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Talk is cheap: Moving from speech to action when it comes to the environment


What with Pope Francis’ imminent encyclical on the environment, there’s been a lot of talk about environmentalism and the importance of caring for the earth. On the news and around the Internet, people are hotly debating why exactly these issues are important, as well as the theological implications of the pope’s choice to dedicate his first encyclical to environment issues.

A couple days ago, Daniel DiLeo argued that in order to understand the coming encyclical, we need to understand what authority is given to different papal documents.

I wrote a blog post about Pope Francis’ mandate to feed the poor at all costs. In another speech, the pope comes down equally as strongly for environmentalism, stating that it is an integral part of Christian identity.

There’s a lot out there about the “whys” of environmental stewardship. But very few people are talking about the “hows.” What does it look like when we take the pope’s words to heart and actually start integrating awareness about climate change and other environmental issues into our faith?


There is no right and wrong answer for how to do this, but Fr. Peter Daly gives us some suggestions. He writes about his own parish’s attempts to “go green”—sometimes they fail, sometimes they succeed, but at the very least the community as a whole has dedicated itself to holding up the environment as a priority in their faith lives.

Here are some of the changes that Fr. Daly’s parish tried to implement, and just a few of the measures any Catholic community could attempt:

  • Being aware of the resources the church buildings are consuming
  • Incorporating environmental awareness into the liturgy as much as possible
  • Educating parish members on environmental issues
  • Using renewable or recyclable resources whenever possible, including reusable grocery bags and eliminating Styrofoam from church activities

This is by no means a complete list, and Fr. Daly himself admits that his congregation could have gone further. However, he offers a good way to start thinking about caring for the environment not just as a theological or ethical idea, but as a practical one. Taking similar steps in our families and parishes is necessary. It is not enough to agree with Pope Francis or hold him up as a great role model or environmental advocate. Instead, we need to take his words to heart and actually act on them, internalizing his words and truly making care for creation part of our religious and spiritual lives.

Image: Flickr cc by Kate Bunker