Millennial writer Dan DiLeo has a new post on the Political Theology Today blog, “The Feast of St. Francis: Avoiding ‘Birdbath Franciscanism’ Through Environmental Advocacy”. DiLeo argues, “As we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis today, it is clear that Francis’ environmental ethic, which is firmly situated in the fullness of Church teaching, requires that Catholics consider both personal and political/systemic ways to care for God’s good gift of creation.” The full article can be read here.
Quick: name one of your favorite Christian axioms. You know, one of the “tweetable” maxims that has developed over the two thousand year history of the Church. Is it: Do to others whatever you would have them do to you? (Mt 7:12) What about: Our hearts are restless until they rest in you? (Augustine) Maybe: If you want peace, work for justice? (Pope Paul VI)
As a so-called “cradle Catholic” with a major research interest in Catholic Social Teaching, it might surprise you to learn that one of my favorite Christian axioms is attributed to the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth, who said that we must approach the world “with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other” (actually, the Princeton Theological Seminary says that this may not be an exact quote, although he did “occasionally make similar remarks”). Although I think Christians, especially Catholics, need more than just the Bible in one hand—perhaps the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church—his basic point resonates deeply with me: we must be informed about both our faith and current issues in order to live as Christians “in the world,” as Barth says, and as the Church calls us (cf. Gaudium et Spes).
I begin with this vignette because I think it captures well the spirit of the 2013 Feast of St. Francis (October 4) event being organized by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, where I serve as Project Manager. The program, Melting Ice, Mending Creation: a Catholic Approach to Climate Change, utilizes a narrated Prezi presentation to explore climate change through the lens of worldwide glacial melt and using two separate but related resources: a report on the topic by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) and a TED talk by Dr. James Balog, director of the videographic Extreme Ice Survey. In essence, the project approaches the question of climate change “with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.” The PAS report presents the Church’s scientific and theological understanding of glacial melt caused by climate change, while Dr. Balog shares a scientist’s compelling scientific and visual evidence of the anthropogenic phenomenon.
In order to help facilitate the presentation of this year’s Feast of St. Francis event, the Coalition has published three tailored education kits with facilitator’s guides: one for parishes, one for colleges/universities, and one for youth/young adults. The kits are available for free download on the Coalition’s website along with promotional materials to help communities publicize their event. Although the resources are all free, organizers are encouraged to register events ahead of time in order to receive the free prayer cards that are part of the presentation.
In his book-length interview in 2010 titled Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said that climate change “is a challenge for the Church. She not only has a major responsibility; she is, I would say, often the only hope. For she is so close to people’s consciences that she can move them to particular acts of self-denial and can inculcate basic attitudes in souls.” In order for the Church to do this, however, it is first necessary that Catholics understand the gravity of the climate crisis. With the PAS report in one hand and dramatic visual evidence of human-caused climate change in the other, the 2013 Feast of St. Francis event sponsored by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change hopes to help Catholics recognize climate change as an urgent moral issue and highlight the Church’s many theological and practical resources that can help people of faith and goodwill to mitigate this pressing challenge.
On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, President Obama unveiled the most ambitious plan to date by any U.S. President to address the increasingly urgent climate crisis. Although the speech was addressed to both the nation and the world, the address is particularly relevant for millennial Catholics. This is first due to the fact that he unveiled his plan to young people at Georgetown University and spoke directly to “your generation.” Additionally, the Catholic Church has explicitly and repeatedly advocated for public policies to address the climate crisis. Finally he mentioned two issues that have found resonance on Catholic college campuses and with millennials: the Keystone XL Pipeline and divestment from carbon-intensive industries.
The President’s Address
The President began by recounting the scientific facts of climate change: “scientists ha[ve] known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air [. . .] The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all [of the uncertainty around climate science] to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.”
The President also laid out the impacts that the climate crisis is having—and will increasingly have—on people around the world. He particularly noted rising sea levels, drought-induced food stresses, and reduced water supplies, and went on to point out that “Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction in insurance premiums, state and local taxes, and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief.” In addition, the President noted that poor “countries are also more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than we are [in the U.S.]. They don’t just have as much to lose, they probably have more to lose.”
In a preemptive move anticipating the “tired excuses” for climate inaction from those who claim that “we have to choose between the health of our children or the health of our economy,” the President insisted that addressing the climate crisis does not have to adversely impact the U.S. economy. Rather, he framed the transition to a low-carbon economy as an opportunity for U.S. ingenuity, and encouraged people to both invest in a sustainable future and divest from carbon-intensive industries.
