Catholic Views on Environmental Stewardship

The relationship between humanity and the natural world is a topic that has garnered significant attention in recent times, given the increasing concerns over climate change, pollution, and the loss of biodiversity. As a scholar in Catholic studies, it’s essential to articulate what the Catholic Church teaches about environmental stewardship. The Church’s teaching in this area isn’t just a side note; it’s integral to understanding human responsibility and the sanctity of creation.

The Biblical Foundation of Environmental Stewardship

The notion of stewardship has its roots in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, God creates the world and everything in it and sees that it is “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Man and woman are made in God’s image and given the task to “subdue” the earth and have “dominion” over other living beings (Genesis 1:28). Importantly, these terms do not mean exploitation but responsible care and governance. The word “stewardship” itself comes from the idea of a “steward,” who is someone entrusted with another’s property and expected to manage it responsibly.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, echoes this biblical mandate when he writes about the vocation of being “protectors of God’s handiwork,” which involves not just respecting the earth, but also each human being, who is created in the image of God (Laudato Si’, 124).

Catechism and Church Teaching

The official teaching of the Catholic Church also emphasizes the importance of environmental stewardship. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the ‘six days’ it is said: ‘And God saw that it was good.’ ‘By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth, and excellence, its own order and laws.'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 339).

The Catechism continues: “Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 339). This is not a mere recommendation, but rather part of the moral code that governs Catholic behavior. It’s clear: respecting the environment isn’t optional; it’s a requirement.

Social Justice and Environmental Stewardship

One of the unique contributions of Catholic teaching on this topic is the inextricable link between environmental concerns and social justice. Pope Francis makes this point in Laudato Si’, stressing that the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor are connected. According to the Pope, “Everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others” (Laudato Si’, 70).

Theological Opinions and Universal Teachings

While the foundation of Catholic teaching on environmental stewardship is consistent, the specific ways to practice stewardship can vary. These are often influenced by local culture, specific needs, and even technological advances. However, what remains universal is the notion that care for creation is a form of worshiping God and respecting His creation. This isn’t a theological opinion but a core teaching.

Individual Responsibility

Although Catholic social teaching often focuses on societal issues, the role of individual responsibility in environmental stewardship cannot be overlooked. Laudato Si’ states, “An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation, and selfishness” (Laudato Si’, 230).

So, taking shorter showers, recycling, and even planting a tree are not just “nice things to do,” but actually small acts of worship. They are ways in which we can live out our calling as stewards of God’s creation.


In summary, the Catholic Church’s teaching on environmental stewardship is rooted in Scripture and officially articulated in the Catechism and various encyclicals, most notably Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’. It is a moral obligation, not a mere suggestion, to respect all of God’s creation. The teaching links care for the earth with social justice issues, emphasizing that the health of the planet and the wellbeing of the poor are intertwined. Finally, while there is room for varied approaches and solutions to environmental problems, the core teaching—that we are stewards entrusted by God to care for the Earth—remains unchanging and universal.

In a world facing numerous environmental challenges, the Catholic Church provides a robust and holistic teaching on how humanity should relate to the earth. This teaching aligns well with the growing global consciousness about the importance of treating our planet with the respect and care it deserves. It’s not just an “earthly” matter; it’s a spiritual one. And that makes all the difference.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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