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October 4, 2010

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On the Feast of St. Francis, Catholic Democrats Urges Voters to Weigh the Environmental Positions of Candidates on November 2nd

Boston, Mass. - Catholic Democrats, on the occasion of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, is calling on voters to hold candidates accountable for their record on the environment as the fall elections approach on November 2nd.  St. Francis is widely known as the 13th Century founder of the Franciscan Order and the patron saint of animals and the environment.  He was also a major force for peace at the end of the Crusades as an intermediary with the Muslim world.
"It is not a coincidence that St. Francis is both the patron saint of the environment and an inspiration for peace," said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats.  "In a time of unprecedented concern about the future of our environment, we have to be increasingly aware of the connection between good stewardship of God's creation and preventing the kind of poverty that often leads to war and to greater vulnerability in the face of natural disaster.  The U.S. Catholic Bishops have spoken out forcefully on this subject, as did Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which was issued during the week that he met President Obama last year at the Vatican."
On January 1st, Pope Benedict's World Peace Day message linked the cultivation of peace with the protection of the Earth.  In April 2009, a coalition that included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, among others, launched the Catholic Climate Covenant with the question, "who's under your carbon footprint?"
"Catholic teaching on climate change embraces the principles of prudence, poverty and the common good," according to the Catholic Climate Covenant Web site,   "The Coalition accepts overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change. There is nearly unanimous agreement that human actions are creating a warming planet. As stewards of all Creation, we must identify wise, careful actions that will reverse this climate change and avoid its potentially dangerous impact on all life -- especially human life."
According to an article in Politico, an array of Republican candidates have questioned the reality of climate change.  For instance, Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, who is running for the Senate seat currently occupied by Barbara Boxer, ran an advertisement in August that said that Boxer is "worried about the weather."  The Politico article also mentions Patrick Toomey, who is running against Rep. Joe Sestak for Pennsylvania's Senate seat and Dino Rossi, who is running against Senator Patty Murray for Washington's Senate seat, as candidates who express doubt in the existence of climate change.  Both Toomey and Rossi are Catholics.
"It is lamentable that so many well-educated people on the Right choose to refute - in such unequivocal terms - the preponderance of the evidence that supports climate change," said Steve Krueger, National Director of Catholic Democrats.  "Prudence leads us to take a long-term view of the stewardship we provide for God's creation, not only because it was a responsibility given to us by God - and a responsibility we have to future generations - but also because it is in our own best interest."
The track record of many incumbent Republicans regarding vital legislation that would help protect the environment is poor.  The House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009 implementing historic reductions in pollution that causes climate change, and reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil while creating clean energy jobs.  Only eight Republicans supported the House legislation, despite the fact that it included cap-and-trade provisions similar to the policies that Republican President Ronald Reagan utilized to reduce the incidence of "acid rain" in the 1980s.
Furthermore, this past summer, only two Republicans in the House voted for the legislation that lifted the liability cap for BP in relation to the oil spill that caused millions of dollars of damage in the Gulf Coast.  Instead, obstructionism on the BP spill was symbolized by Republican Representative Joe Barton's apology to BP for President Obama's leadership in securing $20 billion from the company to pay for remuneration to Gulf Coast residents.  In the past week, Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has blocked the Senate from having subpoena power in their hearings around the BP disaster.  The GOP's recently released "Pledge to America" made no reference to the environment but instead would cut investments to emerging industries that could reduce the nation's energy consumption.
"Pope Benedict reminds us in that environmental ecology evolves from human ecology.  In today's political climate, the far Right is advancing the interest of corporations ahead of an economy that serves the needs of people," said Krueger.  "We see this not only in the rhetoric of many conservative candidates today, but from the Republican Congress who largely opposed cap-and-trade legislation and who demonstrated a lack of concern for accountability in the wake of the Gulf Oil Disaster.  This November, St. Francis's legacy of world peace and responsible environmental stewardship speaks to us as Catholics in a special way.  We urge Catholics and all voters to take into account the environmental positions of candidates and to strongly consider those who support common sense solutions that preserve our environment for the common good."

About Catholic Democrats
Catholic Democrats is an association of state-based groups representing a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, and advancing a public understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and its potential to help solve the broad range of problems confronting all Americans. For more information about Catholic Democrats please go to