Laudato Si on Our Claims to Absolute Ownership

Laudato Si on Our Claims to Absolute Ownership June 22, 2015

We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev 25:23).

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  • WesleyD

    But didn’t John Locke prove that we do have absolute ownership of creation? How can these views be reconciled, I wonder!

  • Peggy

    The irony here is that better defined temporal rights to property are lacking in Latin American nations, from where Francis hails. He should read modern economist Hernando de Soto who’s been run out of native Peru for such heresy. Well-defined property rights would also enable the governments of developing nations to extract concessions from multinationals and regulate the exploitation of natural resources. The native landowners might get some income from that as well–or would not be pushed out of their own business (agricultural usually) in order to make way for the big multinational.

    • wineinthewater

      I don’t understand the point. Better defined temporal rights is not at all in contention with the quotation above. Does Hernando de Soto contend that absolute ownership is necessary in contradiction to above? Is there something wrong with the quote?

  • Bear Fact

    So much for fifty shades of grey. 120 Days of Sodom for our time.