OOS 56-4
Growing catholic engagement and voice in climate change, environmental justice and policy: From St. Francis to Pope Francis to people and planet

Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 2:30 PM
341, Baltimore Convention Center
Dan Misleh, , Catholic Climate Covenant, Washington, DC, USA
Background/Question/Methods

A small number of influential historic events mark the evolution of education and awareness about environmental justice and the problem of climate change.  Pope Francis ecological encyclical letter is anticipated as a major one.  Over the past 9 years, the Catholic Climate Covenant has developed a partnership of over a dozen national Catholic organizations and networks and includes 13,000 individuals working through local and regional Catholic dioceses and other organizations on climate change education and advocacy both in the U.S. and around the world.  It has emphasized five dimensions for environmental engagement by Catholics and Catholic organizations: prayer, education, assessing, acting and advocating.  Interactions between scientists and theologians have been fostered through the Covenant’s Ambassador program and scholars’ conferences.

This session explores two major areas of impact:

  1. How is the Catholic community responding to both climate change and Catholic teaching on the environment with the catalyst of the encyclical?  
  2. How can the key themes of the encyclical especially the link between “human ecology” (i.e., how humans interact within and between our political, social, and economic systems) and natural ecology be of service to advancing justice and ecological understanding?

Results/Conclusions

Catholics are engaging in climate change through many channels, including overseas activity through Catholic Relief Services and within the United States through our national partners and their networks as well as within Catholic households, parishes, religious congregations and schools.  State and national organizing efforts are designed to create and drive a clear and accurate narrative on the encyclical letter.  Media and organizing work empowers the faith voice on moral and justice dimensions of decision-making on climate change and energy policy that impact the poor and vulnerable and that promote the common good.  These efforts are designed to influence public policy by applying some pressure to key political influencers or show constituent support for policy efforts consistent with Catholic priorities.  

Through these efforts, participants are gaining a greater appreciation for the breadth and depth of the Catholic community’s efforts to both highlight the moral dimensions of environmental justice and climate change and discover particular ways in which the Catholic community puts these stewardship teachings into concrete actions and practice.  With Pope Francis’ ecological encyclical, new opportunities for collaboration between Catholic theologians and activists with ecologists can further a just and sustainable future for the planet and all people.