82. Yet it would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination. When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society. This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all. Completely at odds with this model are the ideals of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus. As he said of the powers of his own age: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mt 20:25-26).
The way we view and treat creation is inextricably tied up with the way we view and treat humanity, because we are a part of creation, completely dependent upon the whole, and because we were made to be connected to, working with, all of creation, almost as the brain/mind/soul is to work with the body, training and directing it. When we treat any part of nature ‘solely as a source of profit and gain’, subjecting it to ‘arbitrary human domination’, we are simultaneously doing the same to every human dependent upon that part of nature. And we are also refusing others, especially those who depend upon it, the opportunity and the dignity to work as stewards of creation, and so maintain the life of humanity also, in a spirit of service rather than domination.
As far as we treat nature as property, we treat humans as property too. I’ve argued previously that we need to move away from our oppressive concept of private property towards a more human idea of belonging, grounded in the reality of relationships and shared life, and it seems to me Pope Francis is advocating something similar. The best expression of this idea is in voluntary poverty, having nothing and yet possessing all things, as exemplified by St Francis of Assisi, with his love for Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and our Sister, Mother Earth, along with the whole family of creation. As Pope Francis says in n.11,
‘The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.’
God bless you, and God bless Pope Francis