Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Ecology and Mary: An Ecological Theology of Mary as the New Eve in Response to the Church's Challenge for a Faith-Based Education in Ecological Responsibility

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Ecology and Mary: An Ecological Theology of Mary as the New Eve in Response to the Church's Challenge for a Faith-Based Education in Ecological Responsibility

Article excerpt

The Church's interpretation of the current ecological crisis as a moral crisis is the catalyst for this essay, which proposes a newly constructed faith-based model for ecological dialogue and education. The exploration and reinterpretation of the traditional Church doctrine of the Virgin Mary as the new Eve provides a theme from which an ecological theology of Mary is constructed.

Papal and episcopal statements that call for a moral concern and response to the growing urgency of the ecological crisis are discussed in order to promote awareness of the involvement of the Church's leadership in this issue. Analyses and interpretations by scholars in the second century Church on the doctrine of Mary as the new Eve are presented and reinterpreted to create a viable model with the potential to nurture ecological awareness and responsibility in the contemporary Church.

The construction of an ecological Marian theology is approached through review and analysis of the 1974 visionary pastoral letter of Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus (To Honor Mary), the writings of Catholic feminist theologian and Sister of St. Joseph Elizabeth Johnson, Catholic Ecuadorian-American theologian Jeanette Rodriguez, and those of other major feminist, womanist, and liberationist theologians.

This essay will discuss five themes: (a) The Moral Challenge of the Ecological Crisis; (b) Mary, The New Eve, the Source of God's New Creation; (c) Mary, All Have Called Her Blessed; (d) The Challenge of Mary as the New Eve to the Third Millennial Church; and (e) Constructing an Ecological Marian Theology.

THE MORAL CHALLENGE OF THE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

The commitment of the leadership of the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church to the "duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the gospel" (Vatican Council II, 1966a, [section]4) has been actively demonstrated during the last 15 years by the leadership's focus on public ecological concerns in light of Catholic social teaching, its appeal to all people of faith to bring a faith-based voice to the public ecological dialogue, and by its interpretation of the ecological crisis as a moral crisis. Beginning in 1990, pastoral statements on the moral nature of the escalating ecological crisis were issued by Pope John Paul II and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope John Paul II, in his January 1, 1990, message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace, stated that,

   Many ethical values, fundamental to the development of a peaceful
   society, are particularly relevant to the ecological question. The
   fact that many challenges facing the world today are interdependent
   confirms the need for carefully coordinated solutions based on a
   morally coherent world view. ([section]2)

   [Further], the seriousness of the ecological issue lays bare the
   depth of man's moral crisis. If an appreciation of the value of the
   human person and of human life is lacking, we will also lose
   interest in others and in the earth itself.... An education in
   ecological responsibility is urgent: responsibility for oneself,
   for others, and for the earth.... Churches and religious bodies ...
   indeed all members of society, have a precise role to play in such
   an education. ([section]13)

In its pastoral statement Renewing the Earth, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) issued a call to "theologians, scripture scholars, and ethicists to help explore, deepen, and advance the insights of our Catholic tradition and its relation to the environment" (1998, [section]5). The bishops affirm that,

   Above all, we seek to explore the links between concern for the
   person and the earth, between natural ecology and social
   ecology.... The web of life is one. Our mistreatment of the natural
   world diminishes our own dignity and sacredness, not only because
   we are destroying resources that future generations of humans need,
   but because we are engaging in actions that contradict what it
   means to be human. … 
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