By John Dovak
Did you know that the Catholic Church has a position on climate change?
Recent stories in the news are bringing the issue of climate change into our national discussion again. There is much evidence that the earth is getting warmer and that this will have drastic impact on local weather and coastal zone sea levels around the world.
A genuine Catholic response to climate change must be about both the care of creation and protection of those most vulnerable to climate impacts. It is the poor of the world who will suffer the most from droughts and rising sea levels.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has had a formal position on climate change since 2001. In their statement, “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good,” the U.S. bishops wisely asserted that:
“In facing climate change, what we already know requires a response; it cannot be easily dismissed. Significant levels of scientific consensus — even in a situation with less than full certainty, where the consequences of not acting are serious — justifies, indeed can obligate, our taking action intended to avert potential dangers. In other words, if enough evidence indicates that the present course of action could jeopardize humankind’s well-being, prudence dictates taking mitigating or preventative action.”
In addition to the U.S. bishops’ position, Pope Benedict XVI has written extensively on the issue of climate change. For him climate change is a moral issue: Church teaching holds that man must respect creation because it’s destined for the benefit of humanity’s future. He has argued that climate change and natural catastrophes threaten the rights of people to life, food, health and ultimately peace.
Pope Francis has continued this Church position by discussing how the changing climate will affect the poorest among us — those who cannot move away from rising coastal sea levels or easily replace food supplies lost to increased drought.
We as Catholics must begin talking about this issue and insist that the world’s leaders start acting to address climate change. This issue is too important to the future of our grandchildren to become just another partisan political issue.
If you are like me, you wonder what can I do as one Catholic Christian?
Start by informing yourself of the facts, and a good place to start is the Catholic Climate Covenant website: https://catholicclimatecovenant.org.
Then take the St Francis Pledge. The St. Francis Pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes, organizations and institutions to live our faith by protecting God’s Creation and by advocating on behalf of people in poverty who face the harshest impacts of global climate change. The pledge says:
I/We Pledge 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.
John Dovak is a parishioner of St. Edward Church.