75 – Laudato si’ (II): what Francis forgot…

Advertizing, news, social networks…we are bombarded on all sides by information…But the information we receive is often contradictory. Who should we listen to? What path should we follow? Where is the real truth to be found?

An Encyclical is launched, and as Catholics we avidly read it in search of directives to give meaning to our lives, indicating the steps we should take so as to live our holy Religion with authenticity in the midst of a society devastated by sin. We hoped for clear words to strengthen us in the faith of the Church, which has suffered such defamation in our days. But… instead, we find warnings about the care of nature! So ecologists feel encouraged, the soothsayers of climatic change are buoyant, those of other religions are respected, and we Catholics – forgotten, abandoned and, why not admit it…a little perplexed. Isn’t Jesus Christ the center of our faith? Why does this document refer to Him and His Church in such a vague and secondary manner? Is care for creation really the most important aspect in the life of a Christian, above all in these times? Will we conquest Heaven simply by loving and caring for irrational creatures?

Faced with these concerns, it seems necessary to fix our attention on the Light that never stops shining, on the wellspring of Truth, on the infallible voice of the Popes and the Magisterium of the Church, so as to consider what they have to tell us – so much! — about the topics dealt with in this Encyclical.

What should the attitude of the faithful be with regards to the whole of creation?

Francis

Nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. (Encyclical Laudato Si’, no. 67)

Christ has taken unto himself this material world and now, risen, is intimately present to each being, surrounding it with his affection and penetrating it with his light. (Encyclical LS’, no. 221)

Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence. (Encyclical LS, no. 66)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of Contents

I – Man is an image of God and all was created for him
II – Creatures reflect God in various manners, according to the hierarchy He established. The attempt to abase all levels of goodness among creatures leads to pantheism
III – The Holy Catholic Church is the only true Church: It may not be equaled to other religious professions
IV – Christ is the center and the exemplary cause of all creation


I – Man is an image of God and all was created for him


Sacred Scripture
– The first pages of Sacred Scripture emphasize that man has dominion over the other creatures
– Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands
– He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world

Saint Augustine
– Man, created in that very image and likeness of God, was set over all irrational creatures

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– Divine Providence always governs inferior things by the superior. Made in God’s image, man is above all animals – these are rightly subject to him
– The subjection of other animals to man is in keeping with the order of nature itself

John Paul II
– Man, God’s image, is the center of creation – he must dominate the earth and communicate to it his own dignity with the perspicacity of his intelligence
– God put all at the disposition of man, to make of creatures a hymn of praise to God
– Man can dominate the earth because he alone – and no other – is capable of ‘tilling it’ and transforming it according to his own needs
– Within the order of creation, inferior creatures are submitted to man

Vatican Council II
– All things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
– Created realities exist for man’s use

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– Man was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him

Saint John Chrysostom
– Man is more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures

Benedict XVI
– The fundamental difference between the human being and the other animals in the fact that man is capable of recognizing God, his Creator

Pius XI
– Man has a value far surpassing that of the vast inanimate cosmos

Saint John of the Cross
– What is a human thought worth?

John Paul II
– Man: the only being on earth that God willed for his own sake, has a dignity stemming from his spiritual nature
– Christianity is anthropocentric precisely because it is fully theocentric

Vatican Council I
– Man’s end is not lesser creatures, but rather supernatural – a participation in divine goods

John Paul II
– The splendor of truth shines forth in a special way in man
– Man cannot accept that his spiritual being be submitted to that which is inferior within the hierarchy of creatures


II – Creatures reflect God in various manners, according to the hierarchy He established. The attempt to abase all levels of goodness among creatures leads to pantheism


Saint Thomas Aquinas
– The diversity and inequality in created things things are from the intention of God Himself
– The perfection of the universe is in the distinction of things

Saint Bonaventure
– The diversity of creatures: a stairway to ascend into God
– Saint Bonaventure explains the hierarchy existing in creation: ‘the first things are the lesser, the second ones the middle, the third the best’
– All creatures of this sensible world lead the spirit in contemplating to God – some clearer than others
– St. Bonaventure’s own words about what he meant about St. Francis being a new picture of man’s estate before the Fall

John Paul II
– Ecocentrism and biocentrism: an egalitarian consideration of the ‘dignity’ of all living beings
– The principal danger: reducing an individual to a thing, or regarding him in the same way as other elements of nature

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– To truly love nature is to look at it as God does: in the order and harmony resulting from the diversity of beings and the relationships among them

John Paul II
– The contemplation of the nature itself should remind us that, if God cares in this way for his creatures, what will he not do for us?

