Seton Hall has joined a global effort of more than 150 Catholic universities and organizations who have signed a letter urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to act on climate change.
Interim President Dr. Mary Meehan signed the letter on behalf of the University. She wrote in an email that she “received a request to sign the letter” by the Catholic Climate Covenant “and did so after carefully reflecting on our call to be good stewards of our planet.”
The Catholic Climate Covenant “helps U.S. Catholics respond to the Church’s call to care for creation and care for the poor,” according to their website. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) helped shape the coalition in 2006 “to address growing ecological awareness and the need to implement Catholic social teaching on ecology within the U.S. Church.”
Meehan wrote how in Laudato Si’, “Pope Francis clearly articulated our responsibilities toward our planet” and that “our Catholic bishops have made compelling statements regarding our need to be good stewards.” Asked why she signed the letter, she wrote, “As a Catholic University where our students are committed to care for the environment, I felt compelled to ask that our government work toward this imperative.”
Laudato Si’ is the second encyclical of Pope Francis and in it he discusses “the urgency of our environmental challenges,” according to the USCCB’s website.
Meehan added, “I know there are some members of our community who would have preferred I not sign this letter, but I feel it is my obligation to support our Church’s leadership in this matter.”
The President’s Office sent out an email to the Seton Hall community about the letter on climate change. The email, signed by Meehan, it said, “This letter is the result of overwhelming support for action on climate change by Catholic groups nationwide — from religious communities to colleges and universities to health-care providers and others.”
It also read, “I [Meehan] wanted you to know about our support for this initiative as it speaks directly to Seton Hall’s Catholic mission. It reflects the Church’s longstanding commitment to caring for creation and reiterates the bishops’ call to act upon the best climate-change science.”
The letter written to Trump and Congress is dated Nov. 16.
It started off by saying, “As leaders of Catholic organizations in the United States, we write with one voice to urge you to reassert U.S. leadership in the global effort to address climate change.”
It also stated, “Catholic leaders across the nation and world have explicitly and consistently affirmed climate change as a moral issue that threatens core Catholic commitments.”
It added, “The Catholic Church has for years supported actions to address climate change based upon the best available science.”
The letter specifically asked for three things. The first is to, “Fund the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).” Second is to, “Meaningfully participate in the deliberations of the UNFCCC.” The last is to, “Honor U.S. Commitments to the Green Climate Fund.”
Students had their own opinions on climate change and Meehan’s decision to sign the letter.
Roba Hassan, a freshman early childhood special education major, said she supports Meehan’s signing of the letter.
“It’s pretty important that a lot of people take part in something that’s really serious and bring awareness to it,” she said, adding that climate change is real.
Hassan said that “people need to take more action to prevent it [climate change] now that it’s such a big thing.”
Salvatore Bianco, a senior English major, was also pleased that Meehan signed the letter.
He said it is a “good way of approaching the topic,” and that “it’s very effective because he [Trump] doesn’t believe in climate change.”
He stated that climate change “shouldn’t be ignored because it’s evident” and that “global warming is real.”
Bianco said that climate change is “something you can’t evade” and that “it affects the habitats of our wildlife in a negative way.”
William Cockerell, a junior physics and mathematics major, said it is “good to start the conversation” and “wise to bring up these issues” about climate change.
He said, “It’s difficult to address where the climate change is from” and that if “you look at the environmental science behind it it’s very difficult to pin.”
Cockerell said we can do our part if we could “move away from adding continuous greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.” He added, “Climate change will still occur, but maybe we can slow how fast it changes.”
Samantha Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.