Having been raised Catholic, I am no stranger to the notion of penance. I had to laugh when I read the New York Times this morning. On the front page, is an article with the headline ‘Vatican Tree Penance: Forgive Us Our CO2′. In short, the Vatican has agreed to buy carbon credits to offset all of their emissions. While I applaud this commendable effort on the part of the holy institution, I can’t help but question the whole psychology at play
‘Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alamed, an official at the Council for Culture at the Vatican, told the Catholic News Service that buying credits was like doing penance. “One can emit less CO2 by not using heating and not driving a car, or one can do penance by intervening to offset emissions, in this case by planting trees, ” he said.
Sounds familiar to all the Catholics out there? You may sin, as long as you confess and do penance. Penance, in the context of the climate crisis problem, seems more like a cope out to me. A way of buying one’s way out of an unavoidable predicament. Sure, I could decide tomorrow that I will not try to change my lifestyle, and buy carbon credits to offset all those dirty emissions of mine. I could, I ‘ve got the money, but in my mind, that is the wrong path to take.