Inspired by Pope’s Encyclical, Catholic & Evangelical Leaders Urge Political Action on Climate Change

June 23, 2015, 12:59 pm | Posted by

Impact of climate change is a “pro-life issue” and “costs of delay are unacceptable,” leaders write in full-page message in Politico newspaper

Washington, DC  – Just Just days after Pope Francis released a powerful encyclical on environmental justice and ecology that has reverberated around the world, Catholic and evangelical leaders are asking members of Congress and presidential candidates to recognize climate change is a moral issue that requires an urgent response.

“Pope Francis has issued a bold call to action, and the clock is ticking on a challenge that requires a collective effort in service of the global common good,” Catholic university presidents, clergy, nuns, faith-based advocates and prominent evangelicals write.  “As citizens of the most powerful nation in human history, we have a unique responsibility to promote sustainable development, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and build a thriving culture of life that protects human dignity.”

The open letter, which will be sent to leadership in the House of Representatives and Senate as well as candidates running for president, is published as a full-page advertisement in Politico newspaper today.

Signatories include 20 Catholic university presidents; two past presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Dan Misleh, the executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant; Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Miguel Diaz, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See; Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Rev. Mitchell Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network; Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action; noted Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann and Richard Mouw, the former president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

The leaders specifically encourage “presidential candidates, Members of Congress and Governors who have raised doubts about the seriousness of climate change to consider the moral dimensions of this issue and the urgent need for action.” Prominent political leaders who are Catholic, including House Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have denied or downplayed the scientific consensus that human behavior is driving climate change, and frequently criticize the Obama administration for policies intended to reduce carbon emissions.

In recent days, several Catholics running for president, including Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush, have questioned the pope weighing in on timely moral issues. Pope Francis and the church should leave “science to the scientists,” Santorum said, and focus on “what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.” Asked about the pope’s message during a recent event in New Hampshire, Jeb Bush said “religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

When asked by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about Bush’s comments, Cardinal Peter Turkson — prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a key advisor to Pope Francis on the encyclical – called them “unfortunate” and asked “what is morality about, if not about our conduct, our decisions, our conscience, and the choices we make?”

The statement from Catholic and evangelical leaders also puts pressure on politicians who have failed to take action when it comes to the poor and most vulnerable disproportionately impacted by climate change.  “At their core, climate change and air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels are pro-life issues,” the leaders write. “The toxic pollution released from coal-fired plants and chemicals spewing into rivers and oceans present especially grave risks for life in the womb, young children and the elderly. The costs of delay are unacceptable.” 

In his 184-page document, Laudato Si (Praised Be to You) released June 18, Pope Francis describes climate change as “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” He affirms the overwhelming scientific consensus that human behavior is exacerbating global warning, links growing economic inequality and poverty with ecological devastation, and has pointed words for “obstructionist” climate change skeptics who the pope writes, “seem mostly concerned with masking the problems or concealing the symptoms.”

The full statement with signatories can be found here.

add a comment »

Atlanta Clergy React to Charleston Shootings

June 18, 2015, 11:13 am | Posted by

Atlanta, GA - Today, the Outcry Interfaith Coalition issued the following statement responding to last night’s tragic events in Charleston, South Carolina.

Only a few hours ago, members of Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina entered the sacred space of their church for the spiritual uplift they receive each week on Wednesday evenings as they pray and study the Bible. But last night, the terror of violence shattered through the sanctity of life gathered in the presence of God and in the hope of prayer.

Today is a time to mourn the deaths of those who perished in gunfire last night in Emanuel AME Church. “Sanctuary” is a place to which one goes for safety and to be with a sacred community.

We, the Outcry Interfaith Clergy Coalition, pray together for the nine people whose light was extinguished, the nine families whose hearts are broken, and the community whose holy sanctuary has been emptied with violence. Life is sacred. On this we agree.

Outcry is an interfaith clergy coalition focused on ending gun violence in Georgia. Outcry has been played a key role in the campaign for common sense gun laws, including protections for houses of worship in last year’s “guns everywhere” law, and with this year’s HB 492. You can learn more about Outcry here: 

add a comment »

Faith in Public Life’s Statement on the Release of Laudato Si

June 18, 2015, 10:31 am | Posted by

John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington, responds to the official release today of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s encyclical on environmental justice. Gehring is the author of the forthcoming, The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church (Rowman & Littlefield, August 2015) Gehring is available for interviews on this topic, has broadcast experience and can appear live from Washington.

“Pope Francis has given us all a profound spiritual meditation on humanity’s broken relationship with the earth and a bold call to action that challenges political leaders to wake up,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington. “This should elevate the moral dimensions of climate change to the top of our political agenda.”

