The Call to Stewardship: A Catholic Perspective on Environmental Responsibility
Chapter 17 of American Law from a Catholic Perspective, Edited by Ronald J. Rychlak, 2015
19 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2015
Date Written: 2015
In recent years, the state of the natural environment — on the local, national, and international levels — has received great attention. This attention has been both contentious and pessimistic as discussion of the nature and scope of humanity’s responsibility to care for creation is fraught with bitter scientific, legal, economic, and moral debate. Catholic leaders have brought the traditional principles of Catholic social thought to the conversation, proposing that these ancient principles offer guidance to those navigating the modern challenges of responsible environmental stewardship. Indeed, Pope Francis will be releasing a much-anticipated encyclical on ecological matters this summer which will draw further attention to these principles and their modern application.
In one sense, it is a misnomer to say that the Catholic perspective is new. In many respects, the Catholic approach to environmental questions is simply to take traditional principles and apply them to new circumstances raised by modern environmental concerns. That is, the Catholic perspective does not create new ecological theories or doctrine. Instead, it draws on a long tradition — dating back to the Old Testament — and applies principles from that tradition to current questions. On the other hand, what is new is the way in which these connections have been made explicit and the prominence that ecological questions have enjoyed in recent decades.
While there are a number of ways in which the basic principles may be stated, there are six basic themes around which to organize the teachings of the Catholic Church on ecological questions. This chapter analyzes the environmental regulatory regime of the United States through the lens of these six foundational principles to assess the ways in which American environmental law both comports with and conflicts with Catholic teaching on environmental matters. In so doing, it provides a critical assessment of current environmental regulations, and also offers a legal background to accompany theological reflection on these issues.
Note: This chapter is posted with the permission of the publisher.
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