After his focus on the science and consequences of climate change, the President delivered what is arguably one of the most prophetic and decisive climate statements of both his talk and his presidency:
“I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing. And that’s why, today, I’m announcing a new national climate action plan, and I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a leader — a global leader — in the fight against climate change.”
He said that in light of failed Congressional climate policy efforts and the unwillingness of Congress to respond to his invitation for a “bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” he would use his executive powers to address climate change in three key areas: carbon emission reductions, adaptation preparation, and international mitigation and adaptation efforts. The Washington Post has provided a helpful summary outline of the specific components of the President’s climate action plan.
Relevance to Millennial Catholics
Much has already been written about the implications of the President’s climate address. However, there are at least five reasons why the speech is particularly relevant to millennial Catholics:
1. The millennial generation accepts the reality of climate change.
As noted, the President gave his address to a university audience and spoke directly to “your generation.” As I pointed out in my previous article Catholic Millennials and Climate Change, “The Pew Research Center has found that millennials are more likely to accept the reality that climate change is caused by human activity and are the least likely to deny climate science.” Millennials thus represent a crucial demographic in the effort to address climate change, and the President’s call to action might therefore be seen as particularly addressed to millennials:
What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands. Understand this is not just a job for politicians. So I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends. Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future.
Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth. And remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote. Make yourself heard on this issue.
2. The choice of Georgetown University as the speech venue.
Of all the places in Washington D.C.—indeed the country—from which the President could have delivered his landmark climate speech, he chose to do so at a Catholic university. Although there are likely many reasons why this venue was chosen, it is interesting to note that many of the themes highlighted by the President in his address—the biblical image of creation, the disproportionate vulnerability of poor communities, the responsibility we have to hand on a livable planet to future generations—are all key elements of the Church’s response to climate change.
Whether or not the President intended to do so, the choice to deliver his climate message from a Catholic university highlights the congruence between many secular and faith-based efforts to address the climate crisis. This in many ways affirms the insight made by Pope Benedict XVI that the climate crisis cannot be solved without the involvement of the church. As he said in Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, climate change “is a challenge for the Church. She not only has a major responsibility; she is, I would say, often the only hope. For she is so close to people’s consciences that she can move them to particular acts of self-denial and can inculcate basic attitudes in souls” (p. 46).
3. The Church’s call for a moral climate policy.
The Catholic Church has explicitly and repeatedly advocated for both international and domestic climate change policies. Pope Benedict XVI did so repeatedly in many addresses over the years, including his Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, the Angelus delivered in November of 2011, the Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps for the Traditional Exchange of New Year Greetings, and his Message to the 2009 International Summit on Climate Change. Similarly, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has advocated for domestic and international climate change policies in many of its documents, including the 2013 Letter to President Obama, Legislative Response to Climate Change, Global Climate Change and our Catholic Response, Global Climate Change 2011, Global Climate Change 2010, and Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good.
Throughout these documents, the Church particularly calls on Catholics to advocate for climate change policies that meet three specific moral criteria:
(1) ease the burden on poor people;
(2) offer some relief for workers who may be displaced because of climate change policies; and
(3) promote the development and use of alternate renewable and clean-energy resources, including the transfer of such technologies and technical assistance that may be appropriate and helpful to developing countries in meeting the challenges of global climate change.
The President’s articulation of his climate action plan provides Catholics with an opportunity—and a responsibility—to reflect on and advocate for the moral principles that the Church insists should be part of any climate solution.
4. The Church’s expressed concern over the Keyston XL Pipeline
The President caught many off guard in his address by referencing the contentious Keystone XL pipeline that, if approved by the U.S. State Department, would carry 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil across the 1,700 miles from Alberta to Texas each day. Although he did not make a commitment either way, the President said:
Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates Canadian tar sands oil to be “approximately 82% [more greenhouse gas intensive] than the average crude refined in the U.S., on a well-to-tank basis.” In view of this, and despite no official position from either the USCCB or the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, two Canadian bishops have expressed deep concern about the development of Canadian tar sands in the past.
Bishop Murray Chatlain of the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, lamented that development of Canadian tar sands “will contribute to the climate change impacts that Northerners are experiencing.” Similarly, Most Reverend Luc Bouchard, Bishop of St. Paul, Alberta, warned that “new oil sands projects and expansions keep raising the total amount of emissions despite average per barrel reductions.” The President’s reference to the pipeline project gives further credence to the concerns of these prominent Catholic leaders, and should be taken up as an opportunity for other people of faith to advocate on the issue.
