US bishops are quiet on climate change

by Maureen Fiedler

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The U.S. bishops hold their annual fall meeting Nov. 16-19 in Baltimore. And it’s way past time for them to lay off the issues of sexuality, sexual orientation and reproduction, and to put their focus where Pope Francis puts his: on issues of economic injustice and inequality, immigration, human rights and especially climate change.

Although the bishops have spoken on climate change before, it’s time they issued a blockbuster statement. Their words could be important, just a few days before the beginning of the important U.N. climate talks in Paris which begin Nov. 30. These talks are crucial for the very survival of our planet; they were the proximate target of Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical, Laudato Si'.

But the USCCB website leaves one with the impression that this is not a major issue for them . . . as it is for, say . . . Pope Francis! When one visits that website, the tab "Issues and Action" has no selection for "climate change" in spite of Pope Francis' strong encyclical on the subject. In fact, it took time to find anything on this subject. Finally, I discovered some entries under "human life and dignity." And yes, this is a question of human life and dignity . . .  but it is so crucial a subject that it would seem to demand its own tab.

Specifically, the bishops might take a stand against the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring dirty tar sands oil waste from Canada through the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico. (Reportedly, the Obama administration is close to a decision on this and will issue one, even though TransCanada has asked that the matter be put on "hold").

The bishops might also consider moving to renewable energy sources in their national headquarters in Washington, D.C., and they might encourage the same thing for church structures, rectories and other ecclesial properties. They might suggest that Catholic dioceses, religious orders and the laity begin a process of divesting their stock portfolios from fossil fuels. And they might encourage preaching on the subject.

Most of all, they might speak to those presidential candidates (many of whom are Catholic) who do not profess to believe that climate change is real or potentially harmful, and encourage them to read Laudato Si' and what is has to say on the science of climate change.

Yes, it's time -- past time -- for the bishops to change priorities and join the struggle to save our planet… with serious efforts.

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