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Monday, June 10, 2013

Tweeting truth: On human life and the "culture of waste"

Pope Francis tweeted yesterday a short statement that has immense implications.

The words followed his General Audience last week, which he used to make his first substantial addition to the magisterial conversation on ecology. In his audience was this statement that echoes the message of his tweet: 
This "culture of waste" tends to become the common mentality that infects everyone. Human life, the person is no longer perceived as a primary value to be respected and protected, especially if poor or disabled, if not yet useful - such as the unborn child - or no longer needed - such as the elderly. 
All of this continues the words of Benedict XVI at the top of this blog.

There is a link, as Benedict XVI put it, between the ecological ills of our age and the more traditionally considered life issues of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and euthanasia. Moreover, this link has something to tell us about how to address both problems.

But in order to address either one, we must first deal with unhealthy divisions that prevent the cultivation of a true culture of life.

There can be either ambivalence or a strong dislike for ecological issues by many who struggle heroically to end the slaughter of the unborn, the harvest of embryos, or the intentional killing of the elderly or the infirm. Likewise, there is a sense of non-urgency or even support by some Catholic environmentalists for issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem-cell research. Then there is the third category, those who appreciate the importance of how the Holy Fathers are linking human life and ecology without making them equivalent.

Those in the first and second groups often clash, and this is troublesome. One can only imagine how our ancient enemy revels in the hostilities brought about by such polarization. As a warning about disconnecting human life issues and ecology, Benedict XVI has taught that “[i]t would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment, and damages society.” (Caritas in Veritate, 51)

Pope Francis has also sought to unite factions when he noted that man has in the modern age commoditized the human person as well as all creation. We have made human life and relationships as easily disposable as a spent bottle of soda, an empty tube of toothpaste, or an entire ecosystem.

Thus, the underlying causes of our ecological and human life crises can be jointly addressed because they are linked to the same human brokenness: the sin-induced human tendency to toss aside that which one no longer wants—or loves.

This means that the fixes that ecologists seek are the same ones sought by those who fight for the right to life of the unborn and infirmed. These fixes seek the cultivation of a people who love sacrificially as they stand in awe at the very notion of human reproduction as well as the human life-support systems that ecosystems provide—not to mention standing in awe of God, who created all this in the beginning.

Benedict XVI  noted that “[t]he book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development.”

Pope Francis continues this teaching by reminding us that we will never be able to address the problems of over-consumption and waste if we don’t also address the reasons why so many find it acceptable to throw away innocent and vulnerable human beings.

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