Catholics Taking the Pledge on Climate Change

Catholics are taking the pledge. The St. Francis Pledge, circulated around Catholic colleges and parishes by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, has working professionals, families, and college students all pledging to confront climate change.

Catholic support for such action is considerable.  Figures from 2009 show that 55% of Catholics view climate change as a serious problem, 58% believe it’s an issue that needs to be addressed now, and 60% believe it will negatively impact the poor around the globe. Perhaps most importantly, a majority of Catholics believe their faith calls them to support government action to address climate change.

Environmental issues don’t necessarily split along party lines.  Concern for the environment often rises above the widespread ideological and partisan differences that exist among Catholics, even bridging the notorious pro-life vs. social justice divide.

As former National Catholic Reporter editor Arthur Jones explains, “For deeply committed Catholics, climate change (aka ‘care of Creation’) is a ‘life’ issue, like abortion or the death penalty. Not all anti-abortion Catholics sign on to banning the death penalty, and vice versa. But caring for the environment overrides those differences.”

The Catholic bishops meanwhile definitively side with the 51% who back government action.  And they think this cause is too important to be derailed by political games.   “At its core,” the Bishops have written, “global climate change is about the future of God’s creation and the one human family,” not political platforms, partisan advantage, or the desires of interest groups.

And the Bishops know they’ve got the pope’s support and backing. Pope Benedict XVI, known as “the Green Pope,” has expressed his concern about the impact of climate change on global food supplies for the poor.  Protecting the environment has been a recurring theme throughout his papacy.

What does this mean for President Obama and politicians in both parties? It’s evident that if either Party wants to be fully aligned with the majority of Catholics on this issue – both the laity and hierarchy – they should take the pledge to help protect creation and then follow through with policy recommendations that will do precisely that.

And for individual Catholics, action should start with reflection on one’s own habits and behavior, but it should not end there.

Ben Feuerherd is a freelance writer.  His work has been featured in The National Catholic Reporter and Salon.