Following a weekend of Catholic rebukes of the Trump administration over the handling of children at immigration detention centers, Catholic leaders this morning announced their support for another initiative at odds with the president: the signing of the Catholic Climate Declarationby some 600 US-based Catholic institutions.
The overwhelming support of the declaration is notable with the document’s affirmation of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Catholic Climate Declaration echoes the U.S. bishops’ disappointment with the Trump Administration’s announced withdrawal and it reiterates the Church’s well-established moral and non-partisan call for climate action in caring for our common home and our one human family—especially among poor and vulnerable communities.
It was three years ago today that Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, in part to influence the Paris Agreement negotiations. At the time, President Obama’s administration was orienting the United States to be a leader in climate action. Much of that momentum was lost in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump and organizers of the Catholic Climate Declaration are hoping today’s news will fire up the faithful.
The declaration—signed by cardinals and other bishops, college and university presidents, healthcare executives, leaders of religious communities and many others on behalf of their institutions—affirms that the U.S. Catholic community’s support of the “We Are Still In” movement in support of the Paris Agreement and the actions required to protect our common home.
Dan Misleh, Executive Director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, which coordinated the signing of the declaration, said in a morning presser that the declaration was an “unprecedented step” into the void left by the Trump administration.
The declaration states in part that “[c]limate change is an urgent moral issue because it compromises the future of our common home, threatens human life and human dignity, and adds to the hardships already experienced by the poorest and most vulnerable people both at home and abroad. We teach that governments exist to protect and promote the common good.”
Calling the administration’s rejection of the treaty “shameful,” Misleh added that with the signing of the declaration—and in other ways—Catholic leadership was encouraging dialogue and building bridges, as well as taking concrete steps to more prudently use energy efficiently, as well as to use renewable sources whenever possible.
Such strategies help create jobs and save money for Catholic institutions, which can bolster those institution’s core mission activities, Misleh said.
His Excellency Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines spoke for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in affirming the bishop’s desire for the United States to re-enter the Paris Accord. He also stressed the importance of individual dioceses, parishes, and individuals to take action.
This second statement is notable for those bishops who prioritize personal and ecclesial actions over political ones.
While my own bishop, Thomas J. Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, is one of the bishops that did not sign the declaration—and on Friday evening Tweeted his views of the matter—he has clearly stated his eagerness to shepherd his local church toward a better engagement with Laudato Si’ and with the entirety of the Church’s eco-teachings.