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Catholic divestment movement continues to gain momentum

| Thursday, December 6, 2018

This September, Seattle University, a fellow Catholic institution, committed to divesting its endowment from fossil fuels. This means that the university will no longer invest endowment funds in fossil fuel companies or companies holding fossil fuel reserves. The divestment will take place over several years and be done in a way that is sustainable and responsible both to the environment and the economy, completing half of the divestment by 2020 and achieving full divestment by 2023. Seattle University’s President stated that the university was responding to “the moral imperative for action” and Pope Francis’s call in Laudato Si to act on the urgent problem of climate change, be good stewards of the earth and protect the most vulnerable.

With this step, Seattle University joins the growing number of Catholic universities and institutions who have taken this bold step to stand up for our shared home. Students at Seattle University have pushed for divestment with other students at Catholic universities across the country as a member of the Catholic Divestment Network (CDN). This organization, which Fossil Free Notre Dame (FFND) is a part of, also includes representatives from universities such as Boston College, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount and many others. The CDN provides resources, support and coordination between divestment campaigns across campuses with a goal of reaching full divestment at each university. FFND applauds the success of our fellow Catholics in refusing to profit off climate change and in standing up for environmental and social justice.

Divestment is not simply a movement among a small number of U.S. Catholic universities. Pope Francis’s call has a global reach that will take all of us to answer. For instance, the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) calls on all Catholic institutions to divest as a “witness to their faith.” The GCCM has seen over 122 Catholic institutions commit to full or partial fossil fuel divestment, including most recently Caritas India and the Irish Catholics Bishops’ Conference.

While the international divestment movement continues to gain momentum and Catholics everywhere are realizing the urgent need to protect our shared home, we have not seen our own University make the same commitment. FFND is proud to see that Notre Dame has committed to cease burning coal in our power plant and has undertaken initiatives such as energy efficiency improvements, new renewable projects and recycling efforts. However, our University still has a lot of work to do, with approximately 4 percent of our $13.1 billion endowment continuing to be invested in companies that perpetuate the wreckage of our climate. Notre Dame’s $520 million obviously will not cause the fossil fuel companies to immediately fail, but we can certainly do our part as Catholics and benefiters of our shared planet to not profit from climate change. FFND again calls on Notre Dame, inspired by the recent actions of Catholic institutions like Seattle University, to divest from fossil fuels. Everyday, we are reminded by the prestigious position that our University has in shaping international discussions on morality and the duty that we all have to social justice. It’s time to take the lead.

Anna Scartz


Adam Wiechman


Oct. 24

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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