Benedict XVI
– It should also be stressed that it is contrary to authentic development to view nature as more important than the human person: this leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or new pantheism
– The Magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism since these eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things

Pontifical Council for Culture and Council for Interreligious Dialogue
– New Age has a marked preference for Eastern or pre-Christian religions, and considers the world itself divine

Pius X
– Error of pernicious character: the divine action is one with the action of nature

Pius XI
– Whoever identifies, by pantheistic confusion, God and the universe, is not a believer in God


III – The Holy Catholic Church is the only true Church: It may not be equaled to other religious professions


Sacred Scripture
– St. Paul’s exhortation: instruct people not to teach false doctrines or to concern themselves with myths

Pontifical Council for Culture and Council for Interreligious Dialogue
– For the New Age, Jesus of Nazareth is simply one among many historical figures like Buddha and others

Paul VI
– Our religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship – other religions do not succeed in doing

Benedict XVI
– Neither are all religions equal, nor should religious indifferentism be accepted

John Paul II
– There is a tendency to equate all religions and spiritual experiences as if they were all paths to salvation
– There is no path of salvation in a religion other than that founded in the faith in Christ – the inconsistency and superficiality of a relativistic and irenic attitude

Paul VI
– Honesty compels us to declare openly our conviction that the Christian religion is the one and only true religion

John XXIII
– An absurd proposition: one religion is just as good as another. God, who is truth, cannot tolerate indifference with respect to eternal salvation

Vatican Council II
– It is only through Christ’s Catholic Church that there is the plenitude of the means of salvation

Pius XI
– False opinion: to consider all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy

Leo XIII
– The only true Religion can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic states
– They can in no wise be counted among the children of God, unless they take Christ Jesus as their Brother and Church as their mother
– Differing modes of divine worship cannot all be equally acceptable to God

Pius IX
– An agreement between Christ and Belial: the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs

Vatican Council I
– Not at all equal is the condition of those who have adhered to the Catholic truth, and of those who follow a false religion

Gregory XVI
-Indifferentism: fraud of the wicked, who claim it is possible to obtain salvation by professing any religion – they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith!

Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office
– No one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
– The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon
– Those who are not united to the Church reject the Spirit and dig for themselves broken cisterns, drinking putrid water out of the mire

Saint John of the Cross
– To seek anything other than Christ is to commit an offence against God


IV – Christ is the center and the exemplary cause of all creation


Sacred Scripture
– All things came to be through the Word
– In Christ all the fullness dwells

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– Christ is the perfect Image of God since He is one with the Father in his divine nature

John Paul II
– Christian tradition has always seen the face of Christ in the Eternal Wisdom

Benedict XVI
– Jesus Christ is the Lord of all creation and of all history

Congregation for the Clergy
– Christ introduced into time and into the world a new form of life, which is sublime and divine

Paul VI
– In Christ all things were created, in heaven and on earth – He is truly the center of history

Pius XII
– All harmony in the world comes from Christ

Leo XIII
– Christ: the exemplar cause whence all creatures borrow their form and beauty, their order and harmony

Saint Bonaventure
– Christ the Son of God, who is the invisible Image of God by nature
– The Divine Word is the prototype of which the human being was produced by exemplar causality
– Every creature by its nature is a certain likeness and similitude of that eternal Wisdom

John Paul II
– The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God’

Benedict XVI
– The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation of Christ
– Sin ruins ever anew the divine project of nature
– The arrogance of human beings who live ‘as if God did not exist’ leads them to exploit and disfigure nature

John Paul II
– Infinite is the power of forgiveness of the sacrifice of the Son – but man can oppose grace and truth in the face of the witness of the cross

Pius X
– Human society today is suffering from a terrible and deep rooted malady – apostasy from God

Pius XI
– The greatest and most destructive evils transcend the material or natural sphere and lie within the supernatural and religious order

John Paul II
– It is not just the creation of living man as in the first creation, but that of introducing man into divine life – ‘if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation’


I – Man is an image of God and all was created for him


Among all of the marvels of creation, one in particular stands out due to its great superiority: the human being. ‘Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet’ (Ps 8:5-6). Created in the image and likeness of God, we may not forget that man has a spiritual and eternal soul, and is the only creature of all visible beings that is capable of knowing his Creator. These characteristics place the human being above other creatures, for he alone, by the express divine will, is king of a creation that he is called to dominate. If we wish to be in accord with God, the Almighty Creator, we must love and analyze nature according to His divine plan, giving to each creature the attention, importance and position that God wished to give it. That is why we shall now bring to mind who man is, and the implication of his supremacy over the earth.


