The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has revealed he is giving serious consideration to the introduction of a new sin to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Pope wants to add “ecological sin” to the list since, as stewards of the earth, we have been severely neglecting our responsibility to take care of the first “task that God has given to humankind in creation.”
God’s intention was for us to “till it and keep it,” (NRSV-CE Gn 2:15) but let us consider some other translations of that verse: to dress it and to keep it —King James Bible; to cultivate it and keep it—New American Standard Bible; to serve it, and to keep it—Young’s Literal Translation. An examination of these texts reveals a common sentiment, albeit using different words.
Reflecting on the King James’ version, “dress it up”, we missed the mark totally! With NASA’s report of “rapid warming in the past few decades… [with] the last decade as the warmest,” the recent historic flood levels in Venice less than a week ago, reaching as high as 6 ft, and the severe flooding in Greenvale and Kelly Village in T&T, it is obvious that we have been careless and irresponsible.
I wonder then how much longer we can continue to turn a blind eye to the crisis of “our common home”. Surely, it is not a new teaching that we ought to take care of the earth, but Pope Francis may see it as an eminent “duty” of the Church to appeal to the consciences of God’s people at this time in history because of the constant reports of rising sea levels, rising temperatures, species that are on the brink of extinction, and the list goes on.
Recently, the Franciscan Institute here in Trinidad and Tobago held an art competition on the theme Protecting the Web of Life. Sadly, only one parish participated in the competition. If we continue to focus our efforts on church buildings and air-conditioning them while ignoring the reason for their increased demand, then God help us!
It is rumoured that a few years ago, a parish priest refused to install air-conditioning units because he believed that we MUST be conscious of what is happening around us. As the human race, we are not simply cultivating the land’s resources, but we are abusing them and trying to find ways to ignore the problem and reduce the impact of our careless and irresponsible actions. Abuse of any kind is never charitable and never Christian.
As Church, let us look within and assess what we are doing to counteract our abusive behaviours. Can we not challenge the authorities? We have had a strong voice on same-sex marriages, but can we not also challenge the authorities to put measures in place to combat carbon emissions, the use of plastic and Styrofoam? What about encouraging the use of solar panels, implementing strict policies for recycling, and imposing hefty fines for persons caught polluting; whether via their vehicle’s fumes or by littering or burning—can we not challenge here, too?
St Francis of Assisi, guardian of creation pray for us.
By Jodel Lutchman