OOS 44-3
Pope Francis' environmental encyclical, catholic environmental social teaching, and implications for ecologists

Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 8:40 AM
337, Baltimore Convention Center
Leanne M. Jablonski, University of Dayton Hanley Sustainability Institute, Marianist Environmental Education Center, Dayton, OH
Daniel R. DiLeo, Catholic Climate Covenant, Washington, DC

Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology offers a rich opportunity to cultivate a stronger relationship between Catholicism and the field of ecology that can benefit society, especially regarding ecological degradation, resource scarcity, overconsumption, and climate change. Catholicism has a complicated, and sometimes unpleasant, history with both science and other faith traditions.  The Catholic Church (CC) of the past 50 years, however, values science and ecumenism in a way that provides opportunities for fruitful dialogue and collaboration. We explore how Catholicism and ecology can learn from and work together to advance ecological sustainability and preserve the integrity of ecosystems and integrity of creation (CC term).  We outline the CC’s tradition of justice - Catholic Social Teaching (CST), reflect on the CST principle regarding environmental stewardship, and consider the CC’s understanding of humanity’s place within and in relationship to the entire ecosystem.  We discuss how the CC connects its principle of environmental stewardship with other CST principles to create an ethic of environmental justice.   Following this overview, we outline Pope Francis’ encyclical and highlight points of continuity with Catholic tradition and innovative developments. We explore the challenges and opportunities around developing the relationship between Catholicism and ecology as systems, and especially between scientists and members of Catholic educational institutions and congregations. We propose ways to foster reciprocal collaboration between ecologists, theologians and Catholic leadership to achieve the needed interdisciplinary dialogue, understanding and general public education and outreach

Pope Francis’ encyclical offers an unprecedented opportunity to build bridges and partnerships between ecologists and Catholics.   As 24% of the US and 16% of the global population, Catholic choices and engagement have impact.  Ecologists can help Catholics better understand climate science, ecosystem dynamics and vulnerabilities in an accessible way and further integrate “human” and “natural” ecology concepts.  Additionally, the CC can help ecologists better connect scientific research to a rich ethical tradition with great capacity to translate into faith-based action and outreach that engages the public in fostering earth stewardship. The CC offers ecologists access to a robust network and infrastructure of institutional bodies (e.g. congregations, colleges, schools, hospitals) through which to develop and share ecologically-sensitive, ethically-compelling messages and advocacy materials.   In sum, the encyclical provides ecologists and the CC with an unparalleled opportunity to dialogue and collaborate to help each community better realize its respective visionary scope as universal (CC) and inclusive (ecology) and thus advance ecology in the U.S. and globally.