Trent, 4500)


Discover another innovation:

francis-rojoDo the faithful attain reconciliation within the Church, or elsewhere?