February 25, 2024
In her Pastoral Middle workplace, Christina Slentz holds scroll representing contributors’ dedication to creation care. Picture by Ken Stone

On the eve of COP28, the United Nations’ local weather convention in Dubai, San Diego’s Roman Catholic chief issued an announcement backing Pope Francis’ name to finish fossil-fuel subsidies.

Creation Care Motion Plan of San Diego diocese. (PDF)

Cardinal Robert McElroy didn’t attend the two-week assembly that ended final week. However he did in spirit — and he walks the stroll.

About two years in the past, the San Diego diocese serving 1.3 million Catholics started divesting its pension and several other belief funds from oil shares and the like.

And in July 2022, the diocese turned maybe the primary within the nation to rent a full-time climate-change fighter.

However when Christina Bagaglio Slentz of Coronado started work as affiliate director for Creation Care Ministry below the diocesan Workplace for Life, Peace and Justice, the naysayers got here out of the woodwork.

After California Catholic Every day reposted a neighborhood Southern Cross article introducing Slentz, many feedback have been chopping:

I’m afraid we’ve slipped into insanity. This ideology of climatism is the newest nice deceit thrust upon us by the bishop of San Diego.

It’s all a bunch of hooey. Unhappy to see the diocese of San Diego purchase into it this fashion.

This virtue-signaling place is as ineffective a bureaucratic addition as is a chief variety officer.

When one supplied a “higher” headline for the Catholic Every day article — suggesting “Tree-Hugger Climbs to Department Supervisor” — one other commenter wrote: “I hope she goes out on a limb and it snaps.”

It was a number of months after the feedback have been posted that Slentz, 50, lastly noticed them.

Her response?

“It’s most likely higher if I had not learn the feedback,” she instructed Occasions of San Diego in her Pastoral Middle workplace.

She stated she’s by no means had a complete group echo these sentiments throughout her rounds of the 96-parish diocese. The scathing on-line feedback “was most likely essentially the most I noticed of any type of … group negativity.”

However Slentz, a one-time naval intelligence officer and naval reservist married to a former commander of Naval Base Coronado, is undeterred in her mission.

Advisory Group of 10

With a 10-person advisory group that features the Rev. Emmet Farrell, who beforehand led the diocese in local weather efforts as a volunteer, Slentz preaches the gospel of the July 2021 Creation Care Motion Plan.

McElroy known as the 55-page doc a “direct response” to the pope’s newest attraction to reply “the cry of the earth in its struggling and the cry of the poor.”

Slentz additionally takes coronary heart and steering from the worldwide Laudato Si’ Motion (primarily based on the pope’s milestone 2015 encyclical, a 37,000-word letter on take care of the pure atmosphere) and likewise the Washington-based Catholic Local weather Covenant.

So what does she anticipate native parishes to do?

No matter they’re as much as — from working a neighborhood recycling program to fund their backyard (St. Thomas Extra of Oceanside) to searching for environmental justice by opposing polluting vans (Our Woman of Guadalupe in Logan Heights).

“Each parish is type of just like the totally different nations [in COP28], proper?” says Slentz, who holds a doctorate in international research with a dissertation titled “Environmentally Associated Urbanization and Violence Potential” in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Like nations, she says, native parishes have totally different capacities and vulnerabilities.

“They reply to those dynamics in their very own manner and I believe plenty of teams are challenged by responding to the local weather disaster … as a result of they don’t know the place to begin or they concern that they must do all of it,” she says.

She stated additionally they concern financial prices if they begin down that highway, considering “we’ve to do all the issues.”

Slentz concedes: “In fact, I need all people to do all of these issues. But when we wait till you are able to do all of it, then we’ll by no means get there. So I actually have tried to push again a bit bit on this” perception.

Towards that finish, she avoids the previous top-down method and as an alternative invitations parishioners and church leaders to workshops — corresponding to ones deliberate in English and Spanish in late January. She writes a month-to-month column within the diocesan newspaper.

