The U.S. Bishops and Climate Change

In an article published this past week (, National Catholic Reporter’s Mary Jo McConahay tells us now would be a good moment for “U.S. Catholic bishops to write a public letter to the faithful supporting the urgency for action to fight man-made climate change.”

The upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow is setting the stage and Mary writes that Glasgow will take a cue from U.S. lawmakers. But U.S. “bishops, using their respected collective voice, can influence thoughtful legislators and the public by speaking out as they have so eloquently on other pro-life issues.” Yes, climate change is the pentultimate pro-life issue because without a livable planet there can be no life.

In her article, Mary reminds us that during the cold war when we were at the precipice of nuclear war,  “U.S. bishops issued a collective public address on an existential issue from the point of faith and morals when the future of the world hung in the balance: the 1983 pastoral letter, The Challenge of War and Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response…The crisis that humanity faces right now is no less menacing.”

In an accompanying editorial (, the editors at NCR are calling for action from the bishops and have several suggestions on actions which, as we all know, often speak louder than words:

  1. Catholic schools and parishes have parking lots and “parking lots are ideal for installing a solar array. Every Catholic school also has a large utility bill, likely the second highest cost on its balance sheet after salaries. Why not eliminate that budget item entirely?”.
  2. EV stations can be installed in every church parking lot so that “Church steeples, built to point to the heavens, could now also indicate to travelers that an EV station is nearby”.
  3. Require diocesan priests to purchase electric or, at the least, hybrid vehicles when using their car allowance.

These are splendid ideas and taken together with a letter to the faithful could lead Catholics on climate change. Over six years ago, Pope Francis in Laudato Si, asked the world to come together to address the climate crisis. But as the editors conclude in their editorial:

But like activist Greta Thunberg, we all have had enough of the “blah, blah, blah.” There is no time to waste. Bishops and Catholics with authority over physical plants in the U.S. must take every action they can to limit emissions and transition to clean energy now. Not in five or ten years. Now.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 
Paul Litwin

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