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9 Catholic groups to divest from coal, oil and gas in a bid to fight climate change

Catholic nuns plant mahogany tree saplings during a Feast of the Forest event in Cagueban town in the western Philippines, on June 30, 2012. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

ROME (RNS) Nine Catholic organizations from around the world have announced they are divesting their savings from coal, oil and gas companies in a joint bid to fight climate change.

Religious orders and dioceses from the U.S. and Italy made the announcement Wednesday (May 10), ahead of international negotiations due this month on implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Their announcement comes amid reports that President Trump has delayed a decision to withdraw from the Paris accord until after the Group of Seven meeting in Sicily on May 26-27.

During his presidential campaign, Trump vowed to cancel U.S. participation in the accord, which obliges countries to slash their greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels. That agreement was signed by former President Obama, who was in Milan, Italy, this week at a forum on climate change and food availability.

“We wish to emphasize the urgency of the climate crisis and deepen our commitment to care for our common home,” said Sister Sheila Kinsey, spokeswoman for the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters.

The Chicago area sisters’ community is part of a network of 536 Franciscan women religious around the world. They joined several organizations, including Italian Jesuits and monastic communities, in the divestment decision.

“Pope Francis has called on us to listen to the cry of the Earth and to take care of the poor,” Kinsey told Religion News Service on a visit to Rome. “It is imperative that we make some decisions to capture the urgency of this moment. We have to get the message out loud and clear.

“We have a window of opportunity to do something and transition, rather than be reactionary,” she said. “We have to look at ways that people can be employed differently.”

Pope Francis has been particularly outspoken on climate change and in 2015 he devoted an entire papal encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” to the urgent need to care for our “common home.”

“Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms,” the pope said in the encyclical, referring to the damage caused by polluters.

In their statement, the Catholic organizations said fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas were the main cause of the greenhouse gas emissions that are changing the climate and pushing people in the world’s poorest communities deeper into poverty.

The groups declined to reveal the total value of the investments or where they would invest their funds instead.

They said 2016 was the “hottest year” since records began, overtaking statistics for 2014 and 2015.

Kinsey said there were Franciscan sisters in Indonesia and East Timor that had firsthand experience of climate change with rising sea levels and a growing incidence of tropical storms.

In addition to the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters, the divesting organizations include the Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit, the Italian Diocese of Pescara, Il Dialogo, the Italian Jesuits, the Rete Interdiocesana Nuovi Stili di Vita (a network of 80 Italian dioceses), Italy’s Siloe Monastic Community, St. Joseph’s Province of the Congregation of the Passion in England and the U.S.-based MGR Foundation.

(Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for RNS)

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

15 Comments

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  • A lot of low income folks are needing fossil fuels for their daily needs. Lights, heat, AC or box fans, public bus transportation, used car transportation, job searching, etc. Even food prices at the grocery store are affected.

    Again, fossil fuels are needed. Plus there is still plenty of concern about the censorship, bullying, and Climategate-affected mess that has resulted in the false “scientific consensus” regarding the hyper-expensive Global Warming Religion.

    Catholic nuns? Good.
    Paris agreement? BAD.

  • Rather than make a separate comment, I’ll ride on the coattails of this one. Except for one addition, as a free market advocate I submit that the Catholic organizations in question are entitled to invest their resources wherever they see fit.

  • In presenting the Vatican Bank’s (officially the IOR) latest annual report in May 2016, “As for the IOR’s INVESTMENTS IN FOSSIL FUEL COMPANIES, contradicting the pope’s ‘Laudato Si’ encyclical, IOR President, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, expressed his regret, saying that the past 12 months have been difficult for financial markets…” ((lastampa.it/)

  • If oil is our only choice, then when the price of oil rises, food prices will rise as well. We need alternatives to fossil fuels, necessary though they may be. I note that you mentioned public bus transportation specifically. That’s because in the developed world at least, public rail transport is heavily electrified and has been for some time. Buses are slowly starting to catch up and you’re seeing more and more hybrid diesel-electric or all-electric fleets.

  • Lets not forget that oil is also a key ingredient in agriculture. Fertilizers are largely produced from petrochemicals.

    As for Floydlee’s comment, the guy is a Creationist. Of course he thinks scientific consensus built up from years of accumulated data and research is some kind of conspiracy.

  • Here, Here, Floydlee!

    I don’t believe a just God would sacrifice the daily, basic needs of low income folks to save the planet. That’s one HUGE contradiction! To me it would require a rather wimpy diety to fashion a Universe that could be messed up and destroyed by mankind, the key part of said wimpy diety’s creation!

    A much bigger contradiction occurs when one considers how a wise Creator could be so schizophrenic as to fashion the rich blessings of fossil fuels for the benefit of those of us living in the developed world, and suddenly decide to deny those rich blessings to those unfortunate enough to live in the developing world!

  • But Arbustin, we’re not yet wise enough to consider all the trade-offs! In it’s great wisdom the US government decreed that a given pertentage of gasoline must include ethanol, made from corn. What the Great, Wise US government DIDN’T consider, was the outcome of corn prices going through the roof worldwise! Most of the unfortunate, brown-skinned people who live South of the US border in Mexico and Central America can’t afford to buy corn, their staple food item!

    To add some additional absurdity, consider that the growing and processing of ethanol requires more energy for fertilizer and transportation than it saves by blending it with gasoline! This not only costs a lot more MONEY! It causes a lot more POLUTION!

  • See NASA.gov site on the subject as an interesting entry for the layperson pubic. (The polite answer)

    Climate change denial has the same hallmarks of all fringe beliefs to be discussed later. (The passive aggressive response)

  • GWBs ethanol initiative caused a huge spike in food prices. It is not a viable alternative. Hybrid and electric engines are a decent measure for reducing fossil fuel consumption.

    But food prices increase with oil prices anyway because of petroleum based fertilizer and transportation costs of getting food to market.

  • Spuddle, aren’t you aware of the big movement toward the use of organic fertilizer? Oh I forgot! Those COW-FARTS also harm the ozone! But don’t we absolutely LOVE the dairy products and meat produced as a “by-product” of those smelly farts!

  • Have you heard of a little thing going on for the last 40 years called “The Green Revolution”? The technology and techniques which have been capable of turning countries like china and India from ones known for constant endemic famine into growing industrial powers.

    The world has been using organic fertilizers and farming for millennia. You can’t feed the world with it. Yields are too small, land use is too inefficient. At best you can create a small sub market for people with disposable income they want to unload. Petroleum based fertilizers are what is putting food on the table for most of the world.

  • No-body-cares what these people do with their money. The Paris accord is unenforceable and therefore…a joke.

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