Pope’s call for ecological action focus of cross-disciplinary talks

Pope Francis

“On Care for Our Common Home: Philosophical, Practical and Theological Perspectives on Pope Francis’ Eco-Encyclical” will take place at Vanderbilt University Divinity School starting Jan. 22. The series of cross-disciplinary talks is designed to spark community conversations on Pope Francis’ environmental letter.

Pope Francis explicitly addresses “every person living on this planet” in his recent call to action on the environment, according to Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy Professor of Catholic Studies and primary organizer of this series. Morrill is also a Catholic priest of the Jesuit order.

Bruce Morrill (Vanderbilt University)

“The pope describes the ecological situation as urgent,” Morrill said. “Picking up on both that note of urgency and encouragement for dialogue, ‘On Care for Our Human Home’ will bring pertinent scholars to campus, encourage reflective and spiritual opportunities around the talks, and invite engagement with the Middle Tennessee community.”

On Jan. 22 from 3:30 to 5 p.m., “On Care for Our Common Home: Philosophical, Practical and Theological Perspectives on Ecology and Society” will be in the Divinity School Reading Room. The panelists include Barbara Muraca, an Oregon State University philosophy professor whose areas of expertise include political ecology, degrowth, and environmentalism of the poor.

Also participating are John Compton, a 2015 master of divinity graduate who is focusing on sustainable agriculture, holistic food production and sharing; and Morrill, whose research areas include social encyclical tradition and sacramentality and ethics.

The panel will be moderated by David Wood, W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy and convenor of VUCO2, a Vanderbilt climate change think tank. “Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ connects climate change and social justice in a compelling and inspiring vision,” Wood said.

On March 17 from 3:30 to 5 p.m., “Engaging Pope Francis’ Eco-Justice Encyclical, Part 1” will feature Kevin Ahern, an assistant professor of religious studies at Manhattan College. He will speak on “Ecology, Globalization and the Common Good.” Ahern earned his doctorate in theological ethics from Boston College and previously served as head of the International Movement of Catholic Students.

Carwil Bjork-James, assistant professor of anthropology, and Michael Vandenbergh, David Daniels Allen Distinguished Professor of Law and director of the Vanderbilt Climate Change Research Network, are scheduled to respond to Ahern’s remarks.

On March 18 from 3:30 to 5 p.m., “Pope Francis’ Eco-Justice Encyclical, Part II” will feature Nichole Flores, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. She will lecture on “Through Our Sister, Mother Earth: An Ecological Vision of Family.” Flores, who earned her doctorate in theological ethics at Boston College, has written for America Magazine and the Washington Post On Faith blog.

Emilie Townes, dean of the Divinity School and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society, and Douglas Perkins, professor of human and organizational development, are scheduled to respond to her remarks. This conversation also takes place in Room G-23 of the Divinity School.

The “On Care for Our Common Home” talks, which are free and open to the public, are sponsored by the Edward A. Malloy Chair of Catholic Studies, VUCO2, and the EOS Project: Empowering Environmental Energy at Vanderbilt and Beyond.

For more information, email Bruce Morrill.