Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Good Friday and Earth Day happen to coincide. Recently, the UN outdid itself in sheer pagan silliness by hitting the headlines with some nonsense about giving “Mother Earth” the same rights as human beings.
The notion of treating nature as a person is, in this context, just pure political scam artistry of a particularly ham-fisted type, of course. It is a classic watermelon tactic: green on the outside, red on the inside. An excuse for some bureaucrat to seize draconian power over human beings by pretending to be a Lorax and speaking for the trees (who, for persons, are quite taciturn and not at all demonstrative about their supposed equal rights). That’s the problem with Voiceless Nature: She doesn’t say anything. So instead we will wind up with UN Bureaucrats bossing us around in the name of Mother Earth.
Now the thing is, there’s a reason we don’t give human rights to inhuman things. It’s because they aren’t human. Human rights are for protecting human dignity. And they are given to us in large part because, as Good Friday eloquently demonstrates, no other creature in nature is capable of such nobility—or such depravity—as the sons of men. No tiger could have conceived of the exquisite cruelty of a crown of thorns in sheer gratuitous mockery of a helpless beaten man. Only our monstrously deformed race could come up with that. A blood fluke, a smallpox virus, or a lion all inflict pain on their victims. But only to fulfill their particular biological imperative of eating or reproducing. Only man invents the kind of willed and intelligent savagery—for fun, mind you—that the guard in charge of beating and mocking the Son of God concocted. Nature might, in blind accident or red in tooth and claw, pierce the hands and feet of a victim in preparation for some sort of feast as members of the insect world sometimes lay their eggs in a paralyzed victim. But only men, needing neither to feed or reproduce, create tortures as fiendish as the crucifixion and then gather round the Cross to laugh and make sport of the victim as he endures bolts of pain in his hands and feet as the price of his next breath.
There is nothing in nature like us. Nothing to equal that kind of depravity. And nothing else in the universe that the Son of God thought so much worth saving that he endured such cruelty that we might not perish.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.