On Thursday, June 18, 2015, Pope Francis released Laudato Si’, in English Praise Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home. This encyclical is the first to address the sweeping consequences of anthropogenic climate change, and it presents Pope Francis’ pastoral commitment to the integral flourishing of all life. Throughout this writing, Francis draws on ecumenical sources, the writings of his predecessors, and current scientific research to argue that our current ecological crisis implicates all people living on earth and that there is an urgent need for an ecological conversion. Over the span of 184 pages, Pope Francis ardently criticizes the rampant consumerism and individualism so characteristic of our late modern society while maintaining that caring for the environment is central to the Christian faith. He repudiates interpretations of Genesis that call for human domination of the earth and urges us to cultivate and protect the earth to which we are intimately tied. Francis situates this encyclical in a long tradition of Catholic social teaching by emphasizing that care for the earth is care for those suffering from poverty. This emphasis remains central to Pope Francis’s ministry because he recognizes that everything in creaturely life is connected. The suffering of the earth, those living in poverty, and the actions that have caused them (both quotidian and monumental) are related to one another.
Just as Laudato Si’ addresses people of every faith background and nationality, Professor Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy Chair of Catholic Studies here at Vanderbilt, has organized a panel discussion consisting of interdisciplinary voices to discuss the encyclical. Professor Morrill will provide the essential context of the encyclical, showing how it relates to other documents like it and discussing its integration of sacramentality and ethics. As a (very) recent graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, I will expound upon Pope Francis’ generative call for an environmental spirituality and education by looking particularly at agricultural practices integrated within ecclesial life in order to re-form the way we see and interact with creation. Dr. Barbara Muraca, assistant professor of philosophy at Oregon State University and leading forerunner of the notion of degrowth, will discuss political ecology, degrowth, and environmentalism of the poor. As a participant, I hope this discussion will encourage more environmental awareness at VDS and in the broader Nashville community.
To find out more about this event and others like it, visit www.eosprojectvu.org. The Eos Project is a University wide initiative to raise awareness of environmental issues across disciplines.
On Care For Our Common Home begins at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, January 22, 2016 in Vanderbilt Divinity School’s Reading Room.
John Compton, MDiv’15