“Generally they have been getting caught, and I believe pastors have been simply very busy, plus COVID,” she says. “You understand, it’s simply actually robust to begin a model new ministry.”

Having been a naval officer and likewise concerned in Coronado’s Local weather Motion Plan helped Slentz design her ministry — which has already been honored nationally.

“How do you foster management? You may’t simply say like: Hey, we want leaders, , and hope that they’ll present up,” she stated.

Thus the workshops about twice a 12 months and her parish pep talks — and nitty gritty recommendation from the likes of a Franciscan friar who’s a restoration botanist, a medical physician and a profession SDG&E worker.

One other adviser, a local Spanish speaker, just lately earned her grasp’s in theology from Franciscan College of Theology at USD.

Creation Care Plan Launched

San Diego church leaders created a Creation Care Motion Plan in 2019.

“It’s an excellent useful resource for our parishes,” she stated. “I say: Hey, check out this. These are the issues you could possibly do. … It is a no-kidding, we-are-committing-to-doing-this this 12 months.”

The plan goals for annual progress for seven years, “and you’ll write a paragraph about it,” she stated. “You should use an Excel spreadsheet in an effort to be extra particular. … It actually does permit for variation.”

However Slentz might solely be at work for 5 years because of funding from an nameless donor — she doesn’t know who — lasting by means of 2027.

She’s not fazed by the uncertainty.

Catherine Slentz tracks her creation-care efforts on a white board
Christina Slentz checks off her creation-care efforts on a white board. Picture by Ken Stone

“I’m a army particular person,” she stated. “So we’ve programs of motion — we name these COAs … such as you at all times must have your COAs in thoughts.”

Ideally the native parishes will take off with their very own creation-care plans, she says.

“We actually need exercise to be on the parish stage. … Till I used to be working right here, I didn’t actually suppose rather a lot concerning the diocesan stage. I believe most parishioners are most likely like that and that’s good, proper, like they’re a part of their neighborhood.”

For now, she has her work lower out — simply because the U.N. Convention of Events was earlier this month.

A Zoom name Dec. 11 hosted by Slentz to debate COP28 drew solely 5 different folks (together with this reporter).

They talked a few film, “The Letter,” a joint product of the Vatican and the Laudato Si Motion. They talked concerning the comparatively meager U.S. pledge of $17.5 million to the Loss and Harm Fund.

Slentz known as COP28 “love of neighbor on a worldwide scale.” However she added that Individuals are “nonetheless not altering our habits. … We put Band-Aids … on this illness. … Like protecting on smoking whereas utilizing an inhaler.”

In the identical sentence, she used “biodiversity loss” and “eco-spirituality.”

Christina Slentz displayed a cartoon at start of recent Zoom session.
Christina Slentz displayed a cartoon at begin of current Zoom session. Picture by Ken Stone

On the Zoom name, Farrell, the retired priest, recalled a fraught second just lately when he was interrupted throughout a climate-care dialogue.

The following day, he instructed me through electronic mail that he had been invited to evangelise on Laudato Si’ at a neighborhood church.

“As I began to talk, a girl off to at least one facet stood and stated out loud: ‘What about all of the Jews dying in Israel?’ I merely stated: Sure, that could be a crucial subject to be mentioned at one other time.”

However a number of folks walked out, he stated.

“I don’t know their actual motives, as a result of I by no means obtained an opportunity to speak with them,” Farrell stated. “My homily was centered on our human position as STEWARDS of creation. I prefer it when individuals who query my talking about Pope Francis’s encyclical keep and discuss with me after the service.”

Persons are unsure and fearful about world circumstances and the longer term, Farrell stated.

“Pope Francis in his letter Laudate Deum singled out america as a powerful local weather change denier and subsequently additionally a powerful sentiment of apathy concerning the statements of scientists referring to a local weather disaster that requires a vigorous response.”

