David Cloutier, associate professor of theology, loves talking about ethics. His life’s work delves deeply into our moral choices and the impact they have on society. Not surprisingly, his stance on how we should live in God’s world is sometimes countercultural.

For example, a strand of Cloutier’s work focuses on the use of personal wealth. Cloutier says wealth is meant to allow us to direct our resources to good works and helping others, following Jesus’ and Pope Francis’ example.

His award-winning book, The Vice of Luxury — recognized by the Association of American Publishers as the best in its field of scholarly thought — integrates economics, social justice, and theology. Cloutier’s message calls for change in our economic and social practices.

“As a wealthy nation, we have resources to spare, but we often struggle to help those in need. Much wealth that should benefit the community now goes only to benefit individuals who already have an abundance,” Cloutier says.

His 2016 paper, “Catholic Moral Traditions and Energy Ethics for the Twenty-First Century,” is another example of Cloutier’s countercultural thought, this time in our approach to God-given natural resources. Several of his works seek to demonstrate that environmentalism is an integral part of the Catholic faith.

Cloutier observes that some of our major life patterns — for example, the distance we live from where we work — aren’t sustainable in the long run, and we need to rethink them: “Make the choice to live closer to where you work instead of commuting so many miles and polluting the air with exhaust. If everyone did that, can you imagine the impact on the environment?” 

Cloutier has also provided scholarly leadership on Pope Francis’ encyclical. His commentary, Reading, Praying, Living Pope Francis’s Laudato Si, provides a context for the encyclical within the larger tradition. He completed the commentary in five weeks at the behest of the publisher, who wanted a quick turnaround once the encyclical was released. The publication serves as a discussion guide for study groups worldwide. Cloutier has since served as an invited expert on Catholic leadership panels.

Cloutier was immersed in the Catholic faith early; the parish school “felt like the center of life.” In church, he sang as a cantor and with an ensemble. Multigenerational choir practice sessions brought him into close contact with adults who were serious about their faith. The experience was a central factor in his faith development and eventual career choice.