AUCKLAND — The Environment and Sustainability Committee of the Auckland Justice and Peace
Commission is calling on parishes to run a programme about Catholic social teaching on care for the environment, called “God’s Earth”.
Committee chairperson Mary Betz said Catholics are not used to thinking about the way our faith should influence our lifestyle. Dr Betz has studied ecology and has
a PhD in theology.
Dr Betz said Catholic teaching on the environment is relatively recent and was brought to the
forefront by Pope John Paul II. “We have heard about labour, poverty and other social justice issues. It is only in the last several decade that we began to hear about the environment,” she said.
“The last three popes — John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis — have devoted significant words for the care of the the environment. Our own bishops have put out their
own statement on the issue.”
The programme has four sessions. Each session includes prayer, Catholic teaching and quotes about the environment, video clips, Powerpoint presentations, activities, reflections and ideas for actions.
“The idea was to give people a beginning understanding of environmental issues, particularly
climate change and its environmental and social implications,” said Dr Betz.
In one quote, Pope Benedict XVI points out, “Our present crises — be they economic, food-related, environmental or social — are ultimately moral crises, and all of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path which we are travelling together.”
Dr Betz said that although New Zealand is a small player when it comes to carbon emissions, “It doesn’t excuse us. We still have one of the highest emissions per capita.” Carbon emissions are largely blamed for climate change that has caused environmental harm through rising sea levels and increased storm intensity, she said.
“Our Catholic social teachings call on us to take responsibility and not to put others, especially those who are poor, in danger of rising sea levels as a result of climate
change,” she said, noting there is an increasing number of climate refugees, people who have lost the land they live on to the sea.
Dr Betz said people in First World countries live “as if there are four Earths. It’s not as if we have more Earths future generations can use.
“We hope that after the sessions, there will be a change in lifestyles so that we don’t consume more than our share of resources and that we don’t contribute more carbon pollution than our Earth can absorb safely,” she said.