In San Diego, at the very least, the decision is answered by the divestments — figures weren’t revealed — adopted by the hiring of Slentz (who heard concerning the opening from a fellow Sacred Coronary heart parishioner throughout coffee-and-donuts time after Mass).

So as an alternative of pursuing a college instructing job, Slentz sought the creation-care gig.

I contacted Catholic Local weather Covenant to learn the way uncommon Slentz was as a full-time Catholic-diocese local weather warrior.

“Christina is certainly uncommon (and treasured),” wrote Elena Gaona, the group’s director of communications.

She stated Slentz is now joined by a full-time staffer in Seattle (Terri Nelson within the Workplace of the Vicar Normal Archdiocese of Seattle).

“And the Diocese of Stockton has a number of employees devoted to creation care within the type of their Environmental Justice Program by means of their Catholic Charities,” Gaona stated. “Everybody else is part-time or a volunteer blessed by the diocese.”

Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the San Diego diocese, says McElroy has been constant in his efforts to fight local weather change.

Divestments with No Dips

“I imply we’re half a decade into constructing photo voltaic services at a lot of our parking heaps,” Eckery stated. “We fulfilled a lot of the work we have to do for main divestiture with regards to vitality shares and we’re engaged on getting form of that secondary divestment taken care of.”

Moreover pension funds, the diocese has well being and cemetery belief funds now divested of oil shares.

“Our coverage on divestment consists of secondary sources, too, so we attempt to keep away from investments in firms which in flip make investments,” he stated, noting such monies should not working funds.

“We’re fulfilling each our fiduciary duty of getting a protected price of return on these funds as nicely,” he stated.

In a later interview, he noticed: “We haven’t had any dips in return. We haven’t had any issues that may say: OK, we zigged after we ought to have zagged.”

Amongst divestment targets have been sure mutual funds — “form of the secondary results of constructing certain that that they had not more than 5% of their shares” in fossil fuels.

However the diocese beat that 5% purpose — chopping ties with funds having at the very least 3% invested in climate-harming firms.

“At this level, the divestment appears to have taken maintain with none troubles,” Eckery stated.

However with Catholics usually cut up 50-50 as Democrats and Republicans, the divestment subject can nonetheless increase hackles.

Eckery contends that McElroy and the diocese aren’t adopting a political stance.

“It’s a coverage stance,” he stated. Being wedded to a partisan view of the world “doesn’t imply you’ll be able to’t embrace coverage points that cross get together strains. Actually, you’re nearly required to.”

“Catholics are Democrats and Republicans, however there are vital values and vital points that transcend politics,” Eckery added.

Creation-care chief Slentz tries to bridge political divides.

“My grandparents got here up by means of the Nice Melancholy, so reusing issues was … conserving,” she stated, calling such repurposing an instance of American ingenuity and innovation at its finest.

To depoliticize her local weather goals additionally demystifies them “by saying that is a part of our religion that has at all times been acquainted to us.” 

She recites church historical past going again a whole bunch of years.

Earlier than St. Francis, for instance, was St. Hildegard, a German mystic of the twelfth century credited with being accountable for recognizing that the fermentation of beer prevents spoiling.

“St. Hildegard has intensive writing on creation,” Slentz stated.

And even additional again — the E-book of Genesis.

“The very first chapters of the the Jewish and Christian scriptural custom speak about our duty to until and hold the soil,” she stated.

“The explanation that we’re speaking about it is because the environmental degradation is said to human life, proper? So that is the place, , we’ve two nice commandments that Jesus offers us: Love God and love your neighbor.

“Who’s your neighbor? Jesus’ reply is: Everyone is your neighbor. And now that we reside in a globalized world … our neighbor is all people and our habits has a capability to have an effect on all people.”

Thus when folks work to cut back local weather dangers, Slentz says: “We’re loving our neighbors, proper?”