Bishops and Lawmakers Discuss Climate Encyclical

With the State Senate debating two momentous environmental bills and the Pope declaring September 1 as a Day of Prayer for creation, legislators, California Bishops and representatives from national Catholic organizations engaged in an hours-long dialogue this week to examine the principles outlined in the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’ (On the Care for Our Common Home.)

Bishop Jaime Soto, from Sacramento, president of the California Catholic Conference, and Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, were joined by Joan Rosenhauer, vice president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, for discussions held in the State Capitol on Monday.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León asked the Bishops to share the relevance of Laudato Si in developing local, state and national policies on climate change and caring for the earth.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical presents a clear and compelling case for placing people at the center of a renewed commitment to be good stewards of the planet entrusted to our care. Throughout the encyclical, Pope Francis calls upon all peoples of the earth to together address environmental issues impacting the health of our communities, especially for poor communities and developing countries

Ms. Rosenhauer, from CRS, had perhaps the most direct contact with how climate change is affecting those underdeveloped countries. On a recent trip to a drought-stricken area of Africa she shared how the girls in one village would endure an eight hour trek every day to obtain water for their families.  After CRS assisted with a better water storing system, the girls were able to go to school every day.

With water for their crops and the ability to now provide for their families, women were asked what the impact of this new water storing system had in their community -- “Not one child died this year,” was their response.

In support of the call to action embraced by Laudato Si, the California Catholic Conference facilitated the dialogue for California lawmakers and their staffs on the relevance of the Encyclical.

The Dialogue on our Common Home & its Ecological Future” provided a meaningful forum for honest, open conversation among legislative leaders and Catholic Church leaders on our common home and its ecological future.

The Bishops were pleased to take part in this discussion and reflect on themes from Laudato Si.  Neither they, nor the Pope, claim to be scientists but speak as moral and spiritual guides. Environmental policy affects all of us; therefore all sides should present their case, especially to legislators that create the laws.

“We feel we have a right, like any other organization, to support values for the common good,” Bishop Blaire said. “The role of the church in public policy is to lift up values. I believe it is appropriate for the church to be a voice that calls for truly addressing these issues that affect the Earth so much.”

The two bills that are being considered are SB 32 (Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006: Emissions Limit; and SB 350 (de Leon, D-Los Angeles) Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015.

For more on Catholic Social Teaching on Environmental Justice, the USCCB has a website devoted to what you can do as a steward of the planet. 

Media coverage of event included the Sacramento Bee, KCRA,  KXTV – ABC10, KTXL – Fox40, the Los Angeles Times. Study and learn more about Laudato Si’ on our Care for Creation page.

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