There is no question that Pope Francis believes Creation is sacred. He has voiced concerns about fracking, dirty mining, and unbridled consumerism. He has called exploitation of nature a sin. He has hosted summits and workshops on climate change and called on Catholics to take action. And, in one month, he will publish the much-anticipated papal encyclical on the environment, which will set a tone of caring for Creation and acting for climate among the world's Catholics.
But can the Pope protect Creation while upholding the Catholic principles of procreation?
Some environmentalists and Catholics would say no. They would argue that more people require more resources, which causes more pollution. It's a logical progression, which leads to the neat, little (maybe too convenient) conclusion that overpopulation is to blame for climate change. If there were fewer people on the planet, there would be less carbon emissions -- plain and simple -- and family planning and environmentalism must go hand in hand.
But if the only way to protect Creation is to advocate for family planning, would environmentalism create a conflict for the Pope, or any religious, pro-life group?
Last week, Riccardo Cascioli, a former Vatican Radio employee, published an article asking this question. If Pope Francis wants to do something about climate change, Cascioli wonders, is he prepared to accept birth control? He writes, "The road the church is heading down is precisely this: To quietly approve population control while talking about something else."
Cascioli isn't denying climate science or making some ridiculous argument that coal will help the poor; he's raising an important theological question. And, as John Allen, associate editor of Crux, points out, "Whatever one makes of Cascioli's point, it would be a mistake to conclude he's the only one who feels this way. He speaks for a powerful constituency in the Church, including Catholics most committed to pro-life causes."
If the Pope wants to win over pro-life Catholics, he'll have to explain why being pro-Creation doesn't make you anti-procreation. There is a way to be environmental as a pro-life Catholic: reduce consumption.
Rich countries, like the United States, are resource devourers and carbon emitting machines, even though they don't have the biggest population. In the coming decades, it is likely that most of the world's population growth will be in India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. But the carbon emissions of just one American is equivalent to approximately four Chinese, 20 Indians, 30 Pakistanis, 40 Nigerians, or 250 Ethiopians. Just 7 percent of the global population is responsible for 50 percent of the world's carbon emissions.
To solve the climate crisis, the goal shouldn't be zero babies -- it should be zero emissions.
Pope Francis isn't required to accept birth control and family planning if he's going to advocate for climate action. There is no logical progression that requires a choice between environmentalism and pro-life, Catholic principles. All that is required is a conscious choice not to greedily overconsume or waste God's gifts.
In fact, don't waste anything because every sperm is just as sacred as every solar panel.
EdenKeeper is an information source for those interested in the connection between religion and the environment. If you would like to read more visit: www.edenkeeper.org.
Image is screen shot taken from YouTube.