My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As I read the latest Encyclical of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home,” I could not help but remember my own grandfather, who coincidentally was named Francesco. I learned from my grandfather the essentials of human ecology at a time perhaps when it did not even have a name. He taught me respect for the environment; never waste water, always make sure that the lights are turned off, recycle everything that we use, make a compost heap in the garden, make sure that nothing is wasted.
Even in the days when he had a coal stove in the kitchen and a coal furnace in his basement, he always sifted the ashes to find any leftover pieces of coal which could be reused so as not to be wasteful. I am not sure if this was all a product of the Depression or just a concern for the environment.
My grandfather loved to see things grow in the garden. He made sure that everyone in his family and his neighbors always had something to eat. Yes, the spirit of St. Francis is very much alive in our Holy Father. Just as he shows concern for the children and grandchildren, those who live in the world today, this Encyclical is truly an expression of concern of a grandfather for all humanity.
Our common home is our Earth, created by God, and, as we know from Genesis, it is given to the domination of man. That domination, however, is not something to be wasted or abused. Rather, we have great responsibility and stewardship for our common heritage.
Our Holy Father speaks of human ecology. Truly, this is the beginning of all Catholic social teaching – the dignity of the human person. If we respect the dignity of every human person, we must respect the environment in which we live and take responsibility for anything that we might do to harm that environment.
If we are to look at our environment in our world today, the most dangerous place for human beings seems to be a woman’s womb. In our own country, almost one million abortions are performed each year, not to count the worldwide number of abortions. Truly, the environment that is most dangerous to human beings and the one which causes the most direct threat is the misunderstanding of contraception and population control. Abortion can never be an answer to our ecological and psychological problems as human beings. Pope Francis says, “To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.” He goes on to say, “A just society recognizes the primacy of the right to life from conception to natural death.” Hopefully, again, these messages will be taken to heart.
Many have questioned the advisability of such an Encyclical coming from the Holy Father. He speaks, however, about moral issues. The scientific issues might still be debated. Pope Francis talks about our personal responsibility for any damage to the environment which must be taken seriously and, in a certain sense, must be repented for as we are called to change and conversion in trying to leave a better world for those who will follow us and to improve the world in which we live.
The Encyclical is truly worth study. Several weeks ago, a ‘study guide’ appeared in The Tablet, and it is available easily on the Internet. There is something for everyone to consider, from each individual person and family, to the family of nations that has greater responsibility for the pollution of our environment. We cannot deny that things are not as good as they were in the past. Our air is polluted, the ozone layer is depleted, sea levels are rising because of the melting of glaciers and other indisputable facts. At the same time, we are not required to believe in climate change, it should be scientifically demonstrated. What we must believe in is our ability to control our own environment and not to add any human causes to the natural causes that at this time might be deteriorating our environment.
Our own diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens is making efforts to deal with our carbon footprint by investigating solar panels. The Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph is already equipped to receive solar panels. We are also looking at the Immaculate Conception Center, one of our biggest facilities, being able to benefit from solar panels. We are looking at the whole diocese to see which buildings might be retrofitted with solar panels which will decrease the effect on the environment by the generation of electricity by other means. There are many other things that need to be done. Each one of us must take responsibility for the course of our life.
Human ecology means that each one of us must put out into the deep and take our human responsibility to better the environment which God has given to us. If everyone would make the promise to leave the environment a better place than how we found it, our world would, indeed, improve.
Join me in prayer that our Holy Father’s tender care for humanity might be understood in a correct way.