5. The increasing Catholic commitment to divestment.
Finally, the President’s climate address is relevant to millennial Catholics due to his reference to divestment from carbon-intensive industries. For more than a year now, a national movement has encouraged colleges, universities, cities, and other large institutions to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies. The campaign argues that divestment is an effective tool that sends a market signal encouraging a shift in investments from high-carbon to low-carbon industries and decreasing the political influence of large fossil fuel corporations that obstruct effective climate policies.
Although the divestment campaign is generally targeted at all large organizations, students at Georgetown University and Boston College argue that their schools’ Catholic and Jesuit missions provide a moral imperative to divest their institutions’ endowments from fossil fuel corporations profiting from climate change and compromising key commitments of the Catholic Church. Although there are many considerations around the issue of fossil fuel divestment, the President’s reference to this strategy should encourage millennial Catholics, as well as administrators at Catholic institutions, to have a thoughtful and sustained conversation about the ethical considerations of investing in corporations that seek to profit without regard to their impact on climate change.
The climate crisis is among the greatest challenges of the twenty first century, and its scope requires that all people of faith and goodwill be engaged in the policy discussions that will shape humanity’s collective response. Millennial Catholics, by the nature of their age and faith, are in a unique position to make meaningful contributions to the policy discussion and bring much-needed energy to the climate debate. President Obama’s climate speech on June 25 seems to recognize the leadership potential of all millennials, and millennial Catholics have a distinct opportunity to lead their peers in the effort to avert climate catastrophe and so fully care for all God’s human and non-human creation.
Millennial writer Dan DiLeo has co-written an article that appeared in America earlier this week. The article is on his area of expertise: climate change and the Catholic response. The full article can be read here.
Since his election to the papacy, Pope Francis has made the care of God’s good gift of Creation one of the central themes of his pontificate. This is in a certain sense not surprising, given both the environmental legacy of his papal predecessors—Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John II, in particular—and his choice of the name Francis. The pope explained that one of the reasons he chose the name Francis was to recall the environmental ethic of St. Francis of Assisi and to lift up this central element of the Church’s tradition.
Yesterday, however, Pope Francis recognized World Environment Day at his weekly audience with some of his most insightful and prophetic words to date on the Christian vocation to “cultivate and care for” creation (Genesis 2:15), as he discussed the way in which the “culture of waste” harms both “environmental ecology” and “human ecology.” This is a powerful and challenging message for all people of faith and goodwill, especially those of us living comfortably in the so-called Global North.
In his weekly address, Pope Francis reflected on the second creation story of Genesis and explained:
“[T]he verb ‘to cultivate’ reminds me of the care that the farmer has for his land so that it bear fruit, and it is shared: how much attention, passion and dedication! Cultivating and caring for creation is God’s indication given to each one of us not only at the beginning of history; it is part of His project; it means nurturing the world with responsibility and transforming it into a garden, a habitable place for everyone.”
Although this is the responsibility to which God calls all people of faith and goodwill, Pope Francis went on to observe that this vocation is often compromised by an insatiable overconsumption of material goods and the “culture of waste” that has risen around the world. The pope observed:
“[W]e are often driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not ‘care’ for [creation], we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a free gift that we must care for. We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation; thus we are no longer able to read what Benedict XVI calls ‘the rhythm of the love story of God and man.’ Why does this happen? Why do we think and live in a horizontal manner, we have moved away from God, we no longer read His signs.”
In addition to recognizing that overconsumption harms “environmental ecology,” Pope Francis called attention to the fact that materialism also compromises “human ecology.” The Pope said:
“Men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste’….Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash.”
The Holy Father called particular attention to the way in which the “culture of waste” disposes of excess food when many around the world are starving, and declared, “We should all remember, however, that throwing food away is like stealing from the tables of the poor, the hungry!”
In response to the human and ecological challenges posed by rampant overconsumption and habitual disposal, Pope Francis recognizes that the interrelated challenges of protecting “human ecology” and caring for “environmental ecology” in the face of systemic overconsumption are “not just a matter of economics, but of ethics and anthropology.” Given this observation, the Holy Father concluded by asking “all to make a serious commitment to respect and protect creation, to be attentive to every person, to counter the culture of waste and disposable, to promote a culture of solidarity and of encounter.”
