Papal Environmentalism: Pro-Life and Pro-MarriageGEORGE WEIGEL
In his January 11 address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI continued to carve out an interesting Catholic position on ecology.
Here is the money paragraph in the papal address to the diplomats assembled in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace:
Now, the overlap between orthodox Christians and radical environmentalists may not be what the mathematicians call a "null set;" but I rather doubt that those who qualify on both counts would fill, say, the new Cowboys Stadium. Dubieties on this front harden when, two paragraphs later, the Pope explicitly linked an aroused environmental conscience to the inalienable right-to-life: "...this concern...for the environment should be situated within the larger framework of the great challenges now facing mankind....[Thus] how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man's respect for himself that his sense of responsibility is shown. As Saint Thomas Aquinas has taught us, man represents all that is most noble in the universe..."
Two paragraphs after that, Benedict tied care for the environment to the defense of marriage rightly understood—another issue that does not, I suspect, loom large on the agenda of Greenpeace:
So: according to Benedict XVI, a consistent Catholic environmentalism must include the defense of life from conception until natural death and the defense of marriage as the stable union of a man and a woman. Indeed, I expect the Pope would argue that any environmentalism worthy of the name would take up the cause of life and the cause of marriage, for the truths that undergird the Catholic pro-life position and the Catholic defense of marriage-rightly-understood are moral truths that can be known by reason—they're not some "sectarian" Catholic theological chicanery, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Vice President of the United States notwithstanding.
It will be interesting to see if the new papal environmentalism coaxes a few brave souls from the ecology camp into common cause with those less politically correct movements in defense of life and marriage. I'm skeptical, not least because of decades of moral confusion during which radical environmentalists have shown far more concern for endangered species of insects than for endangered pre-born children. As for the gay insurgency, it takes no prisoners and is unlikely to see its cause as counter-environmental. Still, the papal challenge has been laid down, and as they say in Rome, "We think in centuries here."
George Weigel. "Papal Environmentalism: Pro-Life and Pro-Marriage." The Catholic Difference (February 3, 2010).
Reprinted with permission of George Weigel.
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George Weigel, a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Roman Catholic theologian and one of America's leading commentators on issues of religion and public life. Weigel is the author or editor of Against the Grain: Christianity and Democracy, War and Peace, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action, God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church, The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God, Letters to a Young Catholic: The Art of Mentoring, The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, and The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored.
George Weigel's major study of the life, thought, and action of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (Harper Collins, 1999) was published to international acclaim in 1999, and translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, and German. The 2001 documentary film based on the book won numerous prizes. George Weigel is a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News, and his weekly column, "The Catholic Difference," is syndicated to more than fifty newspapers around the United States.
Copyright © 2010 George Weigel
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