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Care for God's Creation/Climate Change

Making It Easier for Parishes and Schools to Lesson Their Carbon Footprint

Starting in 2010, the Catholic Social Action Office and Finance Department worked together to enable Hamilton County parishes and schools win incentive dollars for energy audits and energy efficiency retrofits through the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance.  These investments have allowed parishes and schools to overcome significant upfront capital hurdles, so that they could replace energy intensive systems, such as boilers and lighting, with more efficient ones that both save money in the long-run and help the environment!

As of Dec. 2012, 10 parishes and schools have undergone over $1.4 million in energy efficiency improvements, supported by over $290,000 in incentives!

For example, St. Antoninus, St. Monica-St. George, Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Clare and Churches, Moeller High School, and the Archdiocese Tribunal Offices have all improved their energy efficiency through this partnership with GCEA — some even lowering their energy bills by over 20 percent in the first months alone!  You can learn about one example by visiting St. Monica-St. George’s  Peace, Justice and Care for God’s Creation Team’s website.

On-going Climate Change Ministry in the Archdiocese

In 2009, the Archdiocese signed on to the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor, promulgated by the U.S. Catholic bishops’ endorsed Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.  In order to guide the Archdiocese and its affiliated entities towards fulfilling its commitment to this covenant, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk authorized the creation of a Climate Change Task Force.  This task force continues under the leadership of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, has its home under the Archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Commission , and receives on-going staff support through the Archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office.

The Task Force has adopted the following mission statement to guide its activities:

Urged by our responsibility to Care for God’s Creation, we, the Archdiocesan Climate Change Task Force, commit ourselves to work for a sustainable world — one meeting the needs of all future generations as well as our own — and to diligently implement the five pillars of the “St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor”: praying, learning, assessing, acting and advocating for the good of the environment and the poor and vulnerable, both within the Archdiocese and to the public at large.

Any local Catholic is welcome to join who is interested in helping to strategize and implement efforts that empower parishes, schools, diocesan offices and other local Catholic organizations to live out the elements of the St. Francis Pledge (i.e. pray, learn, assess, act, and advocate).  The Task Force meets almost monthly and currently includes parishioners, priests, deacons and religious from Cincinnati, Dayton and Springfield areas.  We are also working closely with other local organizations which are leaders on this issue, including the Marianist Environmental Education Center (MEEC) and Ohio Interfaith Power and Light.

To find out more, download our one-page, Overview of the Climate Change Task Force.

Learn more about how we go about our work by viewing the 10 points of our Values Statement.

Advocacy

According to a visionary set of energy efficiency and renewable energy standards enacted in 2008 for the State of Ohio, by the year 2025, 25 percent of the electricity sold by each utility or electric services company within Ohio must be generated from alternative energy sources.  Furthermore, utilities must achieve 22 percent in energy savings by that year as well.  However, the Ohio General Assembly has passed a bill, SB 310, that questions these standards.  It proposes to freeze the prescribed yearly increases in these standards while a study takes place. Read a reflection statement from the Catholic bishops of Ohio on this legislative debate.

Given that the incentives resulting from these standards have helped the Archdiocese reduce its own energy consumption, as well as that of many of our parishioners, the Archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office, Property Manager, and Climate Change Task Force provided input to Ohio Senate’s Public Utilities Committee for their deliberations.  View the letter here.

Hamilton County Parish Recycling Initiative

In February 2011, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr accepted a check from the Hamilton County Commission and the Solid Waste Management District for the Archdiocese’s Parish Recycling Initiative.

The Archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office, Climate Change Task Force, and Finance Department are happy to report that the $14,500 grant has been transformed into over 200, 64-gallon, recycling carts (complete with the archdiocesan stamp of approval)!  We anticipate that parishes will divert well over 100,000 gallons of solid waste from the landfill this year alone.

Read The Cincinnati Enquirer’s article, “Archdiocese invests in going green,” to learn more about these two efforts, initiated by the office, Finance Department and Climate Change Task Force.

Church Teaching

In his 2010, World Day of Peace Message, If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation, Pope Benedict XVI stated:

Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development…. The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction. (nos.4, 10)

Pope Benedict builds upon the Catholic social teaching tradition of Care for God’s Creation, which he also articulates in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (nos. 49-52).  You can learn much more about the Church’s teaching on this principle by visiting the U.S. bishops’ Environmental Justice Program.

In 2001, the U.S. bishops released a landmark statement on the specific concern of climage change, Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common GoodTo help share and realize this teaching of the Church, the bishops have endorsed, along with several other national Catholic organizations, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.  Please visit their website at www.catholicclimatecovenant.org to learn more and to take the Catholic Climate Covenant, the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor!