Earth Day and Catholicism: What Is A Christian To Do?

  • Article (blog post)
  • 1900 words
  • Level: all audiences

A post by Fr. James Kurzynski on The Catholic Astronomer blog. Fr. Kurzynski discusses Earth Day, his initial skepticism toward it, and how the writings of Pope St. John Paul II caused him to rethink that skepticism – mostly, but not entirely:

Like many Americans, I had a rather suspicious attitude toward such celebrations, thinking of them as merely days of political statements and protests against anyone who didn’t embrace a 100% “Green” lifestyle. As a devout Catholic, I also struggled with expressions of what I would call an Environmental Spiritualism, treating the Earth as if it were God or another type of deity. In short, Earth Day was not high on my priority list.

In time, however, my attitude began to change toward Earth Day. The beginning of the change occurred when I was in college and started to delve into Catholic Social Teaching (CST). I was surprised to discover that one of the seven themes of CST put forward in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was to safeguard the environment. As I read through the principles we now label “Care for Creation,” I was struck with their common sense approach to the environment that can be summarized with the statement, If we destroy the environment, we ultimately destroy the human person and if we care for creation, we uphold human dignity. These sentiments were reinforced by St. John Paul II in his 1990 World Day of Peace address….

As I read more from this “socially conservative pope,” I was struck with how St. John Paul II  sounded more “green” than college friends I had who were studying natural resources. One of the healthiest aspects of this exploration was the eroding of what I would call the “false politics” of placing all people in a polemical relationship based on a uniquely American interpretation of the terms conservative and liberal. I was beginning to see that the faith I embraced did not fit into these polemics, but pointed to a third way, a transcendent way that placed the pursuit of truth as the primary goal of the Christian.

Click here to read the full article on The Catholic Astronomer – the blog of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.