Editorial: The Vatican is acting on climate change, but the US bishops are lagging behind

Not a week after photos from the James Webb Space Telescope dazzled our eyes with the cool, shimmering colors of the universe, we were then confronted with the harsh, hot reality we face here on planet Earth – a cracked brown terrain, billowing black smoke and raging red flames. . Far less dazzling photos of the danger and devastation wrought by extreme weather filled news pages around the world as they reported record heatwaves and wildfires.

Some places in Europe reached highs of over 104 F, while parts of the United States reached 115 F. More than 1,000 dead on the Iberian Peninsula have been attributed to heat and fires. Although the duration of this particular severe weather was short, the effects were nonetheless deadly.

Meanwhile, a four-season drought continues to threaten parts of Africa with famine. Decades of logging and mining in the Amazon region contribute to the loss of wildlife habitats and indigenous lands, as well as increased violence that goes largely unchecked by authorities and adverse effects on the health of humans exposed to large amounts of toxins resulting from illegal practices. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than five months ago is still financially fueled by the world’s failure to commit to reducing its dependence on coal, oil and gas.

Even before the scorching heat of July, planet Earth was experiencing a climate emergency.

In a July 21 message from Pope Francis for the 2022 Season of Creation, he said the planet was reaching “a breaking point” and urged “all of us to act decisively.”

The Vatican continues to do just that, announcing on July 8 that it is now officially a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and intends to formally join the 2015 Paris Agreement. On July 19, he announced a new investment policy for all Vatican offices that discouraged “speculative investment” in the oil and mining industries and encouraged investment in companies working to protect the environment and promoting the use of clean energy.

Francis urged nations to collaborate in the pursuit of ecological justice at two upcoming United Nations conferences – COP27 on climate change and COP15 on biodiversity. And a senior Vatican official has voiced support for the proposed fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty.

It is clear through words and actions that the care of creation is a priority of the Vatican and the head of the Catholic Church. Yet, one still has the impression that the American bishops missed the memo.

The East African Bishops spent July 10-18 discussing the “environmental impact on integral human development” in their region and developing plans to educate and encourage people to care for the environment. environment. Archbishop Roberto González Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico, released a 56-page pastoral letter July 15 calling for action to protect Puerto Rico’s natural resources and spur the transition to clean energy sources. And Brazil’s bishops have backed a campaign to urge Catholics to vote for political candidates who are committed to environmental protection.

It is high time for the U.S. bishops to give this level of moral, financial and political priority to an issue that the pope has repeatedly called “essential” to a virtuous Christian life. Before long, we won’t even be able to hear the idiomatic locusts anymore, as excessive heat and poorly regulated pesticides drive them to extinction.

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