“A pope who insists that economic inequality and our ecological crisis are central moral issues also explodes the Catholic political narrative in this country,” Gehring added. “Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum and other GOP Catholics  are being reminded that our church recognizes threats to human life and dignity are found in unjust and sinful structures that must change.”

add a comment »

Catholic Analysts, Scholars to Discuss Pope Francis’ Environmental Encyclical

June 16, 2015, 1:20 pm | Posted by

Commentators will speak about the Pope’s recently released encyclical on the environment, climate and the poor

Washington, DC – On Thursday, June 18th at 1:00 p.m. (EST), prominent Catholic analysts, researchers, scholars and commentators will participate in a telephonic press conference to discuss the implications of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si.” The encyclical will be released earlier that day.

The release of the encyclical will draw global attention to the profound moral dimensions of an issue that has sparked sharp debate in the United States, where leading conservative politicians, Republican candidates for president and well-funded groups have questioned the reality of climate change even as Catholic bishops and diverse religious leaders have long advocated for a robust policy response to environmental degradation. Speakers will address these and other topics followed by a Q&A session with media

WHAT: Telephonic press conference with prominent Catholic and Evangelical commentators on Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment


Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK: A National Catholic SocialJustice Lobby, Nuns on the Bus

Dr. Daniel J. Curran, President, University of Dayton

Rev. Drew Christiansen, Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Development, Georgetown University

Rev. Mitchell Hescox, President/CEO, Evangelical Environmental Network

Austen Ivereigh, Author, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of A Radical Pope

Vincent J. Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, University of Dayton

Christiana Peppard, Professor of Theology, Fordham University, Author, Just Water: Theology, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network


add a comment »

More than 100 Pennsylvania Faith Leaders Voice Support for Death Penalty Moratorium

June 10, 2015, 11:06 am | Posted by

Harrisburg, PA – Today, more 100 Pennsylvania religious leaders released a letter announcing their strong support for Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to temporarily halt all executions. The coalition of faith leaders agrees that the death penalty is immoral and incompatible with their faith.

“While we come to the issue of the death penalty from a variety of perspectives, we deeply value the sanctity of all human life and believe that pausing executions in order to evaluate the death penalty’s human and financial toll on our state is warranted and necessary,” the letter reads, in part.

The clergy call upon lawmakers to reexamine Pennsylvania’s use of the death penalty and support the moratorium.

The signers join a growing chorus of religious leaders across the United States that are leading the fight to end the death penalty. They plan to continue to organize and advocate to ensure that that, “our state’s leaders conclude that the death penalty, as it has been carried out in Pennsylvania, is inconsistent with the values our state wishes to uphold.”

“The Pennsylvania Council of Churches see the message of a Messiah that was unjustly executed as sufficient reason to oppose the death penalty,” said Rev. Sandra L. Strauss, the Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach with the Pennsylvania Council of Churches. “The death penalty disproportionately affects people of color and the poor, and leaves no room for redemption and restoration.”

Representatives from the clergy coalition will gather with other anti-death penalty advocates tomorrow at the State Capitol to speak in support of the moratorium.

The text of the letter is below. The text and full list of signers can be found here.

We, the undersigned faith leaders, have joined together in support of the moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania. While we come to the issue of the death penalty from a variety of perspectives, we deeply value the sanctity of all human life and believe that pausing executions in order to evaluate the death penalty’s human and financial toll on our state is warranted and necessary.

We believe that those who commit violent crimes should be held accountable for their actions, and the public should be protected from those who seek to harm others, but there is strong evidence that we can achieve justice and protect our communities without resorting to more killing in the name of vengeance.

There is little evidence to suggest that the death penalty increases public safety any more than long prison sentences, and there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the death penalty is applied unevenly and unfairly, even for similar crimes. Some people are sentenced to die because they couldn’t afford a better lawyer, or because they stand trial in a county that happens to seek the death penalty frequently. Approximately 65% of men and women on death row in our state are people of color. A system that is applied so unevenly should not be allowed to choose who lives and who dies.

We are also troubled by the possibility of executing an innocent person. Nationally, more than 150 men and women have been released from death row after evidence of their wrongful convictions emerged, including six from Pennsylvania. The execution of an innocent person would be an intolerable injustice.

Further, there is evidence that the death penalty prolongs the suffering of many victims’ family members as these cases involve years of legal uncertainty, scores of meaningless death warrants, additional court hearings, and frequent media headlines that can re-traumatize victims and reopen wounds again and again.

Study after study also show that death penalty cases are far more expensive than cases where a sentence of life without parole or other long prison sentences are sought due to the Constitutionally mandated safeguards that are required in all capital cases. The expenditure of the state’s limited financial resources should reflect our values, and we must ask ourselves if the resources currently being spent on the pursuit of executions could be redirected to programs that will better serve victims’ families and address the root causes of crime.

We’ve heard repeatedly that asking state workers to carry out executions in our name places an incredible burden on them, one that we may never truly understand. We must also ask ourselves whether it is ever fair to inflict this burden on another human being.

Finally, as people of faith, we believe in believe in and affirm every person’s capacity for redemption. Government should not resort to policies that cut off the opportunity to repent.

For all of these reasons, we support a moratorium on executions and encourage our state’s leaders to conclude that the death penalty, as it has been carried out in Pennsylvania, is inconsistent with the values our state wishes to uphold.


add a comment »