In June 2019, the Catholic Climate Covenant and Creighton University hosted the ‘Laudato Si’ and the US Catholic Church ‘conference in Omaha, Nebraska, the first of three gatherings that aim to spark the response in the United States to the encyclical of Pope Francis. “Laudato Si ‘, on the care for our common home.” The second conference will be held virtually July 13-15, 2021. (NCR Photo / Brian Roewe)
Have Catholics in the United States Made Progress in Addressing Environmental Challenges? Have new avenues of cooperation opened up between the church and the White House under President Joe Biden? And what enthusiasm is there across the country to join the Vatican’s ambitious push towards full sustainability this decade?
All of these questions will be topics of discussion at the “Laudato Si ‘and the American Catholic Church” conference to be held virtually July 13-15.
The conference is the second of three biennial gatherings organized and co-hosted by Catholic Climate Covenant and Creighton University. The series aims to spark ambition and action within the American Catholic Church by responding to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si ‘, on Taking care of our common home. “
While the first conference, in 2019, brought together a guest list of about 200 Catholics from all facets of the church at the Creighton campus in Omaha, Nebraska, this year’s iteration will take place virtually, in due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is open to the public. Registration is free, although the organizers have asked for donations to offset costs, such as translations into Spanish.
Megan Goodwin, associate director of the government relations office of the American Bishops ‘Conference, speaks at the inaugural “Laudato Si’ and the American Catholic Church” conference on June 27, 2019. Bishop of San Diego Robert hears his voice on stage McElroy and Martha Shulski, the Nebraska State Climatologist. (NCR Photo / Brian Roewe)
Nearly 2,000 people have already registered, according to conference organizers, a signal they recognize that both interest and urgency in a stronger Catholic response to climate change are high.
“With the [Laudato Si’] Platform for action coming from the Vatican, especially with the science continuing to come out on the urgency of the climate crisis, I think a lot of people are coming to a much deeper understanding of the need to integrate Laudato Si ‘ in the life of the American church, ”said Dan DiLeo, consultant to Catholic Climate Covenant and director of the Creighton Justice and Peace Studies program.
Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich speaks at the American Bishops’ Conference Fall General Assembly November 11, 2019 in Baltimore. (SNC / Roll Bob)
The conference will open on July 13 with an opening night featuring Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich and Maureen Day, assistant professor of religion and society at the Franciscan School of Theology at the University of San Diego. The discussion should examine the so far lukewarm response to Laudato Si ‘ within the American Church. Earlier this year, Cupich identified a pervasive libertarian worldview among some people of faith as an obstacle to a more robust American response to the encyclical.
Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima, Washington, who serves as the Episcopal liaison for the Alliance, is to reflect on Saint Kateri Tekakwitha for her feast, July 14. The conference will end the next day with an address by Franciscan Sr. Ilia Delio.
Other attendees include Kathy Mears, Interim President and CEO of the National Catholic Education Association; Chris Kerr, Executive Director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network; Kayla Jacobs, director of programs for Laudato Si ‘ministries in Joliet, Illinois, Diocese; and Meghan Goodwin, associate director of government relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
As in 2019, this year’s conference is organized around eight ministerial tracks: advocacy, creative care teams, colleges and universities, parish schools, preaching, communications and media, environmental justice, and youth and young adults. Breakout sessions on each will provide updates from the task force leaders on the strategies and resources they have developed since the last conference.
So far, the environmental justice trail has been the most popular among registrants, followed by the creation of care teams and advocacy, organizers say.
Many of the ministerial tracks overlap with the sectors or objectives described in the Laudato Si ‘Platform for Action developed by the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. The platform, introduced in May before a full launch in October, is an effort to mobilize church institutions of all types and sizes across the world to commit to seven-year roadmaps towards carbon neutrality and sustainability inspired by encyclical messages.
Dan Misleh, Executive Director of Catholic Climate Covenant, speaks at the inaugural ‘Laudato Si’ and the American Catholic Church ‘conference on June 27, 2019 (NCR Photo / Brian Roewe)
It was during the Catholic Climate Alliance 2019 conference in Creighton where Salesian Fr Joshtrom Kureethadam, head of the ecology and creation sector of the dicastery, provided one of the first glimpses of the plans. ambitious Vatican. Catholic Climate Covenant is leading the platform’s deployment in the United States and will provide an update at the conference.
In a letter to the conference, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, expressed Francis’ “prayer wishes” that he “will contribute to the development of effective programs and practices at all levels of the Church. in the United States to promote and improve the care and protection of our common home. “
Covenant executive director Dan Misleh said he was encouraged by the signs of progress already in the American church in the two years between conferences.
One is the growing expansion of Covenant’s Catholic Energies program, which in Creighton was celebrating its first completed parish solar panel project. More parishes, schools and dioceses have also undertaken energy projects, while other parts of the church have sought ways to use their finances to invest in climate solutions or divest from fossil fuels, including including Creighton. Add to that a shift from defense to the offensive in advocating for climate policies with the transition from former President Donald Trump to Biden.
Daniel DiLeo, assistant professor of theology at Creighton University (NCR Photo / Brian Roewe)
“It feels like there has been more momentum since 2019,” Misleh said.
Still, the feeling is that there isn’t enough. At a conference in March, DiLeo, a theologian specializing in environmental and climate ethics, said the American church was not living up to its potential as a major catalyst for action against climate change.
He told EarthBeat that while action is important, “it must be underpinned by the fullness of faith” and that progress has been slower among Catholics in recognizing the care of creation as essential to the mission of l ‘church. One of the reasons is the growing polarization in the nation, with the church, where studies have shown Laudato Si ‘ was received along ideological and partisan lines, he said.
“I think we still have to really recognize what some of the hurdles have been since the release of Laudato Si ‘ if we are going to be able to discern the answers and the ways forward, ”he said.
Organizers hope the conference will continue to both build momentum for action and develop new strategies to break the continued resistance in the United States to Laudato Si ‘ and church teachings on environmental protection.
“We could talk about what to do and the carbon neutral and divestment dates,” said DiLeo, “but if people don’t like the“ why ”behind the“ what ”it’s much harder to have these conversations. “
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