Catholic Social Teaching
and the Environment
"For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. " Colossians 1:16

A place that many of us fail to make a connection between our Christian Values and the way that we live is concern for the environment.  We show little care for the environment in the way we "over-consume" our natural resources.  Genesis 1:26 reads "Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and creatures that crawl on the ground."  Many people take this "gift of dominion" to mean we can do whatever we what with the "world." In action, we can do what we want. That doesn't mean that we should do whatever we can. We need to recognize our natural resources as a a gift, a gift to be cherished. If we truly cherish something we use it wisely. act as though that is giving us dominion over the Earth, God has given us permission to do. (For Christian Anthropology I wrote a paper on the Christian view of Creation as a gift.)

Genesis 2:15 declares that we are charged to take care of the world.  So, we must choose wisely how we use the natural resources to show value for them and not use the resources beyond our basic needs.  And we should recycle to slow the consumption of those natural resources. No matter how long our natural resources might last, why use them faster than necessary.

St. Francis is the patron saint of ecology.  He stressed the importance of living in harmony with nature and the animals.  In his book Preacher as Risk Taker, Richard Hart writes that many eco-psychologists believe that our own health is the tied to the health of the planet (Hart, Richard, O.F.M. Cap. Preacher as Risk Taker.  The Liturgical Press.  Collegeville, 2003)  The healthier the planet, the healthier we are.  Everyday more species of plants and animals become extinct.  How many of these plants could have been used to provide cures for disease?  How many of the animal species are needed to maintain the balance of nature?

So far, I have spoken in favor of conservation of our natural resources and I firmly believe in doing so. However, there is at least one thing more important than natural resources. That is human life. I don't think conservation of our natural resources and protecting our environment are much in conflict with protecting human life. When they are, human live is more important.

One of the precious gifts God has given us is written. Click here to read about Catholic Teaching on Water.

For further information

I recently learned of a group known as "The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change." Be sure and check them out for tips on Catholic teaching on the environment and tips on simple things we can do at home, work, or school to use our natural resources wisely.

For information on recycling you can check out Recycle City created by some employees of the EPA Region 9 office

Now you can find out where to recycle batteries and cell phones at Call2Recycle.  They even offer a prepared lesson plan for teaching children about battery recycling.  There are also several web sites that assist you in recycling printer cartridges.


This page last updated on August 27, 2011