An Open Letter to Bishops on Climate Change by Ray Temmerman
I am writing to ask you to act on a matter which I believe is of primary importance, and on which you have a particular capacity to act.
The main focus of my theological and ecclesiological work for 30 years has been that of interchurch families and that neuralgic issue, admission to communion. I have also, for longer, been involved in other life issues such as capital punishment, abortion, and militarism, as part of a seamless garment approach covering human life from conception to natural death.
Yet I see one overarching issue quickly becoming preeminent, making these and all other issues pale into insignificance, their importance irrelevant in practice, effectively “out the window.”
As Pope Francis says in paragraph 2 of Laudato Si’, “[T]he earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22).” I believe that if we do not begin to develop a true respect for all life, of which we humans form part, we will not long have an earth filled with the biota which enable us humans tο survive.
There has been much said about mitigation. While essential, that is like learning to live in a burning house. What is needed is to prevent the house from burning.
I have written letters to politicians on the issue of climate change, and will continue to do so. They must be called to make decisions, even difficult ones, for the common good, with climate change being top of the list. Hopefully my letters will help to move them ever so slightly toward such decisions.
I believe the time has now come to take a different approach, and to write to those people who have the capacity to call others to take personal action and to do the same letter writing.
Within the church community, you are the person who most has that capacity. You have faithfully lived your priestly vocation. I ask you now to live fully your prophetic one. How might you do that?
Being in a position of some influence in civil matters, you can of course write letters to, or even meet with, politicians, attempting to persuade them to make decisions and take action on climate change. But you can, in your position as pastor, do far more.
You can tirelessly proclaim the goodness of God’s creation, our responsibility to serve as icons of God’s love in caring for that creation—and what will happen if we continue to live as we presently do, using far more of the earth’s resources than the earth can sustainably provide.
You can have your clergy and pastoral associates similarly proclaim that goodness, that same call for all the faithful so to serve.
You can take action yourself, and call on your people similarly to:
- transition to renewable resources
- encourage civic leaders to incentivize such transitions
- sever arrangements with financial institutions which continue to invest in fossil fuels
- call for introducing demand/behavior agreements with external customers
In short, you can call people to live in ways which care for God’s creation—and to persuade, in person or through the ballot box, their political representatives and civic leaders to do what needs to be done to reduce our impact on the planet, thereby helping save God’s creation from our mighty power to despoil it.
I ask you, therefore, to take seriously this godly prophetic work of calling all people, through the liturgy, through the scriptures, through the sermons that are preached from your pulpits, and through your own personal way of life, to focus on care for creation both personally and communally.
Only if we together begin to tip the scales in that direction will issues such as interchurch families, or the sanctity of human life at all stages, remain practically relevant. Until then, the whole world, and us as the thinking and morally responsible part of it, will be in danger.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Ray Temmerman (Catholic), with his wife Fenella (Anglican), administers the website of the Interchurch Families International Network. A former Board member of the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC), he continues to conduct research into the place of interchurch families and the gift they bring to their churches and the Church.
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