Source Link: Ecology and Jesuits in Communication
- This article is in my view an excellent response to the viewpoint made by Louis C. Gasper in my previous post [文摘] Professing Catholic social thought in business and business schools. The major criticism made by Gasper is directed against environmentalism, which, as an unwarranted religion, has unsolicitedly muddled the socio-political order by confusing economic matters with theological and ethical matters. He wrote:
The environmentalists…demanded… that the environment not be used at all as an engine to recycle manufacturing waste materials... [T]here is inadequate economic and business justification for such a solution, how can one defend it? The obvious answer is to make it a moral matter. This requires some higher justification, and thus environmentalism has had to seek a religious foundation for its requirements of « corner solutions. » What amounts to a new, secularized public religion has been concocted. At the core of its creed is a belief in Mother Earth, a being superior to man which must be served and sacrificed.[ 4]
一個重大的問題是生態保護主義，與工業發展（不論是採集自然資源和傾倒廢料）必須破壞自然之間的衝突。生態保護主義是一種宗教，不論企業界如何 做，都沒有達到這個宗教理想的一天。宗教有一種特色，就是它幻想的理想是另一個世界，而那是在這個世界永不可能人為達到的理想。以生態保護主義來說，只有 人類文明整個退回到原始世界了，他們人才會真正滿意。而這背後，其實是把社會利益團體價值觀必然產生的衝突，賦予道德的高度，甚至宗教和神學意義。這在作 者看來是極度不合法（理）的舉動。(My paraphrase in Chinese)
- Now we have the following article written by Markus Vogt, professor of Christian social ethics at the Theological Faculty of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (Germany) and advisor to the German Bishops’ Conference on issues of sustainability, to comment on how sustainability is a warranted idea of Catholic and Christian faith.
- I wholeheartedly agree with his viewpoints, but two additional points I wish to make in advance:
- I have a foundationlist critique against his view– I do not think the Catholic social teaching (CST) can exert any moral (let alone legal) binding on non-catholic individuals and communities. On the one hand, it is good to undergird the secular principle of sustainability with a Christian theological foundation. Through this, we preach an eschatological hope « that reach beyond man’s social and technical capacities » and open humanity’s « horizon towards God » (hence our society may be drawn closer to faith), but as long and as far as there are religious-specific reasons behind it, there should not be any morally or legally coercive force upon individuals and communities who have not voluntarily entered into the covenant bindings of the Gospel as a people of God redeemded by the cross of Jesus Christ. It is crucial to keep in mind that the foundation for the « modern societies and economies » is by nature a social contract, established only as a result of multi-party negociation whereby « biblical imperatives are translated into ethical categories ».
- I have appreciated a more articualted and distinct Christian ecclesiology– The Church do « accept ethical impulses from outside ». Indeed, that we gain impulses and impetus from the world does not mean that we uncritically identify with their reasoning and the reasons behind them. Only because of this, we are able to engage with and process the social issues biblically and give them a « renewed ethical and theological interpretation ».
Markus Vogt wrote (all emphases, hyperlinks, and underlines are mine):
The globalization of environmental and social questions cannot adequately be responded to by setting up individual standards; it also calls us to question the principles by which politics and economy are organized. The task is to develop normative guidelines for the regulation of social conflicts, and for the design of social structures in the light of broad and general ethical values.
This is precisely the level of what, in Christian ethics, we call social principles. Social principles are the ethical grammar for the structural design of the social order. From a theological point of view, such principles have their place at the fundamental level where biblical imperatives are translated into ethical categories which reflect the dynamics of modern societies and economies.
When the principles of personhood and solidarity were taken up by Catholic Social Teaching, the Church accepted ethical impulses from outside (e.g. Immanuel Kant and his idea of human dignity). Early “secular” terms were linked to the Church’s own traditions, and so received a new ethical and theological interpretation. In response to new social phenomena, new ethical concepts and reflections have similarly to be integrated into the church’s teachings. It is therefore a conceptual mark of social principles that they are expanded as soon as new social challenges appear. This is what I propose for the concept of ‘sustainable development.’ It should be added as a fourth principle of Christian social ethics, in addition to personhood, subsidiarity and solidarity.
‘Sustainability’ combines and updates the traditional three principles in the context of the current ecological challenge:
- Without the ethical linkage to the principle of personhood, i.e. the absolute dignity of man and his ethical and systematically central position as the subject of action and responsibility, the far-reaching demands of the sustainability principle would inevitably lead into merely naturalistic concepts.
- Without the principle of solidarity, and without the many institutions that ensure solidarity in our fight against poverty, the sustainability principle would remain politically and socially isolated, without the necessary basis of its socio-political component.
- Without a connection to the principle of subsidiarity, the concept of sustainable development would lack any organisational core. Ecological imperatives could be misused to claim “more” government, “more” regulation and “more” centralisation – instead of promoting balanced structures of freedom and of adaptation to specific socio-cultural and natural habitats.
‘Sustainability,’ therefore, is a synthesis of the social-ethical diagnosis of a given historical time: on this basis it is also an indicator for our future, in almost all policy areas.
‘Sustainability’ reveals gaps in our usual understanding of justice. It brings together central topics as cross-cutting challenges. It often reveals surprising connections and “ patterns of similarity” of problems in very different contexts. In addition, ‘sustainability’ illustrates the temporal factor as well as the natural factor in all socio-political issues. It opens up new strategies, gives space for analysis and offers solutions for the complex interaction between local and global phenomena.
However, the sustainability discourse can retain such a central function only if it is repeatedly re-examined at its limits. Particularly in this regard, theology can contribute substantially to the idea of sustainability: by enlarging the perspective also to all those hopes and imaginations that reach beyond man’s social and technical capacities – thus by opening the horizon towards God and to a reality that we cannot manage or control, or save the planet on our own. Such a critical extension is urgently required, given the risk that the sustainability discourse remains isolated in itself. ‘Sustainability,’ in fact, requires an accompanying critique of ideology, to which theology can make an essential contribution.
A mutually complementary relationship thus exists between 1) the vision of sustainable development and 2) Christian responsibility for creation. On the one hand, our responsibility for creation needs to follow the path of sustainable development in order to become socially effective. On the other hand, the Christian understanding and tradition can enrich the concept of sustainability and improve its guidance. Faith offers decisive impetus to deepen the vision of sustainable development in its cultural and ethical dimension.
The integration of ‘sustainability’ into the context of social principles does not indicate any intention of claiming the term as ‘Christian’. Rather, it links it to the Christian content and thereby illuminates new dimensions. In this way, ‘sustainability’ becomes a term that contextualises the Christian message and explains its meaning in modern society. Indeed, the discourse of sustainability can serve inherently as a promising bridge for communication between the Church and modern society.
- [文摘] Professing Catholic social thought in business and business schools (breath35.wordpress.com)
- Vatican calls on businesses to be ethical, create economic justice (onecatholicnews.wordpress.com)
- Business ethics summit begins at the Vatican (onecatholicnews.wordpress.com)