Headline: Human Ecology and New IdeologiesPosted on: 2018-04-14
Human Ecology and New Ideologies
Most Reverend Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo,
Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Nigeria
CCEE-SECAM Seminar 12-15 April, 2018, Fatima, Portugal
(Seminar between delegates of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar on “The Challenges of globalization for the Church and cultures in Africa and Europe”)
The concept of ecology is of common concern to political and social institutions all over the world with divergent emphases and motivations. The focus of the Catholic Church on the subject has been centered on man and articulated especially by the last three Popes. The angle from which the Popes see the ecological discourse has been that ecology must not be separated from or placed above the destiny and end of the human being. The Popes insist that ecology must be premised on and understood within the context of human ecology. The term “human ecology” came through Pope Saint John Paul II
Evolution of Human Ecology
In his landmark encyclical Centesimus Annus, written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of another equally landmark encyclical Rerum Novarum, he coined that new phrase, which is part of the topic for this session. He declared in that encyclical that man is the way of the Church. In Par 53, quoting the Second Vatican Council, he said that man “is the only creature on earth which God willed for its own sake, and for which God has his plan, that is, a share in eternal salvation. We are not dealing here with man in the “abstract”, but with the real, “concrete, “historical” man. We are dealing with each individual, since each one is included in the mystery of Redemption, and through this mystery Christ has united himself with each one forever. It follows that the Church cannot abandon man, and that “this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission… the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption”.(C.A 53).
John Paul II affirmed the Church’s “citizenship rights” to intervene in social and cultural issues wherever man is involved because she thus fulfils her task given by God. He declared in the same encyclical that anthropology itself is nothing but a chapter of theology because in order to truly know man, one has to know God.
It is around the centrality of man to God’s entire creation that the Holy Father proposed the teaching of Centesimus annus analysing what more qualitative existence for humanity ought to be and the role which man must play in the entire creation and in the appropriate concept which each phase of history allocates to him. Whether in the use which man makes of the resources around him or of the environment in which he lives, the Church must not shy away from having a say for the purpose of teaching and admonishing man. He wrote: “It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed better when it is directed towards “having” rather than “being” and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself”. (no. 36).
It is in this context that the ecological question comes into the discussion, a situation whereby in order to “enjoy rather than to be and grow” man consumes the resources of the earth in a disordered way, destroying the natural environment and himself in the process. The discussion on an “authentic human ecology” arrests the pope’s attention for a few further chapters (38/39). His analysis is very clear that in order to resist the negative things of the stages of history which tend to compromise the journey to fulfilment to which man is called, the structures of authentic human ecology must be preserved. The Pope then identified the family as the basic tool for that task. “The first and fundamental structure for “human ecology” is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person. Here we mean the family founded on marriage, in which the mutual gift of self by husband and wife creates an environment in which children can be born and develop their potentialities, become aware of their dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny” (no 39). It is the family therefore that cradles, nurtures and preserves the “culture of life” which is necessary to develop an authentic human ecology. The pope emphatically called for an ecological conversion on the part of all humanity.
However, the challenge in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si regarding this theme was also preceded by Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. He introduced a new phrase “integral ecology” which further enriched John Paul’s magisterium on the matter Integral ecology conveys a new sense of justice, that the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of the human family, work and urban contexts which affect everything human. He proposed that all solutions be based on “a preferential option for the poorest of our brother and sisters”. Benedict XVI highlighted human responsibility to care for and protect the environment as God’s gift entrusted to human stewardship. In summary, Pope Benedict contrasted “the human environment” with the “natural environment” and warned of the dangers of seeing nature as more important than human beings (C.V. Nos. 48-50).
