"We are losing our attitude of wonder, of contemplation, of listening to creation and thus we no longer manage to interpret within it what Benedict XVI calls 'the rhythm of the love-story between God and man.'"
+ Pope Francis
The United States-based Catholic Climate Covenant is asking Catholics to sign its petition that urges the incoming president to continue the nation’s commitments to address climate change.
Dan Misleh, executive director of Catholic Climate Covenant, told Catholic Ecology that "the the petition is both a way to engage our thousands of followers and supporters, and a way to put the Trump administration on notice that the Catholic community has a history and a passion for caring for God's creation and for those who suffer because of our environmental neglect."
Endorsed by over a dozen Catholic groups—including the Global Catholic Climate Movement and the US-based Franciscan Action Network—the petition, available online and on paper, makes three appeals:
- Maintain the United States’ moral leadership on climate change by honoring the Paris Agreement (COP21) and taking swift action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025;
- Support sustainable development and address the underlying causes of migration by honoring the United States’ initial pledge of $3 billion and further supporting the Green Climate Fund to help poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change;
- Support job creation and economic opportunity by encouraging states to craft plans to reach and exceed their Clean Power Plan carbon reduction goals by transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power and enacting energy efficiency and conservation standards.
“An overwhelming majority of Catholics in the United States (73 percent) believe that government needs to do more to address the issue of climate change,” the petition states. [This is] “a sentiment repeatedly expressed by Pope Francis and our Bishops.
“As the leader of the most powerful country in the world, you have a critical role to play in solving this crisis. We urge you to take swift and meaningful action before it is too late.”
In an email to its supporters on Monday, the Global Catholic Climate Movement urged US Catholics to sign the petition because “a single man, Donald Trump, is playing with our futures by threatening to withdraw the United States from the Paris [climate] Agreement. To make it worse, he already has nominated dangerous climate deniers for his cabinet.” Which is counter to what Pope Francis (and his predecessors) have been asking us, the email reminds us.
The urgency of this petition is justified given past statements of the president-elect and the reputations of his nominees to head the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Secretary of State—both of which are seen as too friendly to the fossil fuel industry to engage in a meaningful transition to renewable energies.
In other words, the petition is asking Catholics to demand that the incoming administration care for the common good. And really, this is a responsibility that all Catholics must demand of our leaders.
“The Church has a responsibility towards creation,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2009, “and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere.” (Caritas in Veritate, 51.)
The then-pontiff’s words echo the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Quoting the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes (76, #5), the catechism teaches that
[i]t is a part of the Church's mission "to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, she may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances." (2246)
There are of course good reasons why so many Catholics supported Donald Trump. We cannot forget this. From the Supreme Court to religious liberty, issues important to the Church will likely fare much better with a Trump White House than had Hillary Clinton taken the Oval Office.
But other issues, such as immigration and ecological protection? Well, there the Church in the States may have a bit of a struggle ahead. Then again, she never fits neatly in any political regime.
Given what we know about climate change—its causes and its impacts—the least we Catholics can do is petition our president and his team to usher our nation into a cleaner, prosperous future with a moral and scientifically sound application of American can-do ingenuity.
In other words, let's keep our climate commitments. In doing so, let's be the leader in harnessing clean, renewable sources of energy that care for both creation and human life.
Now that would make America great.
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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.