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Salvation now is green: environmentalism and its religious appropriation by the Catholic Church

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Renan William dos Santos
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Master's Dissertation
Press: São Paulo.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH/SBD)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Jose Reginaldo Prandi; Ricardo Mariano; Maria José Fontelas Rosado Nunes; Andre Ricardo de Souza
Advisor: Jose Reginaldo Prandi

This work proposes to analyze sociologically the incorporation and transmutation by the Catholic Church of one of the most appealing topics of today: the ecological question. The analysis included the use of a database in which practically all the pontifical discourses available on ecology were compiled. It encompasses the first one, pronounced by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and also John Paul II and Benedict XVI and the first years of Pope Francis pontificate, who placed himself under the worldwide spotlight with his ecological encyclical Laudato Si. First, a historical reconstruction of the social contexts that shaped the emergence and development of environmental concerns was made, still without the involvement of the Catholic Church. For conducting the analysis, three ideal types of environmentalism were built: the esoteric, the rationalist and the moralist. That last one is split into the intramundane and extramundane subtypes. Different environmentalist reflections were examined using this typology. It was demonstrated how the causes identified and the solutions proposed may follow different directions according to the meaning given to the environment. Sometimes, such perspectives not only differentiate but oppose each other. Included latter in this discussion, the Catholic Church often sought to disqualify the ecological reasoning presented by other perspectives, which could result in pagan or materialistic conceptions, contrary to the Christian faith. The Catholic Church has come up with a series of new interpretations of its traditional teachings, such as the theology of creation, postulating that it is the abandonment of the religious orientation that raised the environmental crisis. In addition, there would be no way to purify the physical environment without first purifying the human environment, because both have been polluted by sin. The solution of ecological crisis would depend, therefore, of behavioral changes in consonance with the morality preached by the traditional Catholic orientation. Finally, it was explained how this conservative way with which the Catholic Church faces the environmental problem is related to the process of secularization. (AU)