Pope Francis’ approach therefore brings together his predecessors’ focus on the social role of the family, the unity of Catholic sexual and social teaching, and awareness of human moral responsibility for the environment. To this, he adds a heightened awareness of the impact of economic factors on both the family and the environment — thus “a new human ecology.” In 2016 he announced and inaugurated the new head of two Vatican Bodies dedicated to life and the family, namely: The Pontifical Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family and The Pontifical Academy for Life. The pope asked Archbishop Vincent Paglia, coordinating the Institutions, to emphasise and nurture the following:
• “Care for the dignity of the human person in different stages of life”
• “Reciprocal respect between the sexes and among the generations”
• “Defense of the dignity of every single human person”
• “Promotion of the quality of human life that integrates material and spiritual values”
• An “authentic human ecology” which can help restore “the original balance between the human person and the entire universe”
The Church in Africa
The Church in Africa already adopted the family as an overall pastoral concept since 1994 at the first Synod of African Bishops in Rome. Through the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the National Conferences the Church has continued to grow and nurture the Church as family of God through meetings, congresses, conferences and activities aimed at keeping the importance of human life and the family alive. In spite of many political, economic and ecological challenges she strives to make the theme relevant and present. In 2015 SECAM held its general assembly in Luanda, Angola deliberating on new pastoral challenges confronting the family in Africa. One of the study topics was “The Influence of Modern Media and New Ideologies on the Family in Africa Today”. SECAM continues to animate and encourage pro-life and pro-family reflections in the continent. (Cf Laudato Si, 47)
Many national and provincial Episcopal Conferences in Africa have also been busy holding similar national workshops and advocacy activities in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Malawi to mention a few. Such conferences have produced resource materials, like literature, audio-visuals and musicals to disseminate the Gospel of life and the family. The Ecclesiastical Province of Ibadan in Nigeria staged an International Pro Life, Marriage and Family Conference in 2015 and has even produced two user-friendly Catechisms to help the faithful and general public respond to new ideologies on human life and the family. (www.ibadan pro-life, pro-family conference) Such efforts have bred numerous group and individual effort and activities that favour the sanctity and integrity of life, marriage and the family. Some Episcopal Conferences sponsor or support local lobby groups and pro-life and family organizations in national and state houses of assembly to monitor and confront anti-life ideologies that keep popping up, seeking legal backing or policy status.
Pro Life and Pro Family Initiatives
Many initiatives and groups exist in Africa which are obedient to the teaching of the Church on life, marriage and the family with some of them working even at high international levels. Theresa Okafor, Director of Foundation for African Cultural Heritage, (FACH, www.fach-nigeria.org) in Nigeria, won The Woman of the Year award at the World Congress of Families (WCF) in Salt Lake City Utah, in 2015 (WCF is the largest global gathering of parents, youths, lawmakers, legal scholars, academics and religious leaders united to affirm, celebrate, and encourage the natural family). She has been for many years a representative of the Vatican at the United Nations on related matters. As an authentic voice for Africa in the interface between a new human ecology and emerging ideologies she has this to say: “What the three Popes have done is to articulate a Catholic vision of the environment (ecology) which is pro-life, pro-family, pro-poor, pro-peace and fundamentally relational by drawing analogies between the degradation of the environment and the degradation of human relationships, exploited people and the exploitation of the environment”. In essence, to protect the environment must involve protecting all creatures included in it including the unborn and the elderly. Theresa pointed out the grave and seemingly deliberate attempt in the Western Media to turn the intervention of the Pontiffs to a mere green revolution as a reductionist ploy to ignore and down grade the truth. In summary she submits that:
*Human beings are also a part of the ecology of nature
*Human ecology must be recognised as fundamental and the basis of all ecology.
*Human beings are called to a responsible stewardship of the environment to protect it and save their own lives.
*We ought to note the reciprocity that as we care for creation, God through creation, cares for us as well.
*The crises we see in nature mirrors the crises in the environment
We ought to denounce the serious contradiction of the absolutists who obsess about the pollution of the atmosphere with toxic chemicals but have no qualms about the toxic chemicals ingested by people as contraceptives or by a mother seeking to abort her own baby.
Nigerian Obianuju Ekeocha, is founder and President of Culture of Life, Africa, (www.cultureoflifeafrica.com), an initiative dedicated to the promotion and defence of the sanctity of life, the beauty of marriage, motherhood and the dignity of family life and an international pro-life and pro-family organizer, advocate and speaker. She has spoken in over 15 countries and 40 cities all over the world and addressed many Houses of Assembly and Parliaments in Africa Europe and the USA in favour of the sanctity of life and the natural, traditional family. She is a regular guest on BBC, EWTN and helps to organize Marches for Life and Pro Life Conferences in Africa and the U.K. She works hard helping Africans find a voice against cultural imperialism and neo colonialism. These are two examples of Africans working assiduously with the belief that man should remain at the centre of all creation and concerns. It would therefore be stating the obvious that the family institution still remains highly important in Africa.
