In Laudato Si’, his exhaustive letter to the Catholic Church on caring for the environment, Pope Francis covered a wide array of issues related to climate change. But in the midst of the policy talk, scientific data, and historical information, he didn’t fail (as some have done) to address our treatment and view of animals. If you’ve ever doubted where the Catholic Church stands on caring for animals, here are some tidbits that you can’t miss:
- “We are not God. … [N]owadays 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.”
- “Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.”
- “In our time, the Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish.”
- “[W]hen our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one. It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings.”
- “Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity.'”
- “[T]he creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end.”
- “The very flowers of the field and the birds which his human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence.”
- “An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our ‘dominion’ over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.”
- “[St. Francis’] response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists.”
- “If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.”
They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15).
Are you ready for an ecological conversion? Order a free vegan starter kit today to learn how you can live in solidarity with the whole world.