If you want to save the planet, become Catholic.
If you want to save the planet, get serious and become catholic. It comes with the added bonus of saving your soul too.
In February this year climate protesters on the M25 prevented me from visiting my elderly father. A group called ‘Insulate Britain’ found environmentally friendly glue strong enough to stick themselves to the tarmac and refused to budge until either everyone in Britain had adequate insulation or they were dragged away by whichever police officers could take a break from painting rainbows on their squad cars.
I don’t suppose it matters to them that my old dad missed a visit from the only living relative he has in the UK, that ambulances couldn’t get patients to hospital, that people were late for work or children late for school; there is no room for compassion towards the human person looking you in the eye, when you have a planet to save.
Word must have spread on the green web about the best glue to use to stick yourself to stuff, because yesterday climate activists glued their hands to Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ at the Uffizi in Florence.
‘Every time someone does this….I want to go donate money to BP or Shell or something in response’
was one of many similar reactions on Twitter.
I can understand this. Never mind waiting for E.ON to do it, I felt inclined to tamper with my own metre following the M25 stunt, but it wouldn't help anything.
There is something very anti-human and unpleasant lurking beneath much of the environmental crisis rhetoric, yet there is also some truth in it. Away from the arguments about how hot the planet is getting, what is causing it and what the heck net zero will achieve is a reality that none of us can escape.
We inhabit a breathtakingly beautiful planet, given to us by God, and we have a duty to care for it. If we Catholics would simply ‘become what we are’ as Pope John Paul II put it, we could make an enormous difference. Part of the problem lies in the fact that we do not take to heart the teachings of Holy Mother Church and consistently put them into practice.
The rhythms of the liturgical year act in harmony with the rhythms of nature if we only pay attention.
‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot’ Ecclesiastes 3
In 2003 the ‘Meatless Monday’ campaign said that ‘cutting meat from our diets just one day a week can benefit not only our health but that of the planet as well.’
But faithful Catholics have always abstained from meat on a Friday as an act of penance. Whether Monday or Friday the benefit to man and the planet are the same. The creator of the universe guides His church into all truth, including the truth about how to live as stewards of the earth, if we will only listen.
In 1891 Pope Leo XIII issued the papal encyclical Rerum novarum which contained the first formal development of the principle of subsidiarity, later incorporated into Pope Pius XI encyclical Quadragesimo anno, expressing a key idea in Catholic Social teaching. The principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and preferential option for the poor found in CST hold considerable promise for dealing with environmental concerns and can guard against the damaging excesses of globalisation.
In 1968 the prophetic voice of the church spoke against the use of artificial contraception as a grave moral evil guaranteed to inflict profound damage on any culture that embraces it. After a 50-year trial we now know that the real life consequences of artificial contraception are not as rosy as everyone thought at the time, and include (among many other negatives) great harm to the environment. The church was right.
But what about having sex?! Any environmental crisis cannot hope to be resolved by people not disciplined in self-control. The church has always taught celibacy for the unmarried and abstinence during a wife’s fertile time when there is a good reason to avoid pregnancy. Taking seriously this teaching not only avoids the pollution caused by the use of artificial contraception but develops the discipline needed to avoid the kind of excesses that lead to environmental damage.
There are those who would argue that pollution from birth control is worth it in order to reduce the population, but whilst researchers in the 1970s predicted a crisis of overpopulation, there is, now, a very real crisis of ‘under’ population, with experts sounding the alarm on declining birth-rates and governments incentivising couples to have more kids.
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves why the destruction of the planet matters at all. Is it because the earth itself is sacred and humans are a cancer upon it? If so, then why waste time with insulation? ask for Kalashnikovs.
Or is it because the human person is so precious, so inherently valuable that we want them to flourish in His beautiful creation. If this is the case, then not only are we confronted with having to consider how it could be that a person has inherent value, but also, why the farmer, the mother of 7, the person trying to get to hospital, to work, or to see their elderly father should be prevented from flourishing by those whose extreme ideology wants to sacrifice concrete persons before them to abstract causes in their heads. It is far easier to say you love ‘humanity’ than to really love the awkward, difficult, smelly neighbour right next to you, but that is what we are called to do. Not once in the Gospel did Jesus say ‘love humanity’ but the far more difficult ‘love thy neighbour.’
Whilst living an authentic catholic life would help protect the environment, this is not really a reason to become Catholic. As Peter Kreeft says;
‘The only good reason to believe anything is because it’s true.’
And that’s the real reason to be a Catholic. Because it is true.