After Bonn, Catholics accelerate climate advocacy

From Pope Francis to US Catholic organizations, the faithful are marching forward with policy demands, concrete steps

Building off the momentum of United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, Catholics around the world last week advanced their own momentum in moving climate policy forward. From Rome to the United States, a noticeable increase in activity has grown out of worries over rates of greenhouse gas emissions and the desire for improved measures to help poorer nations deal with the impacts of climate change.

Here are four big, recent happenings in Catholic climate advocacy:

1. Pope Francis set the tone last week in a message to the Prime Minister of Fiji, who is serving as the president of the 23rd session of the Conference of States Parties, the international body negotiating steps to address climate change. Using his signature bluntness, the Holy Father worried over “perverse attitudes” that are thwarting the necessary response to climate change.

Here’s some of the report by Catholic News Agency’s Elise Harris:

Francis sent a message Thursday to a conference on climate change, telling participants the problem is something that can't be ignored, but must be met with a proactive desire to develop effective solutions. “I would like to reiterate my urgent invitation to renew dialogue about the way in which we are building the future of the planet,” the Pope said Nov. 16.

“We need a solution that unites everyone, because the environmental challenge that we are living, and its human roots, involves and touches us all,” he said, noting that unfortunately many of the efforts to seek concrete solutions “are often frustrated by various motives that range from negating the problem to indifference, comfortable resignation or blind trust in technical solutions.”

Francis said we have to avoid falling into the “perverse attitudes” of denial, indifference, resignation, and trust in inadequate solutions, which “certainly do not help honest research and sincere dialogue on building the future of our planet.”

The full letter from the Holy Father can be read here.

2. International Catholic organizations issued their own formal statement, as reported in these pages last week. Climate Action for the Common Good was launched by CIDSE, an organization of eighteen Catholic social justice organizations from around the world.

In releasing the document, CIDSE said it wanted to encourage governments to respond to climate change in a way that reflects the spirit of Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical Laudato Si’, which many credit for having a significant impact on the passing of the 2015 global climate deal in Paris.

3. The Global Catholic Climate Movement and Trocaire, the official development agency of the Irish Catholic Church, joined forces to help Catholic institutions make decisions about investments in fossil fuels.

The groups developed a toolkit, titled “Ethical Investments in an Era of Climate Change,” to equip church leaders, financial officers, and other decision-makers to assess their investment decisions in the light of Catholic Social Teaching.

It is the first global resource of its kind.

The toolkit relies on several decades’ worth of Catholic teaching on climate change, which was encapsulated and given new emphasis in Pope Francis’s encyclical letter on ecology, Laudato Si’. The guide is intended for Catholic audiences, but can be used equally well by any institution that wishes to fulfill the vision of Laudato Si’.

The information in the guide may assist Church decision-makers in choosing to divest from fossil fuels in advance of the next joint Catholic divestment announcement, slated for 22 April 2018.

The toolkit can be found here.

4. In the US, the Catholic Climate Covenant penned a letter to President Donald Trump and the United States Congress—a letter signed by some 160 other Catholic groups—most especially religious communities, universities, and charitable and eco-advocacy organizations.

“As leaders of Catholic organizations in the United States,” the letter begins, “we write with one voice to urge you to reassert U.S. leadership in the global effort to address climate change.”

Further along, the letter notes that

[t]he Catholic Church has long called for a prudent approach to creation. In 1971, Paul VI wrote , “Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation.” His successors, Saint John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have advanced the Church’s call for us to care for creation, a tenet of Catholic social teaching.

Catholic leaders across the nation and world have explicitly and consistently affirmed climate change as a moral issue that threatens core Catholic commitments, including to: protect human life, promote human dignity, exercise a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, advance the common good, live in solidarity with future generations, and care for God’s creation which is our common home.

The full letter can be found here.

Certainly, there’s more to come as the Catholic Church adds her prophetic voice to the cries of a worried and warming world. And so as always, stay tuned. But for now, please help share the words and resources offered thus far, and consider prayerfully what your role can be to help build a cleaner, healthier future for the generations not yet born.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.