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Word from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace following Climate Change Seminar

May 14, 2007
Following the seminar on Climate Change and Development, organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, we call your attention to the interesting documentation and activity on climate change of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

These are the first words posted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on its website regarding its “Climate Change and Development” two-day seminar held on April 26-27, 2007. The Pontifical Council links directs us to two USCCB documents:
Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good

Faithful Stewards of God’s Creation: A Catholic Resource for Environmental Justice and Climate Change
While a reference is not necessarily an endorsement, it should be of particular note to American Catholics that the Roman Curia’s authority on social issues is pointing Catholics world-wide to two USCCB documents. Unless one is bound by a prejudice or imprisoned by some resentment toward the USCCB (believe me, plenty of American Catholics are!), one ought to read these USCCB documents in light of their political neutrality and the Vatican’s nod.
For those Catholics who may be unable to view the issue of climate change without politicizing it one direction or another, the following excerpts from the USCCB’s Global Climate Change provide an appropriate admonition:

The continuing debate about how the United States is responding to questions and challenges surrounding global climate change is a test and an opportunity for our nation and the entire Catholic community. As bishops, we are not scientists or public policymakers. We enter this debate not to embrace a particular treaty, nor to urge particular technical solutions, but to call for a different kind of national discussion. Much of the debate on global climate change seems polarized and partisan. Science is too often used as a weapon, not as a source of wisdom. Various interests use the airwaves and political process to minimize or exaggerate the challenges we face. The search for the common good and the voices of poor people and poor countries sometimes are neglected.

At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God’s creation and the one human family. It is about protecting both “the human environment” and the natural environment.1 It is about our human stewardship of God’s creation and our responsibility to those who come after us. With these reflections, we seek to offer a word of caution and a plea for genuine dialogue as the United States and other nations face decisions about how best to respond to the challenges of global climate change.

Our national debate over solutions to global climate change needs to move beyond the uses and abuses of science, sixty-second ads, and exaggerated claims. Because this issue touches so many people, as well as the planet itself, all parties need to strive for a civil and constructive debate about U.S. decisions and leadership in this area.

As people of religious faith, we bishops believe that the atmosphere that supports life on earth is a God-given gift, one we must respect and protect. It unites us as one human family. If we harm the atmosphere, we dishonor our Creator and the gift of creation. The values of our faith call us to humility, sacrifice, and a respect for life and the natural gifts God has provided. Pope John Paul II reminds us in his statement The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility that “respect for life and for the dignity of the human person extends also to the rest of creation, which is called to join man in praising God.” In that spirit of praise and thanksgiving to God for the wonders of creation, we Catholic bishops call for a civil dialogue and prudent and constructive action to protect God’s precious gift of the earth’s atmosphere with a sense of genuine solidarity and justice for all God’s children.

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