3.5.2 Response to Exercise

Deane-Drummond brings out that Pope John Paul II, from early in his papacy, articulated ways in which ecological concern and responsibility arise from central aspects of Christian teaching:

  • Redemptor Hominis (1979), a portion of which you read earlier in this unit, both connects ecological problems with other social injustices and sets out positively what right relationships among humans and with the natural world should look like.
  • Deane-Drummond says that, in some contrast, John Paul’s encyclical on working life, Laborem Exercens (1981), stresses human dominion over the earth in a way that can easily appear “oppressively anthropocentric” (p. 198). We shall study this encyclical closely in Unit 4.
  • In her discussion of Solicitudo Rei Socialis (1987), she emphasises that there John Paul teaches that it is “the right exercise of human dominion… ‘within the framework of obedience to divine law’ that is the means of human ‘perfection’”.  This means that ecologically responsible living is “the very means through which humans… express the image of God” (p. 199; italics original).

This fits closely with what we learned about how to interpret ‘image of God’ earlier in the unit (3.3.4-3.3.7).

  • She shows clearly, too, that the same encyclical sees proper human relationships with non-human nature as an inherent part of economic development that is just.  She brings out the way that this understanding finds expression powerfully in Centesimus Annus also (1991).  (This very important encyclical is set as reading in Unit 8.)
  • She outlines the way in which John Paul II articulated a ‘cosmic Christology’ (p. 206, as described earlier in 3.5.1).

She goes on to insist that Benedict XVI has built on the work of John Paul II, rather than leaving it behind or taking a new path.  She notes that they both have a strong sense of a natural order or (as Benedict has put it) ‘grammar’ in creation that gives the context for right human living (p. 203).

In concluding, Deane-Drummond says that ‘responsible stewardship’ denotes what the several papal statements of recent decades intend to teach.

[This shows] that human beings are still considered superior to the rest of the natural order.  They are not given permission to exploit it indiscriminately but must show it the respect it deserves as God’s good creation…  While there are occasional lapses into more strident calls for human domination of the earth, rather than dominion, the overall tenor is one of careful stewardship under the watchful eye of God… (p. 211).



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