This Fall I’ll be teaching a course at DePaul University. The title of the course is “Roman Catholic Theological Thought: Nature and Envrionrmental Ethics from Aquinas to Liberation Theology” and I plan to give the students a solid survey of the various positions within Roman Catholicism, from the view of the Magisterium to those who are often in conflict with them like Boff and Ruether. The underlying idea that holds the course together is that there your ethical stance towards the environment is greatly determined by how you understand the being of nature, God, and society. I think I have a good reading list for the course, but wanted to throw out my current plan to see if readers had any thoughts.
I thought I would begin the class reading two Papal statements, John Paul II’s 1990 statement on World Day of Peace and Benedict’s Caritas in veritate, and the “Renewing the Earth” statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The idea being we quickly identify the official teachings of the Roman church in relation to the environment. The question is then to examine what ideas about nature lie behind these teachings and then we’d more into more heavy lifting:
- Selections from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. This would also include some supplementary reading from Pope Leo’s exhortation to teach Aquinas and a chapter from Willis Jenkins’ Ecologies of Grace.
- On Learned Ignorance by Nicholas of Cusa. Still not quite sure about this one, but I think he might teach a bit better than Aquinas and his reading of the structure of God into the universe fits with the theme.
- Then St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun” and “Sermon to the Birds” along with two chapters from Roger D. Sorrell’s St. Francis of Assisi and Nature.
- Leonardo Boff’s Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor
- Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Gaia & God
I’ve not taught in the US before and the difference between the US and the UK in reading expectations is radical, so I’m hoping my average of 40 pages per class is reasonable. Obviously, if this weren’t a strictly Roman Catholic theology course I’d take a very different approach, but I think this set of readings works well. Are there any major CST documents I’m missing or books you’d recommend? Thoughts on the Cusa?