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Could “ecological sin” one day be added to the list of sins in the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Pope Francis has proposed such an idea.
Speaking at the 20th World Congress of the International Association of Penal Law in Rome, the Holy Father said Christians have a duty to preserve the environment.
“We have to introduce – we are thinking about it – to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the sin against ecology, the ‘ecological sin’ against our common home, because a duty is at stake,” Pope Francis said, as reported by LifeSiteNews.
So how exactly would a “sin against ecology” work on theological scale? According to Catholic author Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, the language would have to be framed in a way that illustrates that the sin would be against God rather than an inanimate object.
“There is no possible sin against planet Earth,” Kwasniewski told the outlet. “All sins are ultimately against God or those who are in God’s image. As all theologians have explained prior to the post-conciliar decline of theology, when we abuse the natural world or animals or plants, we are sinning against God their creator, who gave them to us to use for the right purposes and in accordance with their nature and ours.”
“The only ‘targets’ of sin are persons, since they are either divine persons who deserve our total obedience, or angelic or human persons who deserve our reverence as images of God,” he continued.
If a person were to abuse a tree or an animal, Kwasniewski said that the person would be in grave violation against God due to the natural order, not because an animal or a tree has any basic rights.
“Someone who tortures an animal or burns down a forest for fun is a sinner not because the animal or the forest has rights, but because he offends God, the great king over all the earth, from whom all things come for our benefit and to whom they are ordered,” he said. “Man is obliged in justice to respect God’s gift and the order He has established; man must also respect the common destination of material goods, i.e., that God has made the earth for the benefit of all, not for the selfish benefit of a few,” he continued.
If Pope Francis were to frame “ecological sin” in this light if the Cathechism were to ever be amended, it would stand in line with Catholic tradition, which has always stated human beings have a moral obligation to preserve the environment as a gift sent from God. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI made that very argument in his “God and the World.”
“Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens living so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible,” Benedict wrote. “Animals, too, are God’s creatures and even if they do not have the same direct relationship to God that human beings have, they are still creatures of God’s will, creatures we must respect as companions in creation.”