The Encyclical's Gift to Scripture Teachers

"The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man" by Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder.

In addition to inspiring discussions in parishes, homes and major media outlets, Pope Francis' just published encyclical will also prove to be a gift to Scripture teachers, galvanizing as it has questions about the meaning of the early chapters of Genesis and its relationship to science and modern movements advocating environmental justice. When school resumes in a couple months, teachers will have many resources to call upon to engage students. Even The New York Times weighed in:

Among Christians and Jews, theological discussion sometimes centers on exactly what God meant in the first chapter of Genesis when he granted human beings “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

Does this passage — in Christian theology, it is called the dominion mandate — mean that people can do no ecological wrong? Some conservative politicians do seem to interpret the verse, and related ones, as a promise that God would not let humans wreck their only home.



Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 1 month ago
I absolutely love Holy Father Francis, so as far as I’m concerned he can do no wrong! I trust his wisdom, his insights, his prudence. I haven’t read “Praise Be,” just some commentary blogs, including the mired reporting of NY Times columnist David Brooks who apparently sees Pope Francis as intellectually inferior to him. Those who don’t like Francis to the point of insults fear him as a threat to further erosion of their comfort zones and their veiled, or not so veiled adoration of the idols of money and position. How can anyone guided by truth, not like Francis? So, praise be, don’t you get it? We’re Theo/ Eco people! Pope Francis has given a new way to understand “theology” – pronounce it “ecology” – theology and ecology inseparable, the Creator’s signature on the works of his hands. At his birth Jesus brought focus on this relationship through kinship to the Star of Bethlehem, to stardust, shimmering in the end result of God’s primordial word, “Let there be light!” – the same light, the same star dust, that formed the entire cosmos and everything in it, including our bodies and the Body of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Jesus because he is Truth, is ecologically impelled and environmentally attentive. It’s also ecologically/environmentally stimulating relative to Jesus’ mind set, that he successfully shared his DNA with the DNA of other creations, maybe a heifer , Jesus asleep, or squirming as infants do, a newborn baby resting as bodily fluids intermingled with droplets of bovine saliva in the makeshift animal feeder/manger where he slept. Throughout his life Jesus was environmentally involved – much of his teaching dealing with water, wind, seed, soil and at death, the sun darkened and an electrical storm crashing about! End times promise to be even more ecologically wild, with men fainting for fear at what is coming upon the earth, the moon not shining because the sun has been darkened. Interestingly long before physical science knew that the moon got its light from the sun, Jesus spoke of it, that a darkened sun must lead naturally to an unlit moon. The Son knew what his Father had done, theologically a job done in Trinity – Trinity being the ongoing everlasting ecology, the environment of the Godhead! And all creation shares in the mystery and beauty of Trinitarian life. We do have to pay attention to cause and effects responsible for ecological/environmental malfunctions like global warming. Natural signs carrying positive, or negative outcomes are naturally replete. In Mt. 19 we find a hint of this as Jesus says, “When it is evening you say ‘the weather will be fair for the sky is red. And in the morning you say it will be stormy today for the sky is red and lowering’ “ Signs. They tell us something is happening or going to happen. “Praise Be” – are we listening?
J Cosgrove
3 years 1 month ago
Matt, This is not scripture but it is education. The Great Courses just came out with a short course on sustainable living. Have no idea what it says but it may be part of what you want to discuss with students in the future. May change my mind after viewing it but it is topical. I will be particularly interested in the lecture on sustainable water usage since it is relevant to California where my son and in-laws live.


The latest from america

 A photo panel shows Pennsylvania Bishops Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown, Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg and Lawrence T. Persico of Erie. The Pennsylvania attorney general released a grand jury report Aug. 14 on a months-long investigation into abuse claims spanning a 70-year period in the six dioceses. (CNS photo/courtesy of the dioceses)
The state’s attorney general said that his office’s two-year investigation identified 301 priests who abused children and more than 1,000 victims.
One of the leading novelists of our age on faith, fiction and his distrust of religious institutions.
James T. KeaneAugust 14, 2018
Panel members Ivor Frank and Alexis Jay at a public hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (courtesy of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse)
The new report finds evidence of appalling sexual and physical mistreatment of students as young as 7, as well as a culture of secrecy, at two abbey schools.
David StewartAugust 14, 2018
The Gospel calls on all of us to get past “analysis paralysis,” where direct action is always put off in favor of more research and discernment.
Mary M. McConnahaAugust 14, 2018