Energy, the environment, and Catholic social teaching

September 18, 2008 • Categories: Journal Series

By Margaret Pfeil

From the perspective of the Catholic social tradition, care for the environment flows from grateful appreciation of the interdependence of all of God’s creation. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his 2008 World Day of Peace Message, “…[I]t is essential to ‘sense’ that the earth is ‘our common home’ …” (See also the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, paragraphs 466-471, 481-487).

Created_ imago Dei_ [in the image of God], human beings enjoy both the gift and the task of striving toward the fulfillment of the common good of all of God’s creation. The signs of the times—particularly the devastating effects of global climate change, together with wanton consumption and waste of the world’s energy resources—remind us that the protection and nurturing of human life and well-being require contemplative awareness of, and intentional care for, all of creation as the abundant fruit of God’s love.

The _Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church _invites us to examine and form our consciences with a view toward living more sustainably: “Serious ecological problems call for an effective change of mentality leading to the adoption of new lifestyles, ‘in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of the common good are the factors that determine consumer choices, savings, and investments.’ These lifestyles should be inspired by sobriety, temperance, and self-discipline at both the individual and social levels” (paragraph 486, quoting from Centesimus annus).

The 2008 Forum offers members of the Notre Dame community the opportunity to discern our own ecological footprint. As we each form our consciences on this issue, some questions for reflection might be helpful: Thinking about my own habits of energy consumption, how do I see myself contributing to a sustainable energy future? Considering my own role in the university community and our common mission, what would I identify as “best practices” regarding energy consumption at both the personal and communal levels?

Margaret Pfeil is an assistant professor in the Department of Theology. She specializes in Catholic social thought and the development of moral doctrine. A widely published author, she is currently finishing a book, Social Sin: Social Reconciliation? She is a founder and resident of the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker House in South Bend.

This article appears as part of a 10-day series titled Perspectives on Sustainable Energy. Subscribe for updates "here.":stay-involved

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