The tsunami of fashionable nonsense that has flooded the public domain in the cause of saving the planet has understandably left many Catholics feeling a little shivery.
But they should not be put off. The care of creation is a vital strand of Catholic social teaching articulated not only by Pope Francis in Laudato si’, his encyclical of 2015 “on the care of our common home”, but also in the teachings of his two immediate predecessors. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is equally emphatic, speaking of the beauty of creation reflecting the infinite beauty of the Creator himself.
There is such a wealth of teaching here that Catholics should be reclaiming the territory occupied by preachy princes, “birth strikers” and teenage visionaries warning us of imminent apocalypse.
The bishops of England and Wales acted prudently therefore when they issued a statement last week asking Catholics to commit themselves to more sustainable lifestyles through the “Christian spirituality of ecology” which begins in “personal” and “family life”.
They wished to “invite our people to engage in this urgent challenge, so that together we show leadership by our actions”, before demonstrating just how far the Catholic Church in Britain is already involved in caring for creation.
They revealed, as just one example, that more than 4,500 parishes and schools have switched to renewable gas and electricity, making the Church one of the largest single consumers of green gas certificates, based on annual volume, in Britain, thanks to Inter-diocesan Fuel Management, the Church’s energy procurement group.
Catholics would be wrong to turn their backs on this cause, especially those parts involving conservation. This is because the decline of fauna and flora and the extinction of species can be empirically proven, and action can be taken to remedy such trends.
What is required is good judgment from Catholics about what deserves urgent attention and what amounts to the hysterical and overwrought worship of Gaia.