The Call of Creation

October 4th was the feast of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecologists and animals. The day brought to an end the season the Catholic Church describes as “The Season of Creation”. The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also chose that day to launch a considerably revised, new edition of its teaching document on the environment – The Call of Creation.

The document calls for a “profound interior conversion” and for Catholics to “repair our relationship with God’s creation” to address the current ecological crisis. Reading the signs of the times, the Bishops decided that now was an appropriate time to release a new version of the teaching document, 20 years after it was first launched. The Bishops point out that there is a need for urgent action to protect our common home. Around the world we are seeing more extreme climate events and, on many measures, increased degradation of the environment. Even in England and Wales we have seen record temperatures topping 40°C.

The document stresses the theological roots of environmental crises and the inter-connectedness of creation. Catholics believe that God is the Creator of everything and that His creation is good, reflecting God’s own goodness (Genesis 1-2). Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. If we allow creation to become degraded, we also damage our relationship with each other and with God. Instead, we should recognise our role as co-creators and grow to love and to nurture the natural environment. Environmental problems should not just be regarded as a series of technical problems to be solved.

If we allow creation to become degraded, we also damage our relationship with each other and with God.

This Christian way of thinking about environmental challenges is distinct from much secular analysis of these issues. We believe in hope and redemption. We also believe that caring for God’s creation is a good thing in itself – even in situations where the outlook is bleak. Writing in the foreword, Bishop John Arnold, lead Catholic bishop for the Environment in England Wales, and Bishop Richard Moth, Chair of the Social Justice Department, of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also say:

We are a people of hope who believe in redemption. We must study the signs of the times and take the action that is needed to repair our relationship with God’s creation. As is made clear in The Call of Creation, the exercise of the virtue of solidarity and the promotion of the common good, which are so needed at this time, are the responsibility of each and every individual and institution in society.

And, emphasising the inter-connectedness of creation, The Call of Creation points out that respect for life from conception to natural death is part of a Christian environmental agenda as is the avoidance of unethical technological interventions in the transmission of life.

The Call of Creation stresses that each of us has a responsibility to promote the common good and is called to repair our own relationship with the environment. It calls for conversion at all levels. Catholic parishes, schools and universities already contribute to caring for God’s creation. Governments need to act too, and they must do so on an international scale given the nature of the problems.

There is a link between the social context and the responsibility of individuals which can, amongst other channels, operate through our culture. The document makes this link:

Individual choices can seem insignificant when faced with major global challenges. But Pope Francis has rightly stated that multiplied individual actions can indeed make a real difference. As individual children of God, it is important that we think carefully about how we use consumer goods and value simplicity in our lives. We should also care for, and nurture, that part of God’s creation for which we are particularly responsible. By doing this, collectively, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can also help to change our culture.

Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

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Author: Philip Booth

Published: 4th October 2022

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