Dr. Christopher Thompson, member of the NCRLC board, was recently invited to participate in the International Congress on the 50th Anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra, held May 16-18, 2011, in Rome. At the congress, which was sponsored by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, Dr. Thompson presented his paper, “In the Temple of Creation: American Agriculture, 50 Year After Mater et Magistra.” The conference focused on “Justice and Globalization: From ‘Mater et Magistra’ to ‘Caritas in Veritate,'” and was meant to offer solutions to social problems in light of the universal destination of goods and of justice, deepening the task of studying and spreading Church teaching on this topic.
NCRLC: Can you say something about the invitation to participate at the conference?
CT: First, I’d have to say that the invitation came as a happy surprise. I received it as a positive affirmation of many projects I’ve been working on for the past few years. An important one came about in 2009 when The Saint Paul Seminary and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference co-hosted an international conference on “the church and the environment,” which focused especially on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and the issues of the environment. The combined focus of classic Thomism and environmentalism was the first of its kind – at least for this generation of scholars.
NCRLC: Do you think the emphasis on Thomism caught the attention of Rome?
CT: I think at least the combination of the two areas, Thomas and the environment, did. While there’s no officially recognized philosophical school in Roman Catholicism, it’s fair to say that Thomism serves as one of the principal resources in the church’s ecclesial discernment. For decades, even centuries, it was the common framework in which much of the church’s theological reflection unfolded. I’ve been suggesting for a while now (and I’m not the only one) that Thomism can supply some of the much-needed philosophical and theological framework for addressing issues of environmental stewardship.