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Scholar probes links between Thomism, environmentalism

Catholic World News - November 02, 2011

In a newly published interview, Christopher Thompson explores the links between Thomism, respect for the created order, and agriculture.

“For centuries the Church advanced a philosophy of creation in which each creature was considered as a living whole, an ordered whole, which also served a broader purpose beyond itself,” said Thompson, the academic dean of the archdiocesan seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. “In many ways, I think one can consider the rise of ‘environmental awareness’ as simply the retrieval of this outlook on life. Nature is not a machine and creatures are not mere parts. They are, as Thomas would have said (and the Catechism does still say), formally and finally ordered wholes – created by God for the purposes of his glory. They ought to be treated as such.”

“The Church has a long tradition, going back decades, which speaks about the importance of agriculture, especially its dignity,” he continued. “The farmer was seen to cooperate with God’s creative order, as a husband and steward of the earth’s resources. Animals were not mere things, and a farm was anything but a ‘factory.’ Instead, the farm was the ideal place to engage in the original vocation of the human person – to till and to keep the earth. The family farm, the Church argued, was the ideal circumstance in which to raise the next generation, because it united men and women, children and the aged, in the common and noble task of drawing forth the fruits of the earth for the good of man and the glory of God.”

“A unified theological and philosophical vision provided the context for an engagement in rural evangelization,” Thompson added. “Now, needless to say, things are quite different. In fact, perhaps the most important statistic to keep in mind concerning the present state of affairs is simply this: of the 244 Catholic institutions of higher learning in the United States, not one offers a program of study in agriculture.”

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