Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Call to Conversion

Imagine that the world truly were coming to an end, or, perhaps less hyperbolically, that the world was coming to the point of some major “destabilization.” Assume that this destabilization would result in the death of millions of people across the globe, not to the mention the likely extinction of hundreds (if not thousands) of animal and plant species.

In the face of such catastrophe, on the one hand, there are those who preach that we must do whatever we can to stop this chain of events and, indeed, not to try and do so would be a paradigm of sin, the most serious lack of love for one’s neighbor. On the other hand, as they are most heinously portrayed, there are those who will not change their lifestyles when approached with the truth and insist on preaching inactivity and skepticism. These men and women are the obstacle to those who wish to perpetuate common welfare and global stability, they say.

As accurately and effectively as I could, I have tried to portray the situation which Dr. Darcia Narvaez in her Feb. 5 Viewpoint, “A call to conserve,” establishes. She is well-justified in her opinion, of course; all people across the world have a right to life. And yet, her article displays a most serious flaw in moral reasoning, which which Pope Benedict in his latest encyclical, Spe Salvi, addresses.

Lent, she says, “offers us the opportunity to practice reducing our gluttonous consumption of earth’s limited resources” and that to become to lazy in this regard would be a “sin against charity.”

But really, Lent offers us the opportunity to find God in our lives again and to rediscover him as our beginning, our end, and the reason why life is worth preserving. Lent cannot be reducible to merely secondary goals, but must always have in mind the ultimate goal, God himself. In short, gluttony is not a sin precisely because I am using up more than my fair share of resources, but because I offend God, whose resources they are and who has destined them to be used by all to grow closer to him. To lose sight of God, therefore, is to lose the basis for any sort of real moral judgment.

The truth is that “climate experts” have failed to persuade me and millions of other people that there is such an immediate and pressing danger. No one has given me enough proof that I must convert Lent into the opportunity to stabilize a crutch for human existence. Yes, even the environment cannot be more than a crutch if we don’t recognize that God is its creator and that all things, ourselves most importantly included, have God as their end.

Pope Benedict writes, “It is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life. Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us ‘to the end,’ until all ‘is accomplished’ (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30). Whoever is moved by love begins to perceive what ‘life’ really is.”

I encourage all to use the next several weeks as the opportunity to know God anew in the light of the burgeoning Catholic faith which this great university takes great strides to foster and develop. May God always be the foundation for your moral life.

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