In an unauthorized release of the Vatican’s much-anticipated encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis challenges the idea that God gave humans dominion (or power) over the earth’s resources, and instead says that human beings have a moral and religious responsibility to care for the planet.
The battle of dominion vs. stewardship is not new within religious communities, but how do Catholics understand their role and responsibility?
Catholics are nearly twice as likely to say the God gave humans the task of living responsibly with animals, plants, and the resources of the planet as they are to say that God gave humans the right to use animals, plants, and the resources of the planet for their benefit (60 percent vs. 35 percent). Catholic views of stewardship align closely with what Americans believe overall.
Compared to Catholics, substantially fewer white evangelical Protestants (49 percent) and black Protestants (50 percent) believe that God tasked humanity with living responsibly with the world around us. More than four in ten white evangelical Protestants (46 percent) and black Protestants (43 percent) say God gave humans dominion over the earth. In contrast, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of white mainline Protestants say that it is our responsibility to care for earth’s resources.
For more on Catholics and climate change, see Five Facts on Catholics and Climate Change.