Local Catholic Bishops Team Up with Lawmakers to Combat Climate Change

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The issue of climate change has struck up an unlikely partnership between state lawmakers and local Catholic bishops. Both groups met Monday afternoon to discuss climate change legislation.

The meeting came in response to Pope Francis’ 184 page encyclical, released earlier this summer, which is dedicated to urging lawmakers to debate and set forth policy that combats humans’ negative impact on the environment.

“The pope recognizes what is undeniable — a growing body of scientific evidence that our climate is warming,” said Kevin de Leon, state Senate president pro tempore.

The pope’s encyclical is a call to action, not a scientific or policy document, according to Bishops Steven Blaire and Jaime Soto from the Diocese of Stockton and Sacramento, respectively.

In the encyclical, Pope Francis states:

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”

“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”

“These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish.”

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.”

“What has long been our tradition on the culture of life, he’s really now proposing what we would call the ecology of life,” Soto said.

The message from Pope Francis is important enough, according to the bishops, that both have preached the importance of being environmentally friends during mass services.

Both have also taken more active roles in the legislative process, urging members of their congregations to encourage lawmakers to pass certain bills — namely SB 350, which aims to cut gasoline use in half by 2030.

Soto and Blaire say though they’re not policymakers, they’ll continue to play a part in the debate.

“The role of the church in public policy is to lift up values and to be a voice for what we believe enhances the dignity of every human person,” Blaire said.

As church leaders join the political discussion on climate change, opponents of SB 350 say their intentions may be good, but the policy isn’t.

“They’re trying to do something about climate change, and they see that as an issue. That doesn’t bother me at all, the problem is what is the response, what’s the proper approach,” said Assemblyman Brian Gallagher from Yuba City, who voted against SB 350 in committee.

Proponents hope the pope’s words will inspire more than just symbolic change for the environment.

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