The Catholic Church in the U.S. is failing in its capacity to respond to climate change and to live up to its mission to safeguard God’s creation, a theologian said this week during a lecture that spawned an act of contrition from the archbishop in attendance.
Daniel DiLeo, an assistant theology professor at Creighton University and director of its justice and peace studies program, made the comments March 22 during the annual Schemmel theology lecture at Clarke University, in Dubuque, Iowa. The online talk provided an overview of Catholic teaching on the environment, climate science and how the two intertwine.
Toward the end of his presentation, DiLeo, who is also a consultant for Catholic Climate Covenant, said the U.S. church is in an “almost ideal” position to respond to climate change. “We’ve got the mission, we’ve got the ethics” and the call to evangelization, he said, but moreover, it has the logistics to make a serious difference — in terms of people (about 70 million Catholics in the U.S., or 20% of the population), institutions (176 dioceses, nearly 17,000 parishes and thousands of schools, hospitals and advocacy networks), infrastructure (more than 100,000 buildings and millions of acres of land) and money.
“The Catholic tradition has a tremendous amount of potential,” DiLeo said. “Unfortunately, we have not realized this potential.”
He continued: “The U.S. Catholic response has not been anywhere near what is commensurate with the science and the magnitude of what [Pope] Francis describes as the climate emergency. So we’ve done some things, but it’s not anywhere near commensurate with what’s required.”
You can watch the lecture here: