First published in The Criterion on August 24, 2018
Fr. Rick Ginther with the release of “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home” in 2015, Pope Francis drew attention to the urgent need for Christians to undergo “an ‘ecological conversion,’ whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (#217).
In response to the growing awareness of climate change, all the nations of the world signed the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement and committed to take actions aimed at keeping the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Even though the pledges made in the agreement are not sufficient by themselves to reach that goal, the Paris agreement was an important recognition of the problem and provides a framework for actions.
In June of 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement. Almost immediately, a coalition of state and local community leaders, businesses, universities, faith groups, and investors said, “We are still in,” and declared their commitment to take climate action in support of the Paris agreement.
The Catholic Church, both globally and locally, has also expressed support for climate action. “The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), along with Pope Francis and the entire Catholic Church, has consistently upheld the Paris agreement as an important international mechanism to promote environmental stewardship and encourage climate change mitigation. The president’s decision not to honor the U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement is deeply troubling,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.
Catholic parishes, dioceses, organizations, religious orders, hospitals, schools and individuals have the opportunity to express their own support for climate action by signing the U.S. Catholic Climate Declaration. This declaration, organized by the Catholic Climate Covenant and in solidarity with the U.S. bishops’ position, has been signed by representatives of nearly 700 U.S. Catholic institutions so far, including the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Archbishop Charles C. Thompson said, “The care of creation, especially inspired by the fact that this is one of the seven key principles of Catholic social teaching as well as by Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” is essential to living the Gospel. I would hope that we take time to pray, study, reflect, dialogue and act to care for the environment and make positive contributions to overcome problems of waste, abuse, destruction and disregard for the beauty of creation.
“Ultimately, it begins with a willingness to make sacrifices as individuals, families and communities [such as parishes, schools, agencies, dioceses] for the greater good of respecting life and creation as God’s sacred gift to us,” Archbishop Thompson continued. “I especially appreciate how Pope Francis reminds us that our relationships with God, self, others and creation are intricately intertwined.”
What can you do? Sign the Catholic Climate Declaration and encourage the leader of your local Catholic institutions to sign as well at www.catholicclimatecovenant.org/catholic-climate-declaration. Institutions that sign by Sept. 1 will be reflected at a Catholic event to be held at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco on Sept. 12-14.
The Season of Creation—from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4— is a time for prayer, reflection and action. Honor the season by attending a prayer service for the Care of Creation at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 1 at Holy Spirit Church, 7243 E. 10th St., in Indianapolis, or at 7 p.m. on Sept. 6 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 4625 N. Kenwood Ave., in Indianapolis. Visit catholicclimatemovement.global for ideas on actions you can take as an individual or at your parish to care for God’s creation.
Begin or continue your faith journey of “ecological conversion.” Pray. Learn. Act.
(Sharon Horvath is a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis and of the ArchIndy Creation Care Commission).