For many years, people of faith have recognized that the call to care for people on the margins of society is key to living out their mission.
This week, 35 catholic organizations and institutions announced their decision to divest from fossil fuels companies, recognizing the impact of those rouge companies on people on the margins of society. Caritas Internationalis – a confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories and an official institution of the Catholic Church – is among the institutions committed to divest from fossil fuels.
In the Pope’s view, an ethical and economic shift is urgently needed in order to prevent catastrophic climate change and growing inequality. Pope Francis also praises citizens’ groups and non-government organizations who advocate for environmental care. He affirms consumer boycotts which “prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently . . . ‘Purchasing is always a moral–and not simply an economic–act.’” (Laudato Si, 206).
Today humanity needs to stand united in addressing the crisis of our times. Climate change is not just an issue for scientists, politicians and activists – but for everyone with an ethical conscience. In this times, The Vatican must use its moral and ethical leadership and divest from fossil fuels.
The Catholic Church has been fueled by the groundbreaking Papal encyclical Laudato sì – released in June 2015 in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference. Since then the number of Catholic institution committed to divest skyrocketed from 8 to 103, and account to more than 10% of all divestment commitments. Laudato sì was Pope Francis’ response to the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”. Those cries are a direct result of fossil fuel industry’s reckless business model. The only moral response is to withdraw our consent by divesting from these companies.
World leaders of all dispositions should find inspiration in Pope Francis’ words and similarly lead calls for action. The clear path required to address the climate crisis is one that breaks humanity free from the current stranglehold of fossil fuels on our lives and the planet. This encyclical reinforces the tectonic shift that is happening, we simply cannot continue to treat the Earth as a tool for exploitation.
For any faith institution, fossil fuel divestment is first of all a choice of moral consistency. Fossil fuel divestment is a way to care for our common home and the poorest of our brothers and sisters, who suffer the worst impacts of climate change.