Our Sunday Visitor has published The Environment, by Pope Benedict XIV. The book is a collection of excerpts from audiences, speeches, encyclicals, messages, letters and homilies of Pope Benedict’s that address matters related to the environment. I was delighted to receive a copy of it from The Catholic Company as part of its reviewer program.
The book addresses what is obviously an important topic. Pope Benedict observed in one of the general audiences excerpted in the book, that “life is a stewardship of the goods received from God, which is why each one is responsible for the other.” I think it is fair to say that we are not being as good stewards as we are called to be. That we are not doing enough, either individually or collectively, to care for the earth we have been given (or for each other). And we see and hear the effects of that all around us. Climate change. Deforestation. Famine for far too many of our brothers and sisters. Lack of access to clean drinking water for many.
Pope Benedict has had much to say about the environment. In these excerpts, we find a clear exposition of the Church’s social teaching about our call to assume political and social responsibilities in the world and of a “eucharistic spirituality” that aspires to sanctify the world. We find beautiful statements about the meaning and value of agricultural labor and of the rural family. We hear warnings about the effects of scarcity of energy supplies on portions of the world’s population. We hear a call for global solutions to issues such as sustainable development and climate change, which the Pope calls “matters of grave concern for the entire human family,” the ethical implications of which “no nation or business sector can ignore.”
If I have a quibble about the book it is that I could not discern any principle of organization to the excerpts, which are simply presented one after the other. Although it would have been a difficult task to achieve, the book might have benefitted from an effort to organize the material thematically. I also think some of the shorter excerpts might have been left out with no loss to the book. An example is several of the addresses to particular groups, which by their nature tend to be very formalized and thus say little of substance. Having said that, their inclusion serves to highlight the extent to which Pope Benedict has spoken on this important subject.
Far too many people are still woefully uninformed about the principles of Catholic Social Thought, including that of stewardship. This book is a useful aid in presenting the Church’s teachings on the environment and our stewardship responsibility in an accessible way.