Humanity and nature in light of recent bishops' pastoral letters and trends in ecological theology

Suzanne E Franck, Fordham University


Many scientists agree that overconsumption, the exploitation of resources, pollution, and overpopulation deplete the life sources of land, sea, and air, and cause the extinction of many species. The Pope and the bishops in their recent letters from both the first and third world set out goals that challenge us to create a new ecological sensibility that addresses our destructive, anthropocentric attitude toward creation. Their consistent theme is the need to change our social structure and shared attitudes. Denis Edwards attempts to develop an integrated ecological theology that reinforces commitment to sustainability and reverence toward creation. Sallie McFague also shares this goal of creating a relevant ecological theology. McFague however offers a contrasting perspective in her new models of God. In this dissertation I will argue that through the ecological theology of Edwards and McFague the recommendations in the bishops' pastoral letters are addressed and brought into conversation among the laity, within church venues, and among those in the field of science. My thesis is that recent episcopal statements concerning ecology provide a context to examine the theological positions of Edwards and McFague, both of whom reconceive our traditional place in nature. By linking ecology, gender, and justice Edwards fosters a move from an unbridled dominion over nature to a new reverence toward God's creation: by offering new models of God, McFague shifts from an anthropocentric to an earthcentric perspective of humanity and the rest of nature. After situating the major issues of the ecological crisis within the framework of theology, I will also show that the current shift in scientific understanding of the universe requires not only a comprehensive reexamination of theology but also the construction of a theology that more deeply respects the goodness of the created order, both of which are implicit in the episcopal letters.

Subject Area

Theology|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Franck, Suzanne E, "Humanity and nature in light of recent bishops' pastoral letters and trends in ecological theology" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3201128.