Is it possible to invent a new sin of ‘ecocide’?
Pope Francis, following a demand by the Amazon Synod, says he is mulling over whether to insert the novel sin of “ecocide” into the Catechism of the Catholic Church – in short, whether to alter the unalterable teachings of the Faith.
His Holiness recently told the International Penal Law Association: “We have to introduce – we are thinking about it – in the Catechism of the Catholic Church the sin against ecology, the sin against our common home, because it’s a duty.” Let us be clear. It is the duty of Popes not to invent new doctrines.
The Pope’s justification for his proposed invention of a new sin was openly Communist: “Global financial capital is the origin of serious crimes not only against property but also against people and the environment.”
For good measure, he went on to compare “capitalism” to “organized crime”, to accuse corporations of committing “ecocide” and to demand that they be punished for this “crime”.
Which are the nations on Earth where the environment is most grievously damaged? They are the poor nations, because free-market economics does not prevail there, and the Communist nations, because free-market economics does not prevail there. For it is in the free-market economies that the environment is most carefully respected and protected. They have the means to care for it.
A Pope less interested in promoting Communism than in promoting care for the environment would be advocating the introduction of free markets in developing countries.
The free market – or, as Communists call it, “capitalism” – is the surest method of lifting those poor countries out of poverty and of giving them the means to protect the environment.
Eastern European Communism was notorious for its grossly-polluted griminess. Chinese Communism is no better: at the Peking Olympics the air was so filthy that it represented a direct threat to the health of the competing athletes. The anti-“capitalist” regime was compelled to shut down the State-owned and State-regulated industries that were the cause of the pollution for the duration of the games.
The Pope knows perfectly well that it is Communism, not “capitalism”, the State, not the corporation, that is the chief cause of environmental degradation worldwide.
Therefore, his allegation that “capitalism” is guilty of the “crime” of “ecocide” is baseless, and his proposed solution – targeting free-market corporations rather than the governments that inflict upon their populations and upon their environments the Communism that he favours – is misconceived.
It is fortunately rare that a Pope, the chief guardian of the Catholic Faith, will allow his personal political predilections to obtrude so grossly as to attempt to abuse his authority by proposing alterations to the Faith to wrench it into conformity with them.
Whenever someone, however eminent, proposes to update or reinvent or otherwise tamper with the Faith, it is worth recalling the trenchant words of the Commonitorium of St Vincent of Lerins, speaking to us from the fifth century A.D.:
“I have often inquired earnestly and attentively of many holy men how and by what sure and universal rule I may distinguish true faith from fell heresy.
“I have almost always received this answer: that to detect frauds and avoid the snares of heretics, and to continue sound and steadfast in the Catholic faith, we must, with the Lord’s help, fortify our own belief in two ways; first by the authority of the Divine Law, and secondly by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.”
There are thus two sources of Divine Revelation: the Bible and the continuous teaching of the Church. Protestants, who deny that Tradition is a source of revelation, err. By the same token, those who put themselves or their notions forward as a third source of Revelation err.
St Vincent anticipated the Protestant heresy of sola scriptura by a thousand years when he wrote:
“You may ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete and sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason: because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, not everyone accepts it in the same sense. One understands its words in one way, another in another. It seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters.
“Therefore, since there are so many errors on so many points of detail, it is necessary that the Catholic Church should lay down the rules for interpreting and correctly understanding the prophets and apostles.”
St Vincent anticipated what I suppose we shall have to call the Franciscan heresy by 1500 years when he wrote:
“In the Catholic Church herself, all possible care must be taken that we hold fast to that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. …
“We shall respect universality if we confess the truth of the one faith that the whole Church throughout the world confesses.
“We shall respect antiquity if we never deviate from the interpretations advanced by our holy ancestors and fathers.
“We shall likewise respect consent if in antiquity itself we adhere to the continuous definitions and declarations of all – or of almost all – fathers and doctors.
“What, then, will a Catholic do, if a small portion of the Church cuts itself off from the communion of the universal faith? We should prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member.
“What if some novel contagion were to menace not merely a small part of the Church but the whole Church? Then he will cleave to antiquity, the antidote to the fraud of novelty.”
St Vincent also deals sternly with those who complain that if we cannot change the unchangeable Faith there can be no progress in the Church:
“You may ask, Can there, then, be no progress in Christ’s Church? Yes, there can: all possible progress. For who is so envious of men, so jealous of God, as to try to forbid it? However, it must be real progress, not alteration of the faith.
“Progress enlarges our understanding. Alteration is mere tampering. Over the centuries, then, understanding – the knowledge and wisdom of each and of all, of one man and of the whole Church – ought to grow and make great and vigorous progress, but only in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning. …
“Therefore, whatever has been sown by the fidelity of the Fathers in their husbandry of God’s Church ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the industry of their children. It should flourish. It should ripen. It should advance towards perfection.
“For it is right that those ancient doctrines from heaven itself should, as time goes on, be smoothed and polished and burnished. But it is not right that they should be changed or maimed or mutilated. They may be ever better illustrated, demonstrated, defined: but they must retain their completeness, their integrity, their essence.
“If any dishonest tampering with the Faith is permitted, religion will be in grave danger of being utterly destroyed and annihilated. If any part of Catholic truth is abandoned, another and another and another will then be abandoned as a matter of course. If some portions have been rejected, what will follow in the end but the rejection of the whole?
“If new begins to be mingled with old, foreign with domestic, profane with sacred, in the end the Church will have nothing left untampered with, nothing unadulterated, nothing sound, nothing pure. Where there was once a sanctuary of chaste and undefiled truth, instead there will be a brothel of base and wicked errors. May God’s mercy avert this wickedness from the minds of His servants, and confine it to the madness of the ungodly!
“The Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, never deletes what is necessary, never adds what is superfluous, never loses what is her own, never snatches what is another’s.
“The Church, faithfully and judiciously preserving ancient doctrine, keeps one object carefully in view. Whatever antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, she will shape and polish. Whatever is already shaped and polished, she will consolidate and strengthen. Whatever is already ratified and defined, she will guard and defend.
“Finally, the purpose of the decrees made by Councils of the Church is to ensure that what was once believed simply should in future be believed intelligently, that what was once preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was once practised negligently should in future be practised with extra care.
“This is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils: this and nothing else. She has bequeathed to posterity in concise writing what she had inherited from antiquity only by word of mouth. Often, for better understanding, she gives an old article of faith a new name.”
“Ecocide” is a new name, but it is also a novel and hence heretical doctrine. That we should use the gifts of nature for their intended purposes and should be responsible and not wanton in their use was made quite clear in the Book of Genesis. That we should defer to the gibbering nonsense of the climate change fanatics is heresy. Whoseover demands any such deference, it will be our duty as well as our right to pay him no heed.