EARTH DAY 1990; FOCUS ON HUMANS, CARDINAL CAUTIONS
By ARI L. GOLDMAN
Published: April 23, 1990
LEAD: Amid all the Earth Day hoopla, John Cardinal O'Connor of New York added a note of caution yesterday. ''The earth exists for the human person and not vice versa,'' he said in his homily at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Amid all the Earth Day hoopla, John Cardinal O'Connor of New York added a note of caution yesterday. ''The earth exists for the human person and not vice versa,'' he said in his homily at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The outspoken Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York insisted that he supported Earth Day, but that the accent had to be clear. Rather than focus on ''snails and whales,'' he said, the focus must be ''on the sacredness of the human person.'' He singled out the homeless, the hungry, those suffering from AIDS and ''unborn babies.''
''One of the most dangerous environments in the world today is the mother's womb,'' he said. ''Millions of babies are killed there each year.''
A Warning From Theologians
Cardinal O'Connor, an ardent foe of legalized abortion, seemed to be echoing misgivings about Earth Day expressed by some conservative Christian theologians: They warn that the popular environmental argument that the world is ''one organism'' relegates man to a subsidiary rather than the central role on earth, as spelled out in the Bible.
At the same time, the Cardinal followed the lead of Pope John Paul II, who in recent messages expressed concern about the ''ecological crisis'' as a moral issue. In his sermon, the Cardinal quoted extensively from the Pope's most recent talk on the subject, his World Day of Peace Message of Jan. 1, expressing concern about the effects of pollution and the depletion of the ozone layer.
Just before Cardinal O'Connor's sermon yesterday, a woman, called on to read from the Scripture at St. Patrick's, interjected that Earth Day was, in the Psalmists' words, ''the day the Lord hath made.''
When he climbed to the pulpit, the Cardinal began by gently correcting her, saying, ''This is not 'the day the Lord hath made,' but a day, I suspect, on which the Lord rejoices.''
The Psalmists' phrase, he said, was interpreted by Catholic Bible scholars as referring specifically to Easter.
'Respect for the Human Person'
Cardinal O'Connor went on to ask, ''What is Earth Day?'' It is not, he said, ''a pagan Easter,'' ''a fad'' or ''an attack on the Establishment left over from the Vietnam War.'' Nor, he said, is it an occasion for ''a political charade'' designed to promote ideas he called ''non-truths,'' including the idea that overpopulation is a cause of the world's problems.
Citing several recent papers, including a 1988 study by the World Bank, he said, ''I do not think the total number of people in the world is an ecological and environmental problem.''
If Earth Day is used to highlight such environmental threats as the spoiling of the air and water, it can be ''a tremendous contribution to the preservation of the world,'' he said.
But he added, ''The ecological crisis is a moral crisis.'' And until ''we've developed respect for the human person, we are not going to have respect for our planet,'' he said.
The Cardinal said Earth Day was a time to ''express our gratitude to God the Creator'' for the world ''he has given us for our use, not abuse.''