Sisters’ ExxonMobil Resolution More Gaia Than Catholic
Acton Institute Powerblog

Sisters’ ExxonMobil Resolution More Gaia Than Catholic

Divination, bearing false witness and pantheism are three no-no’s of Christianity. You could look it up. I know from personal experience that many of my fellow pewsitters in the Catholic tradition fail in their attempts to obey the strictures of the faith by seeking out tarot cards, Ouija boards, horoscopes and the like. Many of us are guilty also of spreading deceit, bald-faced lies or even incomplete and unsettled facts as ontological truths. This has been a problem for some time with Christians and you could look that up too.

What’s more, while we’re obligated to act as environmental stewards, we’re also called to worship God before we bow down to nature. We acknowledge the need to better ourselves by avoiding fortune telling, lying and Gaia-worship among other sins proscribed by Church doctrine.

That said, it’s distressing to witness members of Catholic religious orders engage openly in manners all of us are instructed to shun. My distress was caused by an essay penned by Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment Executive Director Sister Patricia Daly over at Responsible-Investor.com. Trust me, it’s a doozy.

It seems the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J., of which Sr. Daly is a member, are active participants in the progressive environmentalism advocated by shareholder activists the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Sr. Daly pledged her fealty to ICCR’s mission by reads in part: encouraging readers to support a proxy resolution directed at ExxonMobil Corporation, which states:

Resolved: Shareholders request that the Board of Directors adopt a policy acknowledging the imperative to limit global average temperature increases to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, which includes committing the Company to support the goal of limiting warming to less than 2°C.

Supporting Statement

We believe that ExxonMobil should assert moral leadership with respect to climate change. This policy would supplement ExxonMobil’s existing positions on climate policy.

Here’s Sr. Daly from her R-I essay linked above:

Amid this new moment, with Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ presenting a framework for our coexistence with the planet, stating that “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all,” and the Paris Agreement providing a goal of limiting warming to 2°C or less for the global community to work toward, ExxonMobil investors put the question before the company – must you acknowledge the moral imperative to limit warming to 2°C? Must you recognize this global goal to protect our planet and the people living on it? On May 25th, shareholders of ExxonMobil will have the opportunity to call on their company to join the rest of the world in acknowledging the imperative to keep warming to safe levels by supporting Item 11 on the proxy.

All of this predicated on Sr. Daly’s Cassandra-like divination of a world inexorably destined to havoc wrought by human-caused climate change unless human activity stalls or reverses it. Your writer will leave it to readers to unpack themselves all the scientifically unsubstantiated assertions put forth by Sr. Daly.

But, in Sr. Daly’s view, should ExxonMobil pass the resolution, the company will receive absolution from what she perceives are the sins of its past:

This resolution has striking applicability to ExxonMobil. This is even more appropriate this year amid questions of Exxon’s liability, or at least poor integrity, related to its knowledge about the climate impacts of its core business practices. ExxonMobil is the subject of investigations from multiple state Attorneys General for poor disclosure to investors and the public on what it knew about climate change, and is facing intense public scrutiny for its role in interfering with climate action.

“What it knew?” News flash for you, Sister: Nobody knew then and nobody knows with absolute certainty today other than climate-change zealots that 1) catastrophic climate-change is imminent; 2) climate change is manmade; 3) humans can stall or reverse it by reducing its carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. As for the allegations in the rest of the paragraph, they remain exactly that – alleged. To conclude much less report actual wrongdoing was committed by the company and its staff before the Attorneys General wrap-up what has been characterized elsewhere as McCarthyism, witch hunts and equal to the Soviet show trials of the 1930s is to bear false witness. But Sr. Daly continues:

This is not only historic action: even in 2015, ExxonMobil spent $27 million on staff, communications, lobbying, and trade associations to undermine policy action on climate change. This strategy has succeeded in keeping the policy agenda on climate change stalled for decades.

Oh my! How dare ExxonMobil defend itself and its shareholders against inconclusive science?

All this before Sr. Daly flies off to Gaia-land:

My Congregation, the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, NJ and 34 co-filers representing a cross-section of faith-based investors, health systems, socially responsible asset management firms and indigenous and community groups, with over half of a million ExxonMobil shares, filed this resolution urging ExxonMobil to acknowledge the untold suffering that climate change will cause and take steps to work towards solutions. After surviving a vigorous challenge at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), this unique resolution presents a moral challenge that is hardly a high bar given the stakes: simply join in agreement with the primary goal of the Paris Agreement.

ExxonMobil positions itself as fulfilling a moral imperative to deliver energy to the world’s population as a way to lift people out of poverty. Proponents contend that the moral imperative to limit warming to 2°C is a parallel, and equally important, goal that ExxonMobil must acknowledge. It is time we put an end to the concept that there are no alternatives to fossil fuels capable of lifting people out of poverty or providing energy. Alternative energy sources like solar and wind are already providing light and power to those that coal and gas have been unable to help, without contributing to extreme weather, drought, rising sea levels, crop failure, and accelerated species loss. If ExxonMobil is serious about addressing energy poverty, it also needs to consider the impacts of these climate events on the world’s most vulnerable.

So, the empirical facts that inexpensive and plentiful fossil fuels have lifted billions out of abject poverty are outweighed by the presumption that solar and wind energy can realistically replace them immediately without tragic disruptions? Is that a moral choice she really wants to force on the company in which she and her fellow nuns invest?

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.