Writer and broadcaster Mary Colwell has criticised the Church hierarchy for failing to speak out on the environment.
Addressing the annual National Justice and Peace Network in Swanwick, Derbyshire, Ms Colwell declared that although the Church might be getting to grips with climate change this does not amount to “doing the environment.”
“Doing what we can to get to grips with climate change is not doing the environment, anymore than thinking curing cancer will solve all the health problems of humanity,” said Ms Colwell. “Over fishing isn’t climate change, nor is misuse of fresh water, plastic pollution, destruction of habitats, extinction of species, the pollinator crisis and so on.”
The broadcaster suggested that Catholics could make the world a better place by reducing meat and fish in their diets.
A meat diet produces twice as much carbon dioxide as a vegetarian one, with grazing taking up 26% of the earth’s surface. “To be true to our baptism we should carefully consider not eating meat more than once or twice a week,” said Ms Colwell.
Equally fish stocks are under threat as never before, with the level of white fish caught in the North Sea reducing by 46% over the past century. “Promoting fish on Fridays just exacerbates a problem and highlights how little the church is engaged with what is happening in the world,” said Ms Colwell. “Just by doing something simple, cutting down on meat and fish, will make a big difference. By saying why you are doing it tells the world we care.”
Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather claimed that the distrust born of the MPs expenses scandal has bred an atmosphere of fear in politics, which can be most clearly perceived in the immigration debate.
Ms Teather told how trust in the relationship between MPs and the public has broken down, becoming far more combative and contractual.
The Liberal Democrat MP, who is standing down at the next election, claimed that as a result of this distrust in politics, politicians create fears that they then pretend to resolve. This amounts to creating a straw men on themes like immigration and then knocking it down.
She gave examples such as the moves to cut NHS support and benefits for migrants coming to the country. "We don't have the data to back this up," said Ms Teather, who claimed most migrants came to Britain to work and contribute.
She appealed for a fairer hearing for politicians. "Politicians are like everyone else, there are good and bad," said Ms Teather, who called for people to look to build alliances across political divides to really effect change
Clare Dixon, head of Latin America and the Caribbean team at CAFOD, told how Pope Francis had been converted from an orthodox and authoritarian position back in the late 1970s to his present radical stance in favour of a church of the poor. “The prophetic (liberation) church of Latin America is now sitting in the Vatican,” said Ms Dixon, who told how a number of great advocates for the poor including Dom Helda Camra and Archbishop Oscar Romero began on the right before converting to become advocates for the poor as a result of their experiences in Latin America.
Sister of the Congregation of Jesus Gemma Simmonds called for a priesthood of the laity.
She spoke of a sacramental life that was the same for all of God’s children, things should not be compartmentalised away. We are all equal before god.
“Whatever is meant by a priesthood of the laity,it doesn’t mean the clericalisation of the Church – there is enough of that already.
The 36th NJPN conference was the first time that the all speakers and facilitators were women