Notre Dame Logo

Center for Social Concerns


Home > Our Mission > Catholic Social Tradition > Stewardship and Care for Creation

An Introduction to the Principles of Catholic Social Thought

Stewardship and Care for Creation
Christian love forbids choosing between people and the planet. It urges us to work for an equitable and sustainable future in which all peoples can share in the bounty of the earth and in which the earth itself is protected from predatory use. The common good invites regions of the country to share burdens equitably…It also invites us to explore alternatives in which our poor brothers and sisters will share with the rest of us in the banquet of life, at the same time that we preserve and restore the earth, which sustains us. (Renew the Earth, Section 4, para.C)

There is a solidarity among all creatures arising from the fact that all have the same Creator and are ordered to glory and worship of the Creator. Humanity’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his or her neighbor, including generations to come. As such, the steward is a manager, not an owner. Accordingly, use of the mineral, vegetable and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from our moral responsibilities. Our stewardship of the earth enables us to be participants in God’s act of creating and sustaining the world.

Studies on the state of environmental justice in this country cite race as a predictor of who bears a disproportionate burden of environmental degradation in the U.S. These studies state that, “African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders are among the highly vulnerable populations most susceptible to the injustices of racism, poverty, and environmental degradation.”

Likewise, the conditions of the poor are often closely connected to environmental issues. In Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope John Paul II argues that the direct or indirect result of industrialization is frequently the pollution of the environment, which often has serious consequences to the health and well-being of the poorest members of society. Moreover, the overuse of natural resources by the West endangers their long and short-term availability, especially for the poor. Authentic development seeks to make a preferential option for the poor in the same way that it aims to care for creation.

Student Reflection:
[Natural Gas] Developers … mine through the center of the mountaintops, removing earth and flattening the mountain itself. This is repeated for all strata in which coal can be found, peeling away layers at a time…Locals are having major difficulties with the sinking of the land under their houses, causing massive damage that is often beyond repair…As if the destruction of the environment and the beautiful scenery found in southwest Virginia were not bad enough, employment rates for local miners have drastically fallen in recent years with the coming of new technology…What is most disturbing about the environmental situation, however, is that the people living in this area obviously cannot afford to fight developers on their own, and no one really seems to care. It is a region that is ignored by the rest of the population, virtually swept under the rug without a second thought, aside from those of the neighboring states as they ship loads of trash and prisoners out of their own territory. Even more tragic, though, is that it looks as if this vicious cycle is never ending.--Kristine Martel, Appalachia Seminar, 2002

Questions for Discussion/Reflection:
1. What does Leviticus 25.2-4, 10-12 say concerning stewardship, and how can we relate those principles to the environmental issues we encounter today?
2. In what ways can we hold corporate and government entities responsible for the ways they have abused the environment, even if those practices have made basic necessities and luxury items available at a lower cost to the consumer (e.g. heat, water, transportation)? Should the consumer be held to the same standards? If so, what are the implications?

(6) Subsidiarity


The site you are visiting is designed with web standards. This note was made visible to you because you are on a non-traditional device or are using an outdated browser. You may only view the content of this site. Please visit Notre Dame Web Central's browser upgrade page for a list of browsers that supports web standards.