The UK-based Catholic Climate Movement
website[i] boasts large, professional photographs, links to films and videos, a plethora of resource materials including a study guide for Laudato Si
, and various suggestions for advocacy activities.
One could, for example, help to rally one’s faith community via Our Voices (a campaign of GreenFaith and the Conservation Foundation) which “commissioned the Climate Outreach & Information Network (COIN) to develop and test language around climate change that could mobilise activity across the world’s 5 main faith groups: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim.” Specifically, this organization “developed trial narratives and identified key framing language from 3 sources: interfaith statements on climate change, interviews with faith experts, and our extensive experience developing climate change communications for distinct audiences. We then tested these trial narratives in narrative workshops (one per faith) and gathered additional feedback through an online survey.”[ii]
Messages based on fear and punishment were rejected; assigning blame, however, was OK if one weren’t too personal about. Governments and oil companies (in most circles) are fair game. Use language that validates “core beliefs and present[s] threats in terms of core faith values - of which ‘protecting the earth/God’s creation/the poor and vulnerable’” is particularly appealing.[iii]
Play us like violins. The faith community should be fed positive ideas: “Action on climate change makes you become a better person and a stronger member of your faith…. Through action on climate change we better meet our spiritual objectives (become better/closer to God).” Create a “narrative” in “which action restores order and well-being: through action we can make the world better (in terms of our faith values).”
For instance, a narrative that works well with religious people is: “God/the divine is manifested in/speaks through the earth/natural world around us. We have a sacred responsibility to care for the earth. The natural world is a precious gift.” From the moral perspective, climate change “is harming the poor and vulnerable - the very people our faith tells us to protect. We should care for these people, not worsen their lives. It is our responsibility to preserve the legacy of our parents and provide for the future of our children.”
In place of an altar call, the believer is asked to make a public statement of conviction, a “commitment to change myself and defend/protect the world.”
One wonders, in the light of this quasi-religious commitment to “protect the world,” what actions – precisely – are being asked of the believer? One can donate money to the Catholic Climate Movement and one can sign a petition that asks local, national, and international leaders to “drastically cut carbon emissions”…and one can evangelize for the movement. Parish initiatives include film nights and study groups, creation of small faith and support communities “for action and reflection,” workshops, and bulletin inserts.
What sort of Catholics are involved with such a project? The Catholic Climate Movement has over 300 Catholic member organizations worldwide. Many are local Catholic Charities and Caritas groups and progressive-minded religious communities.
One, the International Jesuit Ecology Project of Loyola University in Chicago (USA) is fascinating, considering Pope Francis’ Jesuit foundation. Collaborative institutions for the Ecology Project include Jesuit schools around the world, representing over 20 academic disciplines. One can download a free, online environmental “textbook,” Healing Earth”[iv] that discusses, biodiversity, energy, climate change, etc., with a good bit of preaching about the ethical dimension of each of these areas of consideration.
Another member of the Catholic Climate Movement is the Rahamim Ecology Centre in Australia, “a ministry within the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG).” We read that the Centre “gives contemporary expression to the values of the Mercy tradition….through [p]romoting and engaging in sustainable living practices,” among other things. Events at the Center include “an ecological gospel exploration, grounded in the wonders of the universe and the distress of the Earth.” [v] Distress of the earth? Yeah…you know…ecological injustice.
In 2014, a Pew Forum report found that the total number of Catholics in the United States dropped by 3 million since 2007. For every one Catholic convert, more than six Catholics left the church. “Taken a step further, Catholicism loses more members than it gains at a higher rate than any other denomination, with nearly 13 percent of all Americans describing themselves as ‘former Catholics’.”[vi] Maybe we know why…
You don’t need to be Catholic to sign a climate petition.
[i] Catholic Climate Movement: catholicclimatemovement.global
[iii] The following, until otherwise noted, is taken from:“Messages to Mobilise People of Faith on Climate Change,” Climate Outreach (formerly COIN) and Our Voices, June 2015.
[iv] International Jesuit Ecology Project www.luc.edu/ijep/
[v] Rahamim Ecology Centre: www.rahamim.org.au