When talk means action

Dr. Dan DiLeo of Creighton University has been on the front lines of climate advocacy for years—and he’s about to share why all Catholics should be there, too.

Eco- and climate advocacy is fundamental to what it means to be Catholic, says Dr. Dan DiLeo, a Creighton University faculty member, long-time climate activist, and friend to these pages. “Care for creation is a virtue that’s essential [for Catholic mission]—not optional or secondary,” DiLeo told Catholic Ecology, noting that that statement echoes Saint John Paul II’s 1990 World Day of Peace message as well as Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’.

DiLeo will be offering a deep dive into this proposal in a special online presentation this Monday, “Climate Change and Catholicism: Climate Justice as Essential to Catholic Mission.”

The March 22 talk (which will begin at 7:00 p.m. Central Time) is part of Clarke University’s Frederic and Emma Schemmel Endowed Lecture in Theology series. Following DiLeo’s lecture, the Archbishop of Dubuque, The Most Reverend Michael Jackels, will offer a response.

Questions and discussion will conclude the evening.

DiLeo told Catholic Ecology that his lecture will explore four key areas: Love ( as seen as justice), ecclesiology, and missiology; care for God’s creation and climate justice; U.S. Catholic potential and failure, and; future pathways.

“Overall, this is not about ethics, but ecclesiology,” said DiLeo. “We’ve had the ethics for a response to climate change since John Paul II’s 1990 message on world peace.”

The fundamental Christian message out of which a proper Catholic response to climate change will grow, DiLeo argues, is the proclamation that God is love and pure relationship and that we are made in His image.

The question many are asking is, Why aren't more Catholic bishops, pastors, and individuals doing more to live these ethics?

DiLeo argues that barriers to implementing the environmental ethics of John Paul II and his successors arise because for many in the Church—clergy and laity, especially in places like the United States—"creation care and climate justice are seen as optional, add-on elements of the Church’s social mission.”

“But once you see these issues as essential,” DiLeo adds, “then all of a sudden you have all these ethical and pastoral resources. You have a coherent moral theory, you have people, institutions, buildings, assets—the Church has everything necessary to catalyze a climate response.”

The fundamental Christian message out of which a proper Catholic response to climate change will grow, DiLeo argues, is the proclamation that God is love and pure relationship, and that we are made in His image.

“Faith is a response, and it transforms us to know that we’re unconditionally loved by God,” DiLeo said. “And then that love can overflow to the world through us.”

This message is rooted throughout revelation—both in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The very concept of biblical justice, DiLeo notes, is found in God’s interactions with the Nation of Israel.

“It’s fidelity to relationship with God, and with neighbor.”

This understanding of love of God and neighbor—sacrificial, mission-oriented love, comprised of both charitable works and social activism—will be the foundation for DiLeo's talk.

(As an aside, it occurs to me as I write this that for many Catholics, the use of the word "activism" may call up ugly images of secular activism for causes that are decidedly not Catholic. But it should be remembered that many in the Church are already activists, and justifiably so, for causes such as the protection of the unborn and for marriage, properly understood. Jesus Christ was not a political activist, as we understand the concept today, but the notion of an active (if not activist) Church may very well be prophesied and justified in the Vision of the Dry Bones prophecy in the Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 37. There, the divine promise of the Spirit's defeat of death—of the dead returning to life—is foretold using imagery of the Nation of Israel as an army. And armies are not meant to remain passive. They are meant to act in human history to defend the innocent and protect the common good when threats arise.)

While DiLeo's lecture will offer a fair amount of scientific justification for a Catholic response to climate change, he will be offering a largely catechetical experience.

His focus on theology, ecclesiology, and missiology—that is, the structural forms of the hierarchical Church and its internal understanding of its mission—are the exact examinations we need as the Church journeys further into the twenty-first century—hopefully striving for unity as she does so.

In other words, if the Church—that is, we, the People of God—is to truly fulfill our mission to love our neighbor, then we had best appreciate and embrace the essential elements of what that means today in the world as it exists here and now.

May God bless Dr. DiLeo as he continues his mission in this talk, in his teachings, and indeed, in all his work. May he help each of us hear the divine call to truly care for our common home and all its peoples—and then, in small ways and large, however befits our individual abilities, to act.

To join in DiLeo’s talk, visit the Clarke University events page, here.

Dr. DiLeo serves as assistant professor and director of the Justice and Peace Studies Program at Creighton University. His research and scholarship focus on Catholic social teaching and climate change with particular focus on Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. Since 2009, he has been a consultant with Catholic Climate Covenant of which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is a founding member. Dr. DiLeo earned his Ph.D. in theological ethics from Boston College.

Photo: Flickr/Giorgio Galeotti: Vatican Sunset - Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, Italy - Easter 2008

If you like Catholic Ecology,
you’ll love…

A Printer's Choice

The sci-fi novel with a Catholic twist.

A Printer's Choice

Learn more

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.