Catholic Universities’ Ethical Engagement
Through Environmental Sustainability Education

Chapter published by Maria Manzon, and from the SACRU Working Group 2 on Laudato Si

This chapter aims to contribute to the ongoing academic debate on the issue of sustainability in a higher education context by focusing on the role of Catholic universities around the world from an ethical perspective of the two-fold pedagogical style typical of Catholic higher education. The first “fold” is critical dissidence that defies what Freire called “the scourge of neoliberalism” and its cynical fatalism (1998, p. 22); the second is creative counter-imagination that is underpinned by the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si′ (LS) and moves decidedly towards integral and sustainable development. To clarify the actions taken by Catholic universities and their approach to achieving sustainable futures, the chapter is organized as follows: The first section briefly presents the framework of international agreements and conventions that have been signed and effected to help produce education systems that respond ethically to the sustainability of the environment in which people live.

Next, we examine the ethical relevance of religion in the discussion of environmental sustainability. The final section illustrates the impact of the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si′ and its ethical principles in provoking a worldwide debate about the ecological question, especially in upholding the commitment and engagement of Catholic universities with the pressing environmental challenges of our time. Finally, the conclusion section addresses the suggestion that, by their ethical missions and identities, Catholic universities should see themselves as particularly well-positioned and equipped to lead the world toward a more just future for all. Catholic universities can become models of counter-conduct and critical nonconformity to the disproportionate anthropization and exploitation of our planet, which must be urgently stopped.

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