Within the social teaching of the Catholic Church, concern for the environment is well established.
“From the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of November, 1964, to the Venice Declaration of June, 2002, the message has been the same: we have a moral obligation to care for the environment, to respect all of God’s creation and to assure that its goods are equitably shared with all.” (Ibid, p.9).
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has addressed the religious and moral dimensions of environmental degradation in publications such as “The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility” (Publication #332-9), “Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching” (Publication #468-6) and “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good” (Publication #5-431). The Bishops specifically invite the following actions:
We ask scientists, environmentalists, economists, and other experts to continue to help us understand the challenges we face and the steps we need to take. We invite teachers and educators to emphasize, in their classrooms and curricula, a love for God’s creation, a respect for nature, and a commitment to practices and behavior that bring these attitudes into the daily lives of their students and themselves. (“Renewing the Earth”, 1992, p.13)
In 1990, Pope John Paul II issued his World Day of Peace Message, Peace with God - Peace with all of Creation, in which the Holy Father announced, "There is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflicts, and continued injustice among peoples and nations, but also by a lack of due respect for nature.... Moreover, a new ecological awareness is beginning to emerge which, rather than being downplayed, ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programs and initiatives."
The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change was launched in 2006 to help the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic community apply Catholic Principles and Teachings to the issue of global climate change:
- Prudence—thoughtful, deliberate, and reasoned action
- Poverty—concern for those least able to bear the burden
- The Common Good—promotion of solidarity over self-interest
The U.S. Catholic Church celebrated Earth Day, 2009, by launching the Catholic Climate Covenant and the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor in response to a growing desire by the Catholic community to respond, in faith, to climate change.
Pope Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2010 is entitled
"If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation". In a wide-ranging message on climate change and environmental justice, Pope Benedict urged all to "rethink the path which we are travelling together." His message will undoubtedly be seen as a landmark and urgent call to care for God's gift of creation.