Clean Air Is Sacred To Catholics

BY ON October 7, 2011

St. Francis of Assisi graphicAt a recent Sunday mass, my parish in Oakland, California celebrated the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. He is the ultimate patron saint of creation: the poor, animals and environmental stewardship.

During the mass, parishioners brought their pets for our pastor’s blessing, and were reminded to generously donate time and money to the Catholic homeless shelter. We were also reminded to sign up for the California Catholic Conference newsletter to stay on top of the legislation that is important to our faith.

The top story on the website? This message in honor of St. Francis feast day, which was October 4th:

Saint Francis exemplified respect for the interconnectedness and sacredness of all life in God’s creation. He perceived creation as a gift reverenced by stewardship, not controlled as a possession. His feast day on October 4 reminds us that care for creation is not just a slogan, but a precept of our faith, with moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.

Yes, our planet is a gift from God, not a possession to be enjoyed by a powerful few.


Reading the number of ways Catholics in my home state have shown their respect for God’s creation, I was struck by two things:

1. The importance of setting a personal example is encouraged, by recycling, supporting community gardens and using energy-efficient light bulbs.

2. The church stands publicly on legislation that promotes clean air and water. In this letter by the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Catholic’s support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed standards to reduce mercury and air toxins produced by power plants. My wonderful parish in Oakland even conducted a letter-writing campaign to the EPA in support of the rule!

Lately, polluting corporations have tried to scare the public into believing that our already fragile economy will suffer even more job losses with pollution-control regulations. In light of the feast of St. Francis, the Catholic Church, which also stands with the poor and working people, had this to say:

There is no essential contradiction between care for the poor and care for the Earth in the Franciscan worldview; they are both expressions of God and God’s love.

Environmental degradation is not distributed randomly or equitably across the planet. The poor suffer from barriers to economic justice, and the lack of resources and superabundance of pollution frequently contribute to their suffering. Environmental justice places the poor and vulnerable at the center of environmental protection initiatives, and thus is fully consistent with a Franciscan worldview.

Amen, again.

As someone who considers herself a social justice activist for everything from prison reform to the environment, it was refreshing to read the above statement. I have always genuinely believed that, like people from all walks of life, all of these issues are connected in some way. There is no evidence that the recession is caused by clean air regulations.

As a Latina, it offends me when these companies spew this lie. It implies that the only way working people of color can succeed in this country is if we take on the disproportionate burden of dirty air and water. How degrading and racist!

This is one Franciscan who will never stop fighting for clean air, not only for her family, but for all of God’s children. To fight with me and the Moms Clean Air Force, please join MCAF here. Thank you!

TOPICS: Activism, Economics, Environment, Latino Community, Mercury Poisoning, Pollution, Religion, Social Justice