We humans need to open our minds to the personhood of nonhuman animals

By Daniel P. Horan
National Catholic Reporter
June 29, 2022

In the second paragraph of his 2015 encyclical letter, “Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis reflects on the ways in which the human species has mistreated and abused the Earth, which he calls our “Sister, Mother Earth” in the tradition of his namesake St. Francis of Assisi. The pope then states: “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”

This single sentence says a lot. It acknowledges what both the second creation narrative in the Book of Genesis and natural sciences affirm about our human bodies being composed of the same material as the Earth, while also noting that we have “forgotten” — or, perhaps better, willfully ignored — our inherent creatureliness over the centuries. As is clear from the rest of the text, Francis believes that a major cause of the environmental crises that the Earth faces today are caused in part by the self-centeredness of the human species.

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