The most profound and serious indication of the moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for life evident in many of the patterns of environmental pollution. Often, the interests of production prevail over concern for the dignity of workers, while economic interests take priority over the good of individuals and even entire peoples.
Diocesan and State Activities
The Environmental Justice Program has received a grant to develop a program to address the issue of global climate change. The initiative has three components. The first is education. A parish education kit will be prepared for distribution and downloading from the Internet. The materials will focus on the effects of climate change on poor people and developing countries in light of Catholic social teaching. The second component will be a small grants program to help dioceses and Catholic organizations train local Catholic leadership to address the issue. The third component will focus on state and local policy dimensions of climate change.
Examples of diocesan activity include: The New Jersey Catholic Coalition for Environmental Justice sponsored a state-wide conference on October 15 as part of a larger effort by the Coalition to urge Catholics in New Jersey to address environmental issues. The Archdiocese of Hartford sponsored a conference on October 1 on human health and the environment as part of its larger CenterEdge project that deals with the impacts of sprawl on the poor and the watershed. The Diocese of Charlotte sponsored a conference on October 21-22 focusing on sustainable development in Appalachia. The Diocese of Rochester held its annual Catholic Charities Saint Francis of Assisi Environmental Justice Program on October 4, 2005. The focus of the event was on Food and Global Climate Change. In January 2006 the Committee on the Environment of the Joliet Diocesan Peace and Justice Office sponsored “Environmental Workshops” to promote education and awareness of Church teaching on care for creation. Staff have also made presentations to local parishes hosting social ministry workshops on the environment.
Environmental Justice Policy Initiatives
To date, the Conference has engaged in several actions addressing climate change policy:
- Issued a statement in 2001, Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good, that provides the basic policy guidance;
- In May 2004 Cardinal McCarrick and Bishop Ricard, as Chairs of Domestic and International Policy respectively, joined other major religious leaders and noted scientists in signing a statement calling for increased action to address the issue of climate change.
- On June 16, 2005 USCCB sent a letter to the Senate urging them to consider legislation that would help offset the impacts of climate change, particularly on the poor. USCCB is currently seeking measures in climate change legislation to address the needs of the poor.
- In June and July, 2005, USCCB sent a letter to the President and issued an action alert and a statement in connection with the G8 Summit that referenced addressing the impact of climate change, especially on the poor globally.
The Catholic Coalition for Children's Health and a Safe Environment (CASE) includes: Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA); National Catholic Education Association (NCEA); Catholic Charities USA; National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW); Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI); Conference for Catholic Facility Management (CCFM); Knights of Peter Claver, Inc. and Ladies Auxiliary (KPC); National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD); National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC); and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Domestic Social Development and Secretariat for Pro Life Activities. CASE continues to educate and advocate related to public policies that protect children from environmental threats to health and safety.
CASE partners have supported environment and health related amendments to the 2006 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill; and urged stricter regulatory measures to address human testing of pesticides and mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants in order to provide adequate safeguards for children, pregnant women, low-income persons and vulnerable populations. To learn more about CASE highlights and policy-related activities, see the domestic backgrounder on Children’s Health and the Environment.
Catholic Scholars Consultation
Efforts are underway to write a book and prepare other educational resources for use with the wider Catholic population as a result of the Catholic scholars’ consultation last October. The themes for the book are the human person in the environment, the common good and our responsibilities to the poor in caring for creation. The idea for the book came from a conference co-sponsored with the University of St. Thomas. The consultation was part of a wider effort to encourage more Catholic academics and universities to explore this topic and to deepen the Catholic intellectual contribution.
USCCB staff made presentations at St. Michael’s College in late October and at Villanova University in November on the pastoral dimensions of the Environmental Justice Program.
The National Religious Partnership for the Environment hosted a major ten year anniversary meeting on May 2-3, 2005 for its member groups which include the Evangelical Environmental Network, the Coalition on Jewish Life and the Environment, the National Council of Churches and the USCCB. The meeting explored major environmental challenges facing the world and the role of the religious community in providing leadership to address these concerns. The USCCB had a delegation of twenty-five participants.
USCCB staff conducted a first time workshop on the theme of Environment and Trade at a conference in Tucson, April 13-16.
For more information: Walt Grazer, USCCB Environmental Justice Program, 202-541-3182 (ph); 202-541-3339 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org; or Roxana Barillas, USCCB Environmental Justice Program, 202-541-3445 (ph); 202-541-3339 (fax); email@example.com; /sdwp/ejp/index.shtml