For a man who promised to defend America’s “Christian heritage,” President Donald Trump has issued an executive order on the environment that seems alarmingly un-Christian.
Trump’s executive order, issued this Tuesday, rolls back Obama-era commitments to clean energy and makes it no longer imperative for federal officials to consider the effects of climate change when making decisions. In the interest of protecting American jobs, the order threatens state and local governments’ ability to plan for extreme weather events and will make it even more difficult for the United States to achieve the goals laid out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
All of this may sound like a matter of politics, but for the Rev. James Martin, a Catholic priest and the editor at large of America magazine, climate change is at its core a moral and religious issue.
You cannot care for creation if your heart lacks compassion for your fellow human beings. The Rev. James Martin
In a video for America Magazine, the Jesuit priest spoke about three reasons why “policies that fail to protect our planet are not only against Catholic teaching but are also immoral.”
First, Martin said, Christians believe that all creation is a gift from God and that humans are given the task of caring for the earth. Secondly, climate change disproportionately affects poor people and those in the developing world.
“Remember, Jesus said that we would be judged on how we treat the poor. That includes how our decisions on climate change affect them,” Martin said.
And lastly, Martin believes that not considering the effects of climate change is a form of selfishness or indifference.
“You cannot care for creation if your heart lacks compassion for your fellow human beings,” he said.
The priest’s line of thought mirrors that of Pope Francis, who wrote about the moral case for addressing climate change in his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si.” In that document, Francis linked climate change to human activity and calls on Catholics to make caring for the environment a top priority.
Francis and other leaders at the Vatican have shown strong support for the Paris climate agreement.
On Thursday, a top Vatican official said that he hoped “dissenting voices” in the United States would encourage Trump to reconsider his environmental policies.
“We as a Church, are full of hope that (Trump’s positions) will change,” Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who has advised the pope on environmental and immigration issues, told Reuters.