Often the recognition that human beings are different than the rest of nature, incredibly, raises many objectives from environmentally minded people. I experienced this directly when I mention the extraordinary human capacity to affect reality, be it for good or evil, at the Bioneers conference a few weeks ago. But does the recognition of human exceptionality require an arrogant despotic attitude which so many people object?
Well here is an example below, delivered by Pope Benedict XVI, on his message for Advent for 2010. The Pope does not hold back in identifying the glories of the human person yet somehow in a very humble and grounded way. I challenge any readers to identify words or concepts that reflect an arrogant despotism that could reflect in abusing nature.
Man has an unmistakable originality compared to all other living beings that inhabit the earth. He presents himself as a unique and singular entity, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of a material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in the spiritual dimension and the corporal dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First letter to the Thessalonians which was just proclaimed: “May the God of peace himself – St. Paul writes – make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ “(5:23). Therefore, we are spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limits of our material condition, at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome Him in us. We operate in earthly realities and through them we can perceive the presence of God and seek Him, truth, goodness and absolute beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and we long for total fulfilment.
With emotion and gratitude we acknowledge the value of the incomparable dignity of every human person and the great responsibility we have toward all.
Believing in Jesus Christ also means having a new outlook on man, a look of trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and reason show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love.