Francis

Nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. (Encyclical Laudato Si’, no. 67, May 24, 2015)


TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM

Sacred Scripture

  • The very first pages of Sacred Scripture emphasize that man has dominion over other creatures

Then God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.’ God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.’ God also said: ‘See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.’ And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed – the sixth day. (Gen 1:26-31)

  • Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands

Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. (Ps 8:5-6)

  • He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world

As he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. (Eph 1:4)

Saint Augustine

  • Man, created in that very image and likeness of God, was set over all irrational creatures

We behold the face of the earth furnished with terrestrial creatures, and man, created after Your image and likeness, in that very image and likeness of You (that is, the power of reason and understanding) on account of which he was set over all irrational creatures. (Saint Augustine. Confessions XIII, Ch. 32, no. 47)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • Divine Providence always governs inferior things by the superior. Made in God’s image, man is above all animals – these are rightly subject to him

Now all animals are naturally subject to man. […] for just as in the generation of things we perceive a certain order of procession of the perfect from the imperfect (thus matter is for the sake of form; and the imperfect form, for the sake of the perfect), so also is there order in the use of natural things; thus the imperfect are for the use of the perfect; as the plants make use of the earth for their nourishment, and animals make use of plants, and man makes use of both plants and animals. Therefore it is in keeping with the order of nature, that man should be master over animals. […] this is proved by the order of Divine Providence which always governs inferior things by the superior. Wherefore, as man, being made to the image of God, is above other animals, these are rightly subject to his government. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, q. 96, a. 1)

  • The subjection of other animals to man is in keeping with the order of nature itself

As the plants make use of the earth for their nourishment, and animals make use of plants, and man makes use of both plants and animals. Therefore it is in keeping with the order of nature, that man should be master over animals. […] For we see in the latter a certain participated prudence of natural instinct, in regard to certain particular acts; whereas man possesses a universal prudence as regards all practical matters. Now whatever is participated is subject to what is essential and universal. Therefore the subjection of other animals to man is proved to be natural. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I, q. 96, a. 1)

John Paul II

  • Man, God’s image, is the center of creation – he must dominate the earth and communicate to it his own dignity with the perspicacity of his intelligence

On my part, during these four years of pontificate, I have not ceased to proclaim, in my Encyclicals and Catechism, the centrality of man, his primacy over things and the importance of the subjective dimension of work, founded upon the dignity of the human person. In effect, man is, as a person, the center of creation; for he alone has been created in the image and likeness of God. Called to ‘dominate the earth’ (Gen 1:28) with the perspicacity of his intelligence and with the activity of his hands, he is converted into an artisan of the work – manual as well as intellectual – communicating to his labor the dignity that he himself has. (John Paul II. Address to the representatives of the world labour in Barcelona, November 7, 1982)

  • God put all at the disposition of man, to make of creatures a hymn of praise to God

Faith tells us that we may responsibly take the reins of history to be artisans of our own destiny. The Lord of history makes man and the peoples protagonists, authors of their own future, responding to the calling of God. He put all at the disposition of man, king of creation, to make of creatures a hymn of praise to God; and the glory of God is the living man, who has his life in the vision of God (cf. S. Ireneo, Contra haereses, IV, 20,7: PG 7, 105). (John Paul II. Address to Bishops of the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America (SEDAC) in San José, Costa Rica, March 2, 1983)

  • Man can dominate the earth because he alone – and no other – is capable of ‘tilling it’ and transforming it according to his own needs

At the beginning of the Yahwist text, even before it speaks of the creation of man from the ‘dust of the ground,’ we read that ‘there was no one to till the land or to make channels of water spring out of the earth to irrigate the whole land’ (Gen 2:5-6). We rightly associate this passage with the one in the first narrative, in which God’s command is expressed: ‘Fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…’ (Gen 1:28). The second narrative alludes specifically to the work that man carries out to till the earth. The first fundamental means to dominate the earth lies in man himself. Man can dominate the earth because he alone – and no other of the living beings – is capable of ‘tilling it’ and transforming it according to his own needs. (John Paul II. General Audience, October 24, 1979)

  • Within the order of creation, inferior creatures are submitted to man

The Book of Genesis says that the Creator has given the entire earth – in a certain sense all of the visible world – to man, putting it under his dominion. As image and likeness of God man domesticates the earth, making it his own, humanizing it in a responsible way. At the same time, he has given this world to man as a task for his work. The inferior creatures have been submitted to man, and at the same time have been given the recourses contained in the created world, beginning by the visible riches that are found, we could say, on the surface, as well as those profoundly hidden within the structure of matter that human talent gradually discovers. (John Paul II. Eucharistic celebration for workers in the city of Guayana, January 29, 1985)

Vatican Council II

  • All things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown

According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown. (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, no. 12, December 7, 1965)

