Contributors Do unto others

Coronavirus: It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature

Do unto others
Bill Scholl is the archdiocesan consultant for social justice. You can email him at:

by Bill Scholl

The Catholic Church teaches that nature is good, she acts for a purpose; and when we disrespect this natural order, we do so at our peril.

We are living in an age that makes us painfully aware that our technical power is far outpacing our ethical power. If we are not careful, we can destroy much of the Earth and so kill ourselves.

In principle, we see this playing out in global climate change, which threatens to devastate the planet’s ecosystem.

However, you don’t have to agree with man-made climate change to see the damage our unfettered domination attitude toward nature is doing.

We learned recently that zoonoses, a virus jumping from wild animals into humans, caused the coronavirus pandemic. This contagion happened because humans disrupted wild habitats previously untouched and introduced the zoonotic pathogen into our population.

As Pope Francis prophetically said in his “urbi et orbi” address on April 3: “We ignored a world that had gotten sick, thinking we would never get sick ourselves.”

Exploiting nature for selfish, short-sighted gain often has some terrible, unintended consequences. It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature, and it is only a matter of time before she starts messing back.

Tragically, this plague is not the product of happenstance but, rather, reckless consumption.

“We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses,” as David Quammen, author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic,” writes.

Quammen recently wrote in the New York Times: “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”

At his Wednesday address that coincided with Earth Day, Pope Francis enjoined us to stop ruining the work of God and sinning against the Earth.

He recalled a Spanish proverb — “God always forgives, man sometimes forgives, but nature never forgives” — and said, “If we have deteriorated the Earth, the response will be very ugly.”

We are seeing that ugliness now. As sons and daughters of the Resurrection, we know by faith that God can bring good out of evil.

Just as God took the ugliest thing, Christ murdered on the cross, and turned it to the best thing — Christ resurrected — he can bring good out of this tragedy, but only if we repent.

Will we listen to what God and Mother Nature are telling us? Will we get better at caring for the global common good by refraining from irresponsible consumption?

Behold him and her, whom we have pierced, and repent.

About the author

Deacon Bill Scholl

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