The Case of New Ideologies
So strong however are the encroaching forces and new fads which today undermine the family institution. Anti-family forms of feminism, certain theories of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, so-called Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and other curious efforts seek to deconstruct the sanctity of human life and the traditional, biblical family of man woman and children. Such forces, tantamount to “neo colonialism”, driven by interests from Europe and the United States of America, not excluding financial ones, target African countries and peoples. They seek to give human rights status to every human behaviour, no matter how strange, and also work to suppress the voice of religion. Everybody, except God and the Church, seems to possess the rights to propound just about anything. God, in particular, now enjoys absolutely no freedom of speech. (LS no 62ff)
Entire nations, peoples and cultures in Africa that cherish traditional and religious values are targeted by Western governments, institutions and powerful individuals including those of the European Union who have adopted so-called new sexual (im)morality, putting pressure on developing countries to accept ways of life and world views that undermine or completely negate what such nations and peoples cherish and value. Such cultural imperialists intentionally push for ideological change in policies that concern sexuality and the family as if that is all that attending to the needs of developing countries entails. Tempting aid packages, grants and other inducements are then thrown into the bargain. This so often includes intimidation where possible, to force these countries often with weak institutions and governments, to make anti-life and anti-family legislations. Many such aid enticements are made by governments and organisations while not offering any solution for better education, better infrastructure or primary healthcare in developing countries. This, while hypocritically claiming to cater for the quality of living yet at the expense of the sanctity of life.
This obviously results from an almost pervasive rejection of Christian roots and culture in Europe. By May 25th Ireland, perhaps the country that sent out the most Christian missionaries to the world, will decide through a referendum if the Eighth Amendment of the country’s constitution, which “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn,” should be amended, liberalizing abortion laws. The Northern Ireland House of Lords on its part, has just passed a bill to legalise same sex marriage in the only part of the U.K where same sex marriage was still hitherto illegal. Former cherished values seem to all be crumbling like a pack of cards. Added to this onslaught is the powerful influence of modern media which promote such new ideologies in an almost unstoppable way.
Brian Brown, President of the International Organization for the Family, which leads the pro- family movement worldwide to push back against the assault from the left, put it this way:
“There is a concerted attack on the natural family, happening in America and Western countries, and through the use of cultural imperialism, this attack is spreading across the globe. The powerful and the elite are in full-throated rebellion against traditional institutions and timeless morals. They seek to deconstruct the natural family – abandoning stability, prosperity and universal truth – and replace it with chaos, instability and poverty, both of resources and ideals. The western left calls their agenda "progressive." But … it once was called by a different name: communism. At the core of the ideology advanced by Karl Marx was the destruction of the family, replacing it with the state”.
Indeed, there are currently a number of Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights initiatives sponsored by coalitions of European countries whose mission is the increase of the prevalence of contraception in Africa, glamorization of divorce, or the legalization of abortion as a means of improving female reproductive rights and health. (Amplify Change Program and the She Decides Initiative are some examples, and the Department for International Development, D.F.I.D. which has sponsored the pro-abortion organization, Marie Stopes International).
Marriage and family are being “re-defined” by the LGBT movement. Many men and women are simply living together, unwilling to commit themselves to any lasting union. Some even have children together and call themselves not couples but “partners” emphasizing that there is no lasting commitment in their relationship and in so doing getting considerable support from the media and civil authorities.
It used to be possible to summarise some of the new anti-family ideologies under the acronym LGBT (i.e. Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual Trans-sexual). This has now been expanded to include anything and everything. The acronym, LGBT, now has other fancies added on, all seeking legal rights and freedom, even though some of these issues have been proven by medical and/or psychological research to be based on psychological and curable conditions. One now hears of “LGBTQQIAPPK”. That would translate to: LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSEXUAL, QUEER, QUESTIONING, INTERSEX, ASEXUAL, PANSEXUAL, POLYSEXUAL, KINKY, and more.
