Visiting professor lectures on dignity of animals
Aidan Lewis | Monday, November 2, 2015
Fr. Denis Edwards, a professorial fellow in theology at Australian Catholic University, examined Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato si’, during a lecture Monday evening at Geddes Hall. In his talk, Edwards focused on the value the encyclical places on nonhuman creatures.
In the past, Edwards said, it was largely believed that there should be “no ethical commitment to animals because they are there for human use.” Edwards said the encyclical contradicts this, since it places an inherent value on the life of an animal.
“We must recognize that they have intrinsic value,” Edwards said. “They have value before God, their creator. They give glory to God by being what they are.”
As a result, this makes our overconsumption of animals morally wrong, Edwards said.
“Because of our human actions, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence nor convey their message to us,” he said
In order to prevent further extinctions, Edwards said, we must stop viewing animals as solely a resource for humans to exploit.
“See other creatures as having their own God-given meaning and value, and so as demanding respect, protection and love from human beings,” Edwards said.
Further, Edwards said we should respect animal life because the natural world, which nonhuman creatures are a part of, can reveal God.
“We are called to find God in all things, to be open to discover the divine presence in all the creatures we encounter,” Edwards said.
Since every creature is a part of the natural world, every unique creature is vitally important to the appearance of God in the natural world, and must be treated as such.
“The manifestation of God in the natural world requires a multitude of diverse creatures. … Divine goodness necessarily transcends the limit of any one creature, and the diversity represents the fullness of God,” Edwards said.
Edwards explored the idea presented in the encyclical that both human and nonhuman creatures combine to form what the encyclical calls a “sublime communion.” In this context, Edwards said sublime refers to “what is totally beyond us, to what is full of mystery, to what is incomprehensible.”
Because of this, Edwards said, the sublime communion supports the idea that “the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world.”
As mysterious as this work is, it must relate to the coexistence and harmony of both humans and nonhumans in the natural world, he said.
“This is the basis of our conviction that, as part of the universe, called into being by one father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect,” he said.