While some religious communities tend not to make public comments, the Catholic community tends to be more outspoken. Both within the Catholic community and operating through ecumenical and interfaith activities, the Church is frequently speaking out regarding the moral and ethical aspects of matters affecting society.
In preparing the statement that was eventually adopted by the US Catholic Bishops (see www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/globalclimate.htm), we recognized that we are not scientists, that instead we need to use science as a source of wisdom. In evaluating the significance of the scientific findings that have emerged, it is clear to us that prudence is the appropriate response to the increasing pace of change that science is finding and projecting. We see climate change as raising the 'Common Good' issue, that abuse of the environment is thus abuse of our fellow human beings and their best interests. In addition, the near permanence of the consequences and their irreversibility will affect future generations, raising significant issues of intergenerational equity, social justice, and, indeed, the place of humans in the environment. Fundamentally, therefore, climate change and issues relating to sustainability generally are being seen as raising two interconnected moral issues that we, indeed, must be responsive to: first, the increasing capability of Man to alter creation and the environment; and second, the calling to promote social good by being watchdogs for the poor, both in the US and internationally.
To deal with climate change, the Catholic community is endeavoring to have the issue integrated into everyone's life and thinking through their local parish. We are encouraging mobilization for advocacy at the local level, doing so by creating a small grants program. With its broad international presence, the Catholic bishops are increasingly engaging on these issues with their colleagues across the global community and especially in Latin America. Among other activities, a joint policy framework has been developed, entitled 'Looking Forward: Catholic Coalition on Climate Change', which is part of the Catholic effort in cooperation with the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. With 70 million members in the US and more churches than post offices, while the Catholic community can potentially be very important in effecting change, there is a lot more outreach and education to be done.
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