Today, a major factor in the rise in abortions is through the action of nations who seek to eliminate all unborn infants with Downs Syndrome. Iceland, Denmark, Netherlands and the U.K have been cited as leading countries in this infamy. All this is happening in spite of the effort of the Downs syndrome community beg for inclusion, life, our respect, love and to be allowed to integrate into society. The advocates of Eugenics are increasing and seeking to gain international profile and recognition and seeking to be admired and emulated. In the encyclical Laudato Si Pope Francis clearly shows how all the foregoing connects to the environmental discourse.
“Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of disregard for the message contained in the structure of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples –it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected” (L.S no. 117)
In his 2018 Good Friday address the pope declared that he is ashamed of the state of the world which is today “devoured by selfishness” and feels shame over the state of the world which the future generations will inherit. He said that many people in the world today should be ashamed of having lost a sense of shame. He praised those trying to arouse “Humanity’s sleeping conscience”.
Terrorism, Insurgencies and Militant Islam
In relevance to this reflection, we must consider the threat which terrorism, insurgency and new forms of Islamic expressions pose to ecology. Even as Pope Francis spoke on Good Friday 2018 at the Colosseum right in the heart of Rome authorities had to tighten up security because there had been earlier warnings of a potential threat from foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria. In many parts of Africa, terrorists and insurgents (Boko Haram, Al Shabab, ISIS etc) under different guises cause such arbitrary killing, sometimes bordering on ethnic cleansing. There are of course other parts of the world under the same yoke. The point is that wherever human life is undermined on a certain scale, the prospects of a new human ecology is threatened. In such situations the Church must be vocal and active in denouncing and rallying humanity to act in favour of the sanctity of life.
The arbitrary system of radical Islam which has bred terrorism and violence most urgently needs to be confronted. It must be seen as the ideology that it is, rather than a religion. Radical Islam is also in my view a formidable obstacle to a new human ecology. Patriarchal and hierarchical structures of dominant religions in the world have great need to be moulded to accommodate democratic principles in dealing with their adherents. This issue includes the promotion and visibility of women in their decision-making processes. Radical Islam does not however seem to have space for all that. In view of the terror, destruction, killing and rape visited on peoples around the globe the world can simply no longer stand by and accept that such radical Islam is a religion of peace.
Unless radical Islam is confronted, albeit not by violence, all decent values of peace, freedom, democratic and human rights principles, both of the West and of other cultures and religions, are heading for extinction by force. This necessary, non-violent confrontation is mandatory. It is possible because while the international system today exhibits situations of conflicts, there are also manifestations of cooperation in areas where the West and other continents really desire to cooperate. This is a point where I think that the Church can also wield considerable moral influence.
The Church has a big Role
The Church therefore continues to have a big role to play. Saint John Paul II unequivocally asserted the responsibility of the Church to intervene forcefully in favour of the family towards a new human ecology. The Bishops of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) certainly see a big role for the Church in protecting and sustaining the institution that should drive the new ecology. In their contribution to the 14th General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Family they wrote: “For the life and survival of families, communities and the whole of humanity, it is necessary that the Church be at the forefront of programs that give primacy to the ethical order. The challenge is to promote an environmental ethic that involves the abandonment of a utilitarian and individualistic morality, and the aims, as taught in the encyclical, Laudato Si by Pope Francis…”
Lisa de Quay, mother and director of Crown of Thorns, (www.crownofthorns.org.uk) a catholic charity organization promoting the rosary, supporting the clergy and engaging in pro-life and family apostolate all over the world, lives in the U.K. She states why the Church’s role is sine qua non, insisting that the Church must act as Mother to her children:
“Through my own experience in the care and support of priests, and as the mother of a family of young adults, I am aware of the difficulties that our young people in Europe are subjected to regarding matters of faith and sexuality. I am also aware of the problems our priests and teachers experience, in promoting the truth of Christ against the progression of secular ideologies. Young people hunger for direction and often find the Church silent when they need support most.
