Much is at stake for people and for the environment in the decisions made in city halls and corporation boardrooms, in the chambers of Congress and state legislatures, and in the offices of political leaders and business executives.
The Catholic Church has been a strong voice on behalf of environmental justice in these arenas. Individual Catholic citizens, local parishes, religious orders, dioceses, and conferences of Bishops have spoken up in defense of creation, especially the poor and vulnerable. They have been advocates for the common good, environmental stewardship, responsibility to future generations, and respect for the life, dignity and rights of the human person.
- Nationally and regionally, Catholic Bishops in the United States have issued several public statements, urging citizens, policy makers and officials to consider the ethical dimensions of environmental policy decisions.
- The Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development is the national policy agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), helping them to share and apply Catholic social teaching to domestic and international issues. A recent background paper summarizes the USCCB’s perspective on environmental justice issues.
- By registering their commitment to the the USCCB-endrosed Catholic Climate Covenant: The St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor (a project of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change), Catholic individuals, families, schools, parishes, and other organizations commit themselves to Advocate for Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable.
- The Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative, jointly administered by the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services, has outlined the criteria which any morally acceptable climate change legislation must meet. You can find this set of policy criteria in Global Climate Change and our Catholic Response.
- The National Catholic Rural Life Conference advocates for family farms, a healthy environment, and strong rural communities, serving as a catalyst and convener for social justice and a vehicle for community reconciliation.
- Parishes and dioceses, working together with other local religious and community groups, have undertaken legislative advocacy projects and major regional initiatives addressing environmental policy areas such as energy, water quality and supplies, urban sprawl and transportation issues, large-scale hog farming, destruction of coastal wetlands, and their impacts on low-income and minority communities.
- Some religious orders have made advocacy for environmental justice an important part of their work — for example, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Franciscans International, and the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order.