Catholicism and other branches of Christianity rarely reflected on earth in se for almost two millennia. Earth was viewed ordinarily as the setting for human existence, the stage on which human protagonists worked toward their salvation in a better world to come. Periodically, some individuals within Christianity (such as Francis of Assisi) became known for their appreciation of pristine nature and their attitude toward nonhuman species. This article examines the development of Catholic thought in three stages: caring for the common good, concern for creation in crisis, and creation concern and community commitment. It discusses issues of water ownership, water use, and water purity as a summary focal point for analyzing church teachings on environment, ecology, and economics. Elements of the teachings of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas have been particularly influential in Catholic doctrines regarding creation and the goods of creation. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued the first papal social encyclical, Rerum novarum (“On the Condition of Labor”). The major catalyst for the encyclical's development was probably the work of a New York City priest, Edward McGlynn.
Historical accounts of American Catholicism are not complete without some recognition of the racial contours of life in the United States. As a people both racist and racialized, American Catholics have lived along a spectrum of racial identification, both reinforcing and confounding the black-and-white boundaries that so dominate American racial ideology. European Catholic colonizers introduced race-based notions of slavery to North America as early as the fifteenth century. Some Catholics of African descent challenged the institutionalization of white supremacy in the American Catholic Church during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at the same time that many white Protestant Americans categorized Catholic immigrants of Europe as dark-skinned outsiders. The immigration of people from Latin America and Asia has only added to the racial diversification of American Catholicism in the twenty-first century, further reinforcing the importance of race to the study of Catholicism in American history.
This chapter situates the controversies about sex and gender in the Roman Catholic Church within the context of ongoing debates about the nature of the Church, the dynamism of the tradition, and the authority of the magisterium. It argues that underlying many of the most contentious of these disagreements, including those about reproductive rights, same-sex relationships, and gender-based violence, one can discern fundamentally different theological understandings about the nature of the human body, the relationships between the sexes, and the malleability of sexuality. Having examined these underlying theological controversies, this chapter considers the contours of the contemporary debates about reproductive rights and same-sex relationships. It notes moreover that these controversies are not abating. Rather, the positions are becoming more polarized and the divisions more intractable.
This essay examines the relation of the religious universalism of the Catholic Church to nationality, patriotism, and the ideology of nationalism. In the abstract, one expects there to be a tension between monotheism and the existence of nations. However, the teachings of the Church are, in fact, remarkably nuanced, recognizing a natural, legitimate attachment to one’s fatherland or motherland. During the examination, problems of the point of departure and scope of the analysis are taken up, as well as historical examples such as the Kulturkampf and the Church’s principle of subsidiarity, including the bearing on the latter on corporate personality and the development of the individual’s image of the self.