NY Mayor de Blasio to Speak at Vatican Climate Workshop

Bill de Blasio testifies in this AP file photo.
AP Photo/Mike Groll

The Vatican has invited New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to address its upcoming meeting on climate change and the role of local governments, to be held in Vatican City next Tuesday.

The workshop, titled “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of the Cities,” will explore the connection between climate change and new forms of slavery. The official website of the workshop asserts that it is a “fact” that “global warming is one of the causes of poverty and forced migration, which are breeding grounds for human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and organ trafficking.”

Mayor de Blasio said that he will deliver a speech describing his administration’s environmental plan for New York City, known as OneNYC, which connects environmental issues to income inequality.

De Blasio will not be alone in representing the United States at the conference. The mayors of Boston, Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., are also expected to attend, along with some 60 other mayors from around the world.

The mayors will also be joined by California governor Jerry Brown in addressing the workshop. Brown, who as a young man considered becoming a priest and spent time in a Jesuit seminary, now opposes the Church on multiple matters, including abortion, gay marriage and a host of LGBTQ issues.

“This unprecedented gathering of global leaders is a wake-up call to face up to the common threats of climate change and human exploitation,” Brown stated.

One of the key people helping to organize the Vatican workshop is Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia economist and a longtime supporter of de Blasio’s. He said on Wednesday that Francis was “extremely excited about Mayor de Blasio coming.”

“I’m thrilled that the mayor will present OneNYC, and the challenges and the approaches of New York City, to dozens of other mayors around the world,” Sachs added. “It’s really going to have a galvanizing effect.”

Tuesday’s workshop is the first of two back-to-back meetings organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. On Wednesday, the Academy teams up with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network on Cities and the Sustainable Development Agenda to offer another workshop, “Prosperity, People and Planet in the Cities.”

The meetings aim at galvanizing support for UN climate change programs. The Vatican website notes that the workshops are taking place just two months before the climate change meeting in New York and four months before the climate negotiations in Paris. This event, it says, “will provide a crucial opportunity for city leaders to start to consider clear, quantifiable commitments which demonstrate their dedication to a fairer, more sustainable world.”

The Vatican point man behind the workshops is Argentinian Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, who came under fire in May for offering a Vatican platform for known proponents of abortion and population control like Jeffrey Sachs and UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, whom Sánchez invited to speak at the Vatican in an earlier conference on climate change.

When questioned about the decision to enlist speakers so at odds with Catholic teaching, Sánchez diverted the blame for the controversy to the Tea Party and the oil industry, and suggested he was not responsible because “I am only the Chancellor.”

Jeffrey Sachs, in fact, has referred to abortion as a low-cost measure to eliminate “unwanted” children, and battled against the Holy See on sexual and reproductive health for the better part of the last fifteen years. Sachs argues that our planet has a limited caring capacity and therefore countries must achieve “rapid fertility reduction” in order not to “transgress planetary boundaries.”

Sánchez was also criticized for barring from the May workshop anyone who brought a different vision of climate change at variance with the official party line.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome


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