By Hilary White, Rome correspondent

ROME, February 2, 2009 ( – Radical environmentalism is, at its heart, a materialistic, anti-religious creed with its roots in the same philosophies that gave birth to the 20th century’s great totalitarian regimes, says a prominent theology professor at Rome’s Gregorian University. The same radical materialism that drove Nazism, Stalinism, and the pantheistic philosophies of the so-called New Age movement, has also created the anti-human ideologies behind the radical environmentalist movement, Fr. Paul Haffner told

“The thread that links them all together is, first of all, obviously, the rejection of divine revelation, of Christ, and the rejection of the Christian vision: and therefore, along with it, a materialistic view of the human person. If man is only matter, he’s the same as an animal, and therefore can be treated as such,” Fr. Haffner said.

Fr. Paul Haffner, a professor of theology at Regina Apostolorum University and visiting professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, is the author of over 20 books and 100 articles on a wide variety of theological topics. He has recently published a book, “Towards a Theology of the Environment,” by Gracewing press in England, that tackles the problem of how Christians and other pro-life people can come to understand the environmental issues from a religious and human-oriented perspective. 

Many Christians, while they are greatly concerned with environmental issues, are often baffled by the virulence with which environmentalists reject a Christian worldview and pursue the anti-human agenda of the population control movement. The answer to this puzzle, Fr. Haffner said, is simple: “The environmentalists are materialists. They don’t believe in the spiritual nature of man and woman. And because they’re materialists, they also promote contraceptives and abortion.”

While a philosophical link between the violence of Nazism, the totalitarianism of communism and the anti-life contraceptive emphasis in the New Age movement is not immediately evident to most, the link is indeed there, said Fr. Haffner.

“One has to remember that basically Nazism and communism are two faces of the same materialist and atheist ideologies,” he said. “The fact that one seems more right wing and the other more left wing is only an appearance in some ways. We have to remember that there is a very strong [philosophical] link between these ideologies.”

Environmentalism, he said, has in common with communism and Nazism, “the utopianist idea of the perfect race, and the perfect state. They’re basically twin ideas of the same reality.

“The link is a rejection of God, because both are atheistic systems and thereby a rejection of man. As the documents of the Second Vatican Council said, if you forget the Creator, the creature is also destroyed. And John Paul II said many times, if you forget God, you put man at risk. That’s the basic nutshell.”

Fr. Haffner’s book unflinchingly examines the environmental dangers of the materialistic consumerist style of life lived by most in the industrialized west. To the problem of rampant consumerism, however, he proposes another solution than that of the environmentalist movement. He says that the environmentalist movement’s materialistic ideology fails on one essential point, in refusing to entertain the idea of a transcendent God or any supernatural meaning or value to human life.

This rejection of God and embrace of materialism, he said, creates a kind of “open door” through which anti-human ideologies can enter. But he insists that “there is a Christian tradition of support for the environment.” The Christian tradition of environmentalism does not necessitate embracing either the materialism of consumerism or that of the anti-human population control movement.

“In both the eastern and western, or Latin traditions of Christianity, there is an inherent concept of respect for creation as part a larger whole, and therefore it is a consistent whole: whereas the modern environmentalist movement is inconsistent because, while it claims to defend the environment, it’s anti-life.”

“So it’s not really defending the environment unless you defend life. Because the environment is made for man, not man for the environment.”

This concept of a human-oriented creation is, he said, a fundamental difference between a Christian conception of the environment and the materialist environmentalism that regards man as a form of “cancer” in the world.

These materialist philosophies originate, he said, with the “Enlightenment” period of the 18th century, in which philosophers tried to create a morality and ethics independent of Christianity. Since then, the secularist branches of philosophy have come to govern nearly all aspects of public life, particularly in international bodies such as the United Nations, one of the foremost engines of the global population control movement.

With the recent anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many Vatican officials have spoken on commonalities it and similar documents share with Christian moral law. But Fr. Haffner said these similarities only go so far and because of the omission of the concept of the inviolable sanctity of individual human life, they are being co-opted by anti-life campaigners.

“Those declarations of human rights,” he said, are in part based on the philosophies of the Natural Law, but “have continued in a type of environment which is very anti-Christian.”

“If they were in a completely Christian environment, they would develop further and protect the unborn. Whereas in the environment in which they are now, which is very secularist and ‘abortist’ if you like, they become anti-life.”

The UN, because of the ambiguity of its secularist “human rights” philosophy, has become the home of bodies such as the UNFPA that work to promote abortion, contraception and sterilisation around the world. “These organisations are very very mixed and are filled with pressure groups pushing for things which are completely anti-life and anti-family,” Fr. Haffner said.

As a response to this, “Towards a Theology of the Environment” offers a “Christian theology of creation.” This theology “is basically the theology that God the Holy Trinity created the world, created the angels, created man, created man and woman in the image of Christ.”

“We’re here to look after the place,” he said. In his book, Fr. Haffner offers two models to follow. One is that of the steward or gardener, in which man looks upon the world as a gift to be cared for and properly developed. The other is that in which mankind is regarded in a priestly role, in which the world is made for the glory of God. “That’s the more cultic aspect of it. This is man and woman within creation offering that creation back to God, as in the parable of the talents.

“It’s an offering and praising God for that creation. So it’s not just making it tidy and beautiful. I think that would be only part of the story. I think the other side, which is relating it to God, is priestly. The priesthood of the people of God.”

If concern for the environment, he said, were to be wedded to Christian moral theology, the problems would largely disappear. He cited Pope Paul VI, calling him a “prophet” with his historic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, that reiterated the traditional Christian rejection of contraception.

Paul VI, Fr. Haffner said, “foresaw the dangers of the contraceptive mentality.”

“If you think about it, if the human race lived according to God’s plan, I don’t think any of these problems would be problems. People would be procreating within the family, and there would be the stability of society because of the stability of marriage provided for the children.”

To order Fr. Haffner’s book: