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Catholic-Animals
THE ARK

A Publication of
THE CATHOLIC STUDY CIRCLE
FOR ANIMAL WELFARE

From Number 191 - Summer 2002

Pope John Paul II on ecology

Pope John Paul’s Encyclical Letter On Social Concern (Solicitudo Rei Socialis), issued
on December 30, 1987, contained passages concerning the moral limits to use of natural
resources - including the animal ones

n. 26 (part): Among today’s positive signs we must also mention a greater realization of the limits of available resources, of the need to respect the integrity and the cycles of nature, and to take them into account when planning for development ... Today this is called ecological concern.

n.34: Nor can the moral character of development exclude respect for the beings which constitute the natural world ... Such realities also demand respect, by virtue of a threefold consideration which it is useful to reflect upon carefully.

* The first consideration is the appropriateness of acquiring a growing awareness of the fact that one cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate, animals, plants, the natural elements simply as one wishes, according to one’s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the ‘cosmos’.

* The second consideration is based on the realization, which is perhaps more urgent, that natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability not only for the present generation but above all for generations to come.

* The third consideration refers directly to the consequences of a certain type of development on the quality of life in the industrialized zones.  We all know that the direct or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the environment, with serious consequences for the health of the population.

Once again it is evident that development, the planning which governs it, and the way in which resources are used must include respect for moral demands. One of the latter undoubtedly imposes limits on the use of the natural world. The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to ‘use and misuse’, or to dispose of things as one pleases.  The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to ‘eat of the fruit of the tree’ (cf. Gen 2:16-17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity.

Return to The Ark No. 191 - Summer 2002

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