Toward a Catholic theology of the environment for a priestly and prophetic people of God

Rose Zuzworsky, Fordham University


It is the contention of this dissertation that the Catholic tradition embodies and explicates ways in which a theology of the environment can be formulated. The major focus of this work is, therefore, an examination of what the Catholic tradition can contribute to such a theology and what it might look like. This work argues that the Catholic sacramental and social teaching traditions are particularly vital to the formulation of theology of the environment. Using an historical approach, selected themes of these traditions are examined to reveal the path through which each of them gradually came to include "concern for the cosmos" within its theological "field of vision." Because of the central importance of sacramentality to a theology of the environment, the first Chapter examines the American tradition of seeing the world as "sacramental." The 18th century Calvinist theologian, Jonathan Edwards--the initiator of this American tradition--handed on a legacy of expressing a sacramental vision of the world which would be taken up by Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists, and John Muir in later centuries. This legacy is traced and explored through centuries. This legacy is traced and explored through their theological, philosophical, and literary works, in which they expressed their sense of the divine presence manifested in the natural world. Flowing from the importance of Catholic social teaching's concerns for justice, the pastoral letters of the episcopal conferences of two Third World countries are examined--the Philippines and the Dominican Republic--concerning the environmental degradation of their lands. Speaking in their own voices, the bishops stress some of the "unfair" conditions and practices which have led their countries to the brink of what they consider environmental disaster. The dissertation concludes with an examination of the kinds of issues which the Church and her theologians need to address and respond to in the movement toward the formulation of a Catholic theology of the environment. Inherent in the formulation of such a theology is the response to the question, "how are we to live?"

Subject Area

Theology|Religious history

Recommended Citation

Zuzworsky, Rose, "Toward a Catholic theology of the environment for a priestly and prophetic people of God" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9520610.