Consistent Respect for Human Life
Respect for nature and respect for human life are inextricably related. “Respect for life, and above all for the dignity of the human person,” Pope John Paul II wrote, extends also to the rest of creation (The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility [+EC], no.7). Other species, ecosystems, and even distinctive landscapes give glory to God. The covenant given to Noah was a promise to all the earth.
“See, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark.” (Gn 9: 9-10)
The diversity of life manifests God’s glory. Every creature shares a bit of the divine beauty. Because the divine goodness could not be represented by one creature alone, Aquinas tell us God “produced many and diverse creatures, so that what was wanting to one in representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another…hence the whole universe together participates in the divine goodness more perfectly, and represents it better than any single creature whatever” (Summa Theological, Prima Pars, question 48 ad 2).
The wonderful variety of the natural world is, therefore, part of the divine plan and , as such, invites our respect. Accordingly, it is appropriate that we treat other creatures and the natural world not just as means to human fulfillment, but also as God’s creatures, possessing an independent value, worthy of our respect and care. By preserving natural environments, by protecting endangered species, by laboring to make human environments compatible with local ecology, by employing appropriate technology, and by carefully evaluating technological innovations as we adopt them, we exhibit respect for creation and reverence for the Creator.