In light of this message, there are several ways in which Catholic millennials—particularly those of us in the United States—might respond to this call:
Distinguish Between “Consumption” and “Consumerism”: Humans are undeniably corporeal and, as such, require a certain amount of material goods. Although the consumption of resources is thus necessary—and even natural, according to Aquinas (ST II-II, Q. 66, Art. 2, ad. 2)—the proper consumption of resources is distinct from the principle of consumerism that drives much of modern economics. In her book The Story of Stuff: How our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, our Communities, and our Health–and a Vision for Change–which builds on the original short online documentary The Story of Stuff— Annie Leonard describes this distinction, saying:
“While consumption means acquiring and using goods and services to meet one’s needs, consumerism is the particular relationship to consumption in which we seek to meet our emotional and social needs through shopping, and we define and demonstrate our self-worth through the Stuff we own. And overconsumption is when we take far more resources than we need and than the planet can sustain…. Consumerism is about excess” (129).
Connect the Dots between Consumerism and Environmental Degradation: Although we might not think about it when we purchase things at the store, consumerism is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation. This is because the resources needed to sustain a consumerist society must be extracted, transported, processed, and disposed of at rate that is having disastrous impacts on both the planet and our climate. This is particularly challenging for us as Americans, given how much we consume. The Scientific American reports that although the we make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, “the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper.” At this rate, another Scientific American piece points out, five earths would be needed for everyone in the world to live an average American lifestyle.
Highlight the Connection between Creation Care and Protecting Human Life and Dignity: Pope Francis’ observation that consumerism harms both “environmental ecology” and “human ecology” builds on the Church’s repeated affirmations that the Catholic commitment to protecting human life and dignity is intrinsically dependent upon the care of all creation. In view of this, Catholic millennials might help more Catholics resist consumerism by not only highlighting how this ethic harms the environment, but also by pointing out that human life and dignity cannot be fully protected without a safe and livable environment.
Embrace the Virtues of Prudence and Temperance: The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes virtues as “firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith” (no. 1804). The Church traditionally recognizes four cardinal human virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, no. 1805-9), and attention to prudence and temperance is particularly germane to addressing consumerism. Prudence is the application of “practical reason” to a particular situation in order “to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it” (no. 1806), while temperance “moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods” (no. 1809). As such, these two virtues can help people of faith and goodwill to thoughtfully discern and live by patterns of consumption that neither cause widespread environmental degradation nor compromise the Catholic commitment to protecting human life and dignity.
Imagine a New System: The world’s economy is largely premised on the assumption that endless economic growth fueled by insatiable consumerism is both possible and desirable. However, today’s message from Pope Francis—which is consistent with the Church’s long social tradition—questions both of these suppositions and calls for an alternative vision that values “human ecology” and “environmental ecology” over the endless acquisition of material goods. Towards this end, Catholic millennials have an opportunity to re-imagine what a sociopolitical and economic system that is more consistent with the Church’s authentic teaching might look like. Pope John Paul II offered a prophetic starting point for this vision in his encyclical Centesimus annus, and this framework could serve as an important starting point from which people of faith and good will might read the “signs of the times” and discern how we might create an economy that better cares for creation and protects human life and dignity:
It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards ‘having’ rather than ‘being’, and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself.It is therefore necessary to create life-styles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments (no. 36).
More than twenty years ago, Pope John Paul II brought the attention of the Catholic Church to the issue of climate change when he declared in his 1990 World Day of Peace Message, “The gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the related ‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions.” Since that time, the Church has increasingly recognized climate change as a moral issue and called on people of faith and goodwill to address this challenge. Various high-profile statements have underlined that the consequences of climate change—which include food and water stresses, drought, disease, and more frequent severe weather events—are threatening human life and dignity and compromising core principles of the Christian faith, including the fundamental option for the poor and vulnerable and care for God’s good gift of Creation.
Despite these moral and ethical appeals made by the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), other international bishops’ conferences and numerous Catholic NGOs, the Earth’s atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide recently surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history. This is a distressing benchmark since most climate scientists agree that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 must be stabilized at 350 ppm by mid-century in order to avoid irreversible and runaway climate change. It is perhaps even more disturbing that current emissions patterns are showing few signs of decline to this safe level, but are rather on pace to increase to 450 ppm in just a few decades.
