A Vision of Justice in Catholic Higher Education- Part II
By Daniel R. DiLeo
Last month, “A Vision of Justice in Catholic Higher Education- Part I” illustrated how the care for creation events being held this fall at nine Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) member schools operationalize A Vision of Justice: Engaging Catholic Social Teaching on the College Campus (edited by Susan Crawford Sullivan and Ron Pagnucco, and supported by ACCU). In particular, the essay described how these events exemplify the vision of the book’s third chapter, “The State and Civil Society in Catholic Social Teaching” by David L. Coleman. This second essay will consider how these fall events advance the vision of the book’s sixth chapter, “Care for Creation” by Bernard F. Evans.
A Vision of Justice and “Care for Creation”
In the Introduction to A Vision of Justice, Sullivan and Pagnucco write that the book “aims to introduce Catholic Social Teaching (CST) to a new generation of students” in Catholic higher education. To this end, the book’s authors “explore what CST says on a number of pressing issues of our times and provide concrete examples of students, faculty, and staff at Catholic colleges and universities putting teaching into action” (xi).
In the book’s sixth chapter, “Care for Creation,” Bernard F. Evans reviews what CST has to say about ecological stewardship and considers how Catholic colleges and universities might better engage this Christian vocation. Evans points out that Catholic teaching on the environment: is rooted in Scripture; affirms the intrinsic goodness of non-human nature; and recognizes that humans are concurrently part of and apart from the rest of Creation, which we are called to responsibly “cultivate and care for” on behalf of the Creator (Genesis 2:15). Additionally, Evans draws on the integrated nature of CST to show how care for creation is fundamentally connected with the Church’s other social concerns. For example, he outlines the Church’s repeated insistence that climate change is a moral issue because its adverse consequences disproportionately and unjustly harm the poor and vulnerable.
In light of this reality, Evans goes on to explicate how Catholics—individually and collectively—have a moral imperative rooted in CST to exercise greater care for God’s good gift of creation. In particular, Evans asserts that Catholic colleges and universities have an ethical responsibility to share, explore, develop, and apply the Church’s understanding of care for creation with and to the world. For example, he says that Catholic colleges and universities must help Catholics “make meaningful connections between CST and environmental issues of the day” (107). To this end, Evans insists that Catholic colleges and universities must “make clearer the significance of the Church’s teaching on a particular topic in terms of moral choices, prudential judgments, and daily living” (108).
Fall 2014 Events
As described in the previous essay, the Catholic Climate Covenant (of which ACCU is a member) is helping coordinate care for creation events at nine ACCU member institutions this fall: Saint Louis University (MO), Saint Francis University (PA), College of Saint Benedict (MN), Duquesne University (PA), University of Dayton (OH), Villanova University (PA), Mount Saint Joseph University (OH), John Carroll University (OH), and Marymount University (VA). Each event engages both the campus and local diocesan community through panel presentations; speakers include a bishop, diocesan Catholic Social Action and Catholic Campaign for Human Development staff, university sustainability coordinators, faculty, a retired rear admiral (and former director of the U.S. Navy Task Force on Climate Change), and Catholic Climate Covenant staff.
These events will accomplish several goals: highlight authentic Catholic teaching about care for creation and climate change; recognize the Catholic mission-based sustainability efforts of host campuses and their dioceses; and inspire faith-based advocacy around the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ support for a national carbon pollution standard. In doing so, these gatherings also will advance Evans’ vision for Catholic colleges and universities in “Care for Creation.”
For example, a local bishop may share Church teaching on creation with members of both the college or university and the diocese. Additionally, diocesan Catholic Social Action and Catholic Campaign for Human Development staff will enable audience members to better understand how care for creation relates to CST commitments to protect human life and dignity, and exercise a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. Moreover, university sustainability personnel will help the campus community to recognize how the institution’s sustainability initiatives are connected to and animated by Catholic mission. Finally, Covenant staff will enable Catholics to understand climate change as a moral issue and recognize specific faith-based advocacy steps that they can take. Specifically, staff will urge participants to utilize Covenant resources to submit Catholic faith-based comments to the EPA about its proposed Clean Power Plan and contact their elected officials to urge their support for a national carbon pollution standard guided by Catholic teaching.
In the fall of 2011, the Covenant and ACCU co-published Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A Toolkit for Mission Integration. With that resource, the Covenant and ACCU—along with the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, the Lasallian Association of College and University Presidents, Catholic Relief Services College, the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, and the National Catholic Student Coalition—sought to help Catholic colleges and universities strengthen their commitments to ecological sustainability rooted in Catholic mission and CST.
This fall, the Covenant is working to help select ACCU institutions further embrace and live out their dedication to Catholic mission-based sustainability by way of on-campus events related to care for creation. Through these events, the Covenant and host institutions are also putting into practice “Care for Creation” by: sharing CST on ecology with their college/university and diocesan communities; helping Catholics to recognize the connection between Creation care and the Church’s other social commitments; highlighting for ACCU campuses the connection between Creation care and Catholic mission; and presenting opportunities for faith-based Creation care action. In doing so, the Covenant and the host campuses are advancing A Vision of Justice called for by ACCU and the Catholic Church.
Daniel R. DiLeo is Project Manager of the Catholic Climate Covenant. He is also a Flatley Fellow and Ph.D. student in theological ethics at Boston College, and writes regularly for both Millennial Journal and Political Theology Today. To inquire about how your institution can become a Catholic Climate Covenant Partner, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.