The subject of chastity and sexuality is often sidelined in case offence is given or of fear that accusation may be made. Young people, even those attending catholic schools, are largely unaware of Church catechism, or of the importance attached to sexual morality. The curriculum pushed by secular teaching in alternative sexual practices and gender issues, causes great problems for our catholic teachers in teaching the faith around them.
However, the longer we delay in supporting young people in the truth, the more difficult it will be to untangle the great harm silence produces. The souls of the young are our responsibility. If we in the Church in Europe do not support them further, the sins of young people committed through ignorance alone, will maybe come to rest on our shoulders…
…As a mother I have witnessed youth yearning for support from the Church on moral issues and finding no reply. I have seen the pain of young people as they strive to keep afloat against the tide. Darkness or light can be chosen, but the truth must be heard if it is to become a choice. Sheep must both see and hear the shepherd. A child without support and vision becomes depressed and lost”.
It is understandable that much of the work of the Church can only be done through advocacy and teaching against the new ideologies under discussion. With the European nations seeming to increasingly abandon Christian roots one must ask if the Church could not be more urgent in bringing her influence to bear through its institutions and its connections on the project of crafting a new human ecology given the influence Europe has in Africa as a whole. Therefore,
1. It is necessary to reawaken the conscience of the European Union and ecumenical partners to the need for “integral ecology” so that the contradiction that currently exists between the advocacy for the environment and near neglect of the unborn, poor and old could be eliminated.
2. The Church must continue to disseminate her traditional catechism and teachings albeit through more creative and contemporary means in order to re-educate catholic congregations and the general public not to see ecology in an absolute sense as a mere “green revolution” but as an issue linked to the protection of human beings especially the weak and the defenceless.
3. It is necessary also to courageously and constantly denounce the pervading throwaway culture and the culture of death which create a false impression that human beings are disposable, this being also one of the causes of the mismanagement of the environment. Consequently, the mismanagement of the environment invariably affects living standards and endangers humanity. Those who propound new ideologies try hard to make the Church look like the enemy of personal rights and freedom. The Church must constantly and courageously expose this lie.
4. Effective advocacy is needed against specific European government agencies that are funding anti life and anti-family programs in Africa. The European church can further help by supporting projects and groups in Africa that strengthen life, marriage and family catechesis as well as programs that prioritize family as the foundational unit of society.
I would conclude with these thoughts of John Gabrowski’s. He is an associate professor of Moral theology and Ethics at the Catholic University of America. He writes:
“The popes have spoken of a human ecology, closely connected with environmental ecology. We are living in a time of crisis; we see it in the environment, but above all we see it in men and women. The human person is in danger; this much is certain. The human person is in danger today, hence the urgent need for human ecology! And the peril is grave, because the cause of the problem is not superficial but deeply rooted. It is not merely a question of economics but of ethics and anthropology.”
Therefore a proper rehabilitation of all human relationships and the relationship of man with the environment, and of human economic activity is necessary. It requires a clear grasp of the dignity of the human person entrusted by God with the task of cultivating and caring for creation (cf. Gn. 2:15). The crises affecting the natural world, society, marriage and the family are symptoms of our forgetfulness of our dignity as image and likeness of God and our vocation as persons each with his own unique personhood. That, in my view, is what the world needs to really recover.
I thank you for your attention
This presentation also features with gratitude, significant input from the following:
1. Professor Dokun Oyesola, Professor of International relations. Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria
2. Lisa de Quay, Director of Crown of Thorns, a registered Charity promoting the rosary apostolate, supporting priests and engaging in pro-life and family advocacy all around the world. www.crownofthorns.org.uk
3. Theresa Okafor, Founder and Director of the Foundation of African Cultural Heritage (FACH) and former Delegate of the Holy See to the United Nations.
4. Reverend Fr. Edward Emokpuero
5. Reverend Fr. James Ngahy, Parish Priest, Coordinator of Creation-Encounter and Dialogue (JDPC-ED for the Missionaries of Africa, Nigeria.
6. Rev Fr Joseph Guzman
7. Rev Fr Matthew Ologun, Coordinator of pro Life and Pro Family program of the Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, Nigeria.
CA Centesimus Annus
CV Caritas in Veritate
LS Laudato Si
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