With a rapidly closing window within which to prevent catastrophic climate change, there are at least four reasons why Catholic millennials, in particular, must quickly address this issue. The first is that the Catholic Church is in a unique position to catalyze climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, as motivation based in faith is deeper and longer lasting. In Light of the World, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it this way: “[The Church] is so close to people’s consciences that she can move them to particular acts of self-denial and can inculcate basic attitudes in souls.” This ability to transform minds and hearts is especially important in light of climate change because all people—especially those in the so-called “global North” who disproportionately contribute to climate change—must begin to accept “more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency,” as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI asserted in his 2010 World Day of Peace Message (no. 9).
The second reason why Catholic millennials must urgently address climate change is because, as the USCCB points out, “The Catholic Church brings a distinct perspective to the debate about climate change by lifting up the moral dimensions of this issue and the needs of the most vulnerable among us.” Guided by Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and the Church’s vast experience in promoting human life, defending human dignity and advocating for the poor and vulnerable, Catholics are exceptionally positioned and very credibly qualified to proactively engage in efforts to help mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Related to this, Catholic millennials ought to become engaged on the issue of climate change issue because we are members of a faith that is especially able to inspire and animate the type of optimism needed in confronting this challenge. In the face of understandable pessimism about the global nature of climate change, Christians are inspired by the hope of the Resurrection. Indeed, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI observed in his 2009 Urbi et Orbi Easter Message, “At a time of…disturbing climate change…it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ’s Resurrection.”
Finally, Catholic millennials should urgently address climate change because we “get it.” Unlike older generations, millenials understand clearly the reality and threats of anthropogenic climate change. The Pew Research Center has found that millennials are more likely to accept the reality that climate change is caused by human activity and are the least likely to deny climate science. This understanding and energy ought to be directed toward vigorous and sustained efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, as well as to assist those most harmed by the impact of climate change.
But where do Catholic millenials begin this urgent and important work? Although there are a number of effective actions that can be taken and numerous commendable organizations address this issue, one uniquely faith-based place for Catholic millennials to begin is by taking the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor from the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. The Coalition consists of a dozen national Catholic organizations—including the USCCB, Catholic Relief Services, and Catholic Charities USA—and the St. Francis Pledge is a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes, diocese, schools, colleges/universities, and other institutions to:
- PRAY and reflect on the duty to care for God’s Creation and protect the poor and vulnerable.
- LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.
- ASSESS how we-as individuals and in our families, parishes and other affiliations-contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.
- ACT to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.
- ADVOCATE for Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable.
Catholics are encouraged to register their Pledge commitment online(which can be done here), connect with the Coalition on Facebook and Twitter, and review the many other resources designed to help live the Catholic faith more fully in this area.
In his Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on the Occasion of the Seventh Symposium of the Religion, Science and the Environment Movement, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declared, “Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family.” The Catholic Church, under the guidance of Pope Francis, the bishops, clergy, religious and laity will continue to call people of faith and goodwill to action on climate change. Amidst this, Catholic millennials have both a faith-based imperative and a unique opportunity to respond to the call of the Church. The St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor is one means by which Catholics can faithfully address the issue of climate change, and there has never been a more urgent need for Catholic millennials to fervently devote their energy and passion to what should be regarded as the most pressing challenge of the twenty-first century.
Did you notice anything missing from the national conventions these past two weeks? It seems that among all the major speeches a major tenant of Catholic social teaching was noticeably missing: being good stewards of God’s earth.
In fact, the effects of global climate change have hardly been mentioned at all during this nearly year-and-a-half race for the White House.
Catholic groups are starting to notice, and they’re not happy. Recently two Catholic social justice organizations–NETWORK and Franciscan Action Network issued separate press releases lambasting both President Obama and Governor Romney for not focusing enough on the issue. In his statement to the press, Franciscan Action Network’s Executive Director Patrick Carolan stated:
As people of faith we should challenge the media and our political leaders when they spread misinformation, thus instilling fear and pitting people against each other. We are all children of God and brothers and sisters to each other. At this critical juncture in our history, we need to not just comprehend the gravity and urgency of global climate change; we must insist that the dialogue on climate change be civil, respectful and truthful and call for collaborative action to protect creation for future generations. The Franciscan tradition teaches that all of creation has intrinsic value, not because of economic worth but because all creation is a reflection of God. In order to address this crisis in a bipartisan way, I believe that both President Obama and Governor Romney need to have the moral courage to use their voices as leaders and issue
statements that acknowledge the reality and critical nature of climate change and provide a plan of action. The American people and all God’s children across this world deserve no less.
Guess who else thinks politicians should address global climate change? Pope Benedict–the “green pope”–who has consistently spoken out on this issue throughout his seven-year pontificate.