I’ve often heard it said that the power of the Roman Catholic Church in countries like Canada and the US is waning. The bishops hardly seemed powerless in crafting Nancy Pelosi’s health care reform bill in the US House of Representatives. But the places where it’s clear that the Church’s power is actually on the rise and will continue to grow are developing countries. The Church’s position on reproductive justice is having a profound impact on the quality of many women’s lives in those countries. And has a negative impact on climate change activism among “faith groups”:
The Catholic Church has studied and worked on issues of protecting the poor from climate change disaster for at least the last ten years. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is one of four members of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRPE), which also includes the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the National Council of Churches of Christ and the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). The NRPE is part of a broader non-religious coalition, the Alliance for Climate Protection, whose board chairman is Al Gore, and which includes progressive groups such as 350.org, the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, Green for All and the U.S. Climate Action Network.
“Never has there been such conviction and commitment across the entire denominational and ideological spectrum as there is on this issue, and not least because of its impact on those who are most vulnerable to climate change but are the least responsible for it,” says Paul Gorman, executive director of NRPE.
But in some of those same vulnerable nations where Catholic Relief Services is often found caring for indigent communities, there are many unplanned or unwanted pregnancies—due to rape, lack of sexual and reproductive education, forbidden or faulty abortion procedures, or poor access to contraception. Most in the climate change struggle are not advocating for population control, but many agree that a reduction in unwanted pregnancies in destitute nations would help them better adapt to climate change problems. As RD contributing editor Michelle Goldberg wrote in a recent Daily Beast column, “Climate change isn’t a reason to force unwanted interventions on women. It’s a reason to mobilize an often-indifferent world to give women what they need.”
In a conversation with Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change (CCCC), which is affiliated with the Catholic Church, he championed the “rights of women.” Misleh maintained there “has to be empowerment of women and proper education… because those are the prime causes of poverty.” But he added that empowerment would not include women’s rights to access contraception and abortion.
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And see Karen Hardee on climate change and reproductive health