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

  • Created realities exist for man’s use

In the Creator’s plan, created realities, which are good in themselves, exist for man’s use. The wonder of the mystery of man’s grandeur makes the psalmist exclaim: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than god, and crown him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet’ (Ps 8:5-7). (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 255)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • Man was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him

God created everything for man (cf. GS 12#1; 24#3; 39#1), but man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 358)

Saint John Chrysostom

  • Man is more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures

What is it that is about to be created, that enjoys such honour? It is man that great and wonderful living creature, more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures! For him the heavens and the earth, the sea and all the rest of creation exist. God attached so much importance to his salvation that he did not spare his own Son for the sake of man. Nor does he ever cease to work, trying every possible means, until he has raised man up to himself and made him sit at his right hand. (Saint John Chrysostom. In Genesi., Sermo 2, 1: PG 54, 587D-588A. cited by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 358)

Benedict XVI

  • The fundamental difference between the human being and other animals in the fact that man is capable of recognizing God, his Creator

It is worth thinking a bit about these words of Origen, who sees the fundamental difference between the human being and the other animals in the fact that man is capable of recognizing God, his Creator, that man is capable of truth, capable of a knowledge that becomes a relationship, friendship. It is important in our time that we do not forget God, together with all the other kinds of knowledge we have acquired in the meantime, and they are very numerous! They all become problematic, at times dangerous, if the fundamental knowledge that gives meaning and orientation to all things is missing: knowledge of God the Creator. (Benedict XVI. General Audience, no. 4, January 11, 2006)

Pius XI

  • Man has a value far surpassing that of the vast inanimate cosmos

Man has a spiritual and immortal soul. He is a person, marvelously endowed by his Creator with gifts of body and mind. He is a true ‘microcosm,’ as the ancients said, a world in miniature, with a value far surpassing that of the vast inanimate cosmos. God alone is his last end, in this life and the next. By sanctifying grace he is raised to the dignity of a son of God, and incorporated into the Kingdom of God in the Mystical Body of Christ. In consequence he has been endowed by God with many and varied prerogatives: the right to life, to bodily integrity, to the necessary means of existence; the right to tend toward his ultimate goal in the path marked out for him by God; the right of association and the right to possess and use property. (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, no. 27, March 19, 1937)

Saint John of the Cross

  • What is a human thought worth?

One thought alone of man is worth more than the entire world, hence God alone is worthy of it. (Saint John of the Cross. Sayings of light and love, no. 32)

John Paul II

  • Man: the only being on earth that God willed for his own sake, has a dignity stemming from his spiritual nature

The concept of nature acquires a particular meaning when applied to man, the summit of creation. The only being on earth that God willed for his own sake has a dignity stemming from his spiritual nature which bears the mark of the Creator, for he was created in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26) and endowed with the highest faculties a creature can possess: reason and will. These make him capable of free self-determination and enable him to communicate with God, to answer his call and to fulfill himself in accordance with his own nature. In fact, because he has a spiritual nature, man can receive supernatural realities and attain the eternal happiness freely offered by God. This communication is made possible because God and man are both spiritual beings. (John Paul II. Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, no. 5, October 27, 1998)

  • Christianity is anthropocentric precisely because it is fully theocentric

In fact Christianity is anthropocentric precisely because it is fully theocentric; and simultaneously it is theocentric, thanks to its extraordinary anthropocentrism. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 2, November 29, 1978)

Vatican Council I

  • Man’s end is not lesser creatures, but rather supernatural – a participation in divine goods

God in His infinite goodness has ordained man for a supernatural end, to participation, namely, in the divine goods which altogether surpass the understanding of the human mind. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3005. Vatican Council I. Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, Session III, April 24, 1870)

John Paul II

  • The splendor of truth shines forth in a special way in man

The splendour of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: ‘Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord’ (Ps 4:6). (John Paul II. Encyclical Veritatis splendor, August 6, 1993)

  • Man cannot accept that his spiritual being be submitted to that which is inferior within the hierarchy of creatures

With how much love do the eyes of the Master and Redeemer gaze upon the beauty of the created world! The visible world has been created for man. Christ then said to those listening: ‘Look at the birds of the air: Are you not of more value than they?’ ( Mt 6:26) […] But precisely because of this, man cannot accept that his spiritual being be submitted to that which is inferior within the hierarchy of creatures. He may not take as the last goal of his existence that which is offered to him by the earth and the temporality of what is created. He cannot lower himself to serve things, as though they were the only end and last destiny of his life. (John Paul II. Eucharistic celebration for the workers and entrepreneurs in Monterrey, Mexico, May 10, 1990)

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