Letters to the Editor

The Sins Against the Ecology in the Catechism

Dear Editor: The headline (“Styrofoam as a Sin May Be Looming,” Jan. 18) and opening paragraphs of this story are beneath the dignity of The Tablet. I’m thankful that I read through to the inner pages where you finally got serious about the critically important theological reflection about our responsibility for stewardship of God’s creation.

Why highlight the Twitter-level comedy on your front page and mislead readers with the notion that Pope Francis is inventing a “new sin” in underscoring our responsibility for the earth? Why give priority to such material over the weightier comments and activities at St. Francis College, discussed on p. 5 of this issue?

Secondly, the implication that attention to the moral gravity of environmental degradation is something “new” and a fad being foisted on Catholicism by left-wing “greenies” does not stand up to scrutiny. In “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis stresses his continuity with his predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, as is clear from his footnotes. The pope reaches back into Catholic tradition, not only to St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), but to St. Justin Martyr (100-165), St. Basil the Great (330-379), and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

Moreover, he cites numerous conferences of Catholic Bishops. Against the background of this magisterial and soundly traditional teaching, the suggestion that ecological stewardship is a novelty peculiar to Pope Francis rings especially hollow.

The ESG (environmental, social, and governance) movement has gained firm traction with some of the largest, most sophisticated companies worldwide. This includes the 181 CEOs with major American firms belonging to The Business Roundtable who wrote last summer, “We respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.” This is hardly naïve, novel, or extreme. Indeed, it is a place where faith and science can stand together.

Hugh F. Kelly


Editor’s note: The first paragraphs of the article show reactions from social media to contrast them with the serious issue at hand, as it is clear when you read the whole story. The reporter doesn’t imply that Pope Francis has ‘invented’ a new sin, but the novelty of including specific acts against ecology as sin in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The fact that Pope Francis quotes St. Basil the Great in “Laudato Si,” for example, doesn’t preclude the originality of the document.  The quote from St. Basil is that God is “goodness without measure,” which is not an ecological statement.