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Catholic Bishop Decries the “Immorality of Inaction” and the U.S. Reversal on the Paris Climate Agreement on the Third Anniversary of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ 

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Nearly 600 U.S. Catholic institutions—including dioceses, communities of men and women religious, health care systems, universities, as well as parishes and schools—signed the Catholic Climate Declaration that affirms the Paris Agreement and supports actions to meet its goals. The Declaration responds to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Agreement, is in solidarity with the U.S. bishops’ position, and is consistent with the calls for climate action from Pope Francis and his predecessors, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II. The Declaration was organized by Catholic Climate Covenant (CCC), a Washington, DC-based organization that partners with seventeen national Catholic institutions including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Declaration also joins the wider We Are Still In campaign organized a year ago. 

On a call with reporters, leaders from several institutions spoke in moral terms of the need, in the words of Pope Francis, to “care for our common home.”  Leaders pointed to the human suffering and threats to human life caused by human activity.  Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines and the bishop liaison to CCC, said, “The immorality of inaction on climate change has been clear for a long time. With ever-increasing temperatures fueling super hurricanes as well as extending and deepening droughts, we are seeing the tragedies of inaction up close and personal.” Bishop Pates recalled the people on the Gulf Coast of Texas and in Puerto Rico who continue to recover from last year’s devastating hurricanes. 

Dan Misleh, Catholic Climate Covenant executive director, said: “Laudato Si’ was a high-water mark for the Church’s decades-long engagement in the climate issue. This Declaration builds on a flurry of action this past year and helps to consolidate and expand on the numerous activities already happening in the U.S. Catholic community.” 

He cited several examples from the signatories to the declaration. The Archdiocese of Chicago is benchmarking the energy and water use of all their buildings and the Archdiocese of Atlanta rolled out a 40-page, Laudato Si’ action plan.  He also noted that the Covenant’s Catholic Energies program, which assists Catholic facility owners in reducing their carbon footprint, is nearing $10 million in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects throughout the country. 

Even while the signatories noted that progress on climate change has been imperiled by President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Sister Sharlet Wagner, CSC, the president-elect of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), said, “Climate change is not a political issue but a moral issue. God’s creation is in peril by our own actions. Yet we know it is a gift for us to enjoy, safeguard, and protect for future generations.” 

Throughout the summer and leading up to the Global Climate Action Summit in September, the Covenant will gather commitments from signers to the Declaration and share those during the event.