Australian Catholic organisations jointly announce fossil fuel divestment
Four Australian Catholic organisations today made public their divestment from coal, oil and gas extractive industries. They have done so at the anniversary of the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, in which he calls for a shift away from fossil fuels and towards low carbon technologies. The announcements mark the beginning of a new Global Catholic Climate Movement divestment campaign to encourage Catholics to divest.
The decision by the Presentation Congregation Queensland, Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga, Marist Sisters, Australia, and The Passionists – Holy Spirit Province, to abandon fossil fuels was facilitated by the multi-faith Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. ARRCC has a large Catholic constituency as well as members from Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i and other traditions.
ARRCC is concurrently releasing an open letter calling on those in public office, in the lead-up to the election, to hear the wake-up call which is the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef. Prominent leaders in a range of faith traditions are calling for more robust policies to transition Australia much more rapidly away from fossil fuels.
In his encylical, the Pope said that “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas - has to be progressively replaced without delay.” (para. 165)
Today’s announcement is part of the Laudato Si’ week, where Catholic organisations across the world are engaged in a series of discussions around their role in caring for the planet and tackling climate change. More Australian Catholic organisations are expected to divest by the Feast of St Francis, in October.
Sister Anne Lane pbvm, Leader of the Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga
“We made the decision to align our investments with projects that reflect our values and understanding of the importance of caring for creation. The decision are made after much careful consideration and in the knowledge that our decision won’t change things overnight - this is a long term investment in the earth’s future.”
Sister Marlette Black pbvm, Congregational Leader, Presentation Congregation Queensland
“We recognise our need to engage in respectful and transformative relationships with the whole community of life. For many years Queensland Presentation Sisters have excluded any investment in our portfolio held with companies primarily associated with fossil fuels, uranium mining and environmental degradation. This is a key part of the way we engage in God’s mission, especially at a time when the challenge to address global warming is so urgent.”
Father Thomas McDonough CP, Provincial of The Passionists – Holy Spirit Province Australia, NZ, PNG and Vietnam
“For some years now our Passionist Congregation has been aware of the need for our communities and ministries to be far more ecologically responsible. Pope Francis, in his Laudato Si, crystallised for us the level of responsibility we need to take as a Congregation, the urgency for action ever more apparent. So we Trustees of the Passionists took the decision to begin diverting our investments from fossil fuel extractive industries and into renewable energy. We believe the Gospel asks no less of us.”
Sister Catherine Lacey SM, Congregation Leader, Marist Sisters, Australia:
“Marist Sisters in Australia are working towards divesting from fossil fuels. Dependence on fossil fuels is contributing to adverse climate change which affects everyone but especially the poor and vulnerable. In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis calls on us to reduce carbon emissions and develop sources of renewal energy. Divesting of fossil fuels is one way that we can be stewards of God’s gift of creation so that life in all its forms can be sustained now and into the future.”
Thea Ormerod, President, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change
“The Religious Congregations are leading the way for other Catholic organisations to publicly divest. I congratulate them for their courage and moral vision. Their announcement comes on the anniversary of the release of Pope Francis' encyclical in which he drew the world’s attention to the ‘urgent challenge to protect our common home’ (para. 13). His encyclical was a call for Governments, organisations, businesses and individuals to do all they can to help prevent climate disruption from becoming climate catastrophe.”
Contact: Thea Ormerod, email@example.com, +61 2 9150 9713 or +61 405 293 466