Faith Groups Urge the Pope to Divest From Fossil Fuels

By Presidência da Republica/Roberto Stuckert Filho (Agência Brasil) [CC-BY-3.0-br (], via Wikimedia CommonsMulti-faith groups have sent a letter to Pope Francis calling for the Catholic Church’s divestment from fossil fuel companies. The letter may be in response to the appointment of Cardinal George Pell as Prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy — a man who’s said that climate change campaigners are following a “mythology” attractive to the “religionless and spiritually rootless.” Or it could be in response to the Pope’s support of environmental causes. Whatever the reason, a papal call for divestment from fossil fuels would be a huge win for all of us effected by climate change.

As the National Post has stated, it’s impossible to calculate the wealth of the Catholic Church. Although its investments are kept secret, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports that the Church has investment assets of at least $655 million. The Vatican’s portfolio includes the buildings housing Bulgari Jewelers and the headquarters of the wealthy investment bank Altium Capital. One can only assume that an investment portfolio of that size also has money linked to fossil fuel companies.

And profiting from fossil fuels creates a moral problem for the Church. As the letter to the Pope states, “The threat of vast numbers of ‘climate refugees’ forced from their lands, is very real. Ever present is the experience of insecurity, fear, and despair which can only become multiplied, and clear religious voices are needed.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also called for religious leaders to adopt a divestment campaign against fossil fuel companies. “During the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, using boycotts, divestment and sanctions . . . we were not only able to apply economic pressure on the unjust state, but also serious moral pressure,” Tutu recently wrote. “It is clear that those countries and companies primarily responsible for emitting carbon and accelerating climate change are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money. They need a whole lot of gentle persuasion from the likes of us.”

Some are concerned that divestment campaigns may cause energy rates to increase dramatically, which would also pose a moral problem to low-income people in need of heat and light. But a dramatic increase is unlikely for two reasons. First, governments have protections in place to monitor ratepayer increases — rates won’t just increase because fossil fuel companies want to punish us. Second, Exxon Mobil has disclosed that just searching for more gas and oil to burn currently consumes about $100 million of its investors’ money every single day. If fossil fuel companies didn’t have this money, they might be more interested in using their current reserves in a more sustainable way, diversifying their own portfolios, and allowing climate change policies to move forward.

Pope Francis has received a lot of media attention for reforming the archaic policies and practices that have plagued the Catholic Church for too long. People are excited about the faith again and its power for good. Hopefully, he’ll take the letter seriously and make divestment a goal for 2014.

News Source: The Guardian

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .