US Bishops urge Catholics to form an ‘ecological conscience’
By Devin Watkins
As the Season of Creation got underway on Tuesday, US Bishops released a statement on the need to participate in the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which was held on the same day.
The Day of Prayer kicked off the Church’s annual Season of Creation which runs through 4 October, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology.
In their statement entitled “Towards an ecological conscience”, the Bishops traced out the state of the climate crisis, and encouraged American Catholics to inform themselves on the issue.
The statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was authored by Archbishop Paul Coakley, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop David Malloy, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
Highly complex problems
The Bishops noted that Pope St. John Paul II, already in 1990, warned about a moral crisis “of which the destruction of the environment is only one troubling aspect.”
Pope Francis expanded on the theme with his encyclical Laudato si’ in 2015, which called on Catholics to cultivate an “ecological conscience, one that enables us to see clearly, judge rightly, and act ethically when it comes to the care of ‘our common home’.”
The American Bishops admitted that environmental problems can be “difficult to understand” since they deal with “highly complex scientific and technical interactions between natural phenomena, animal and ecosystem behaviors, and human actions.”
Properly understanding the issue is made even more difficult due to the “complexity of communication and globalization in the modern world,” including on social media.
Forming robust consciences
For these reasons, Catholics need to form robust consciences and learn to wisely discern complex moral problems.
A deep and well-formed faith, said the Bishops, can help us meet the “countless challenges” facing us without becoming discouraged or despondent.
“Indeed, one of the underlying drivers of our current crisis, both moral and ecological, is a radical world view that has placed excessive trust in the power of mankind and disregard for God.”
Catholics should overcome these challenges through a “well-formed reason that can integrate knowledge and information from different secular perspectives.”
“It is a mistake to think that faith alone is sufficient for the Christian life, especially when it comes to complex moral problems that require both faith and reason,” said the Bishops.
Hope for the future
They then pointed to a recent UN report on climate change (AR6 IPCC) as a source of reliable information to help Catholics “exercise our ecological conscience and integrate the best available science with the truths of the Catholic faith.”
Despite many “sensationalistic headlines,” said US Bishops, the UN report offers bad news about humanity’s past climatological record, mixed news about the present with some progress being made toward reaching the Paris goals, and “hopeful” news about the future.
The report, said the Bishops, rules out the most “extreme and terrifying climate scenarios”, settling on a future with a “stable, albeit warmer, climate.”
“Climate change is serious and urgent, but it is not the end of the world. For the future and in hope, we must pray!” urged the Bishops. “Placing our trust in God and recognizing that He has entrusted us as stewards of creation, we pray today for all climate scientists, experts in technology and policy, and those on the frontlines of climate mitigation and adaptation.”
Ecological conscience into practice
In conclusion, the Bishops of the United States invited Congress to address environmental problems, “with an emphasis on infrastructure investment”.
“As we begin the Season of Creation today, we encourage all Catholics to build upon the ecological actions for the 5th anniversary of Laudato si’ and to join our Christian brothers and sisters in putting our ecological conscience into practice.”