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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Nun Embraces “Nature Rights”



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Social justice used to be about improving the lives of poor and vulnerable humans. Now, it is morphing into treating flora and fauna–even the planet–as a person “who” are entitled to rights. But this conflicts with benefiting humans when our thriving is thwarted in the name of saving the earth.

Now, in the National Catholic Reporter, a nun embraces “nature rights,”–even though it conflicts with Catholic moral teaching that embraces the unique dignity and moral worth of man. Adrian Dominican Sr. Elise D. Garcia describes how nature rights isn’t about preventing mass spills, such as Exxon Valdez, but preventing the kind of large scale developments that bring prosperity and better lives to people. From, “Rights of Nature a Natural for Women Religious:”

At our house – just outside the city limits of Adrian, Michigan, and three miles from the motherhouse of the Adrian Dominican Sisters – we can hear the clang and hum of three oil rigs, drilling 24/7, breaking the winter stillness of our neighborhood where the few remaining cornfields amid suburban houses are rapidly becoming oil fields.

This is the stark reality that leaders of the “Rights of Nature” movement, who met at a global summit in Ecuador January 13-17, 2014, are up against as they returned home to face the tar sands of Alberta, Canada; megaton coal extraction near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; genetic manipulation of India’s seeds; fracking in shale basins around the United States; copper mining and oil extraction in the richly biodiverse rainforests of the Amazon; and other threats to life in Africa, Europe and South America.

These activities are no ”threats to life” of humans. They offer tremendous benefit. If properly managed–which should of course be required–they aren’t even “threats to life” of ecosystems. But if the individual plants and animals matter as much as those of people–yes, they are a “threat to life,” which is why “nature rights” is such a huge threat to us.

And the good sister illustrates how nature rights is part of a growing neo earth religion:

For people of faith in the Christian tradition, a resonant connection to the ethic of Rights of Nature is available through the mystics and their sense of the natural world. “Mystics and theologians like Thomas Aquinas recognized creation as a sacred revelation of God – as God’s primordial Scripture,” Sister Siemen says. “Over the centuries, we have lost that sense of the sacred, but it is being reclaimed, especially among women religious.”

Through the teachings of the late Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry and the instrumental work of Caldwell Dominican Sr. Miriam Therese MacGillis, women religious throughout the United States and elsewhere have embraced the mystics’ reverence for nature and care of creation as a constituent part of their peace and justice work. “Rights of Nature language may not yet be widely known or adopted among Catholics,” Siemen said, “but it’s a natural for Catholic Sisters, who could play a powerful role in advancing this movement.

This is a serious development that seeks to expand social justice to include the birds and the bees and the forests and the trees, and direct Catholics away from the Judeo/Christian moral system.

Believing in responsible environmental stewardship is duty required of human exceptionalism. But nature rights destroys human exceptionalism and turns us into just another animal in the forest.

Catholics beware.



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