Franciscan University's leasing of land to hydraulic fracturing companies contradicts the social doctrine of the church, as well as the environmental ethics demanded by our being caretakers of creation.
Our organization's statement on the matter follows:
We, Students for a Fair Society, are sorrowful upon learning that Franciscan University of Steubenville, and its related business affiliates, such as Good Venture Enterprises, LLC., ultimately leased 233 acres of oil and gas rights for exploration and extraction, etc., to Dale Property Services, Penn, LP, of Texas, on 14 June, 2011.
Our partners and we have spent years investigating the contemporary technology utilized for oil and gas extraction known as high-volume slick-water horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," and applying Catholic principles to our examination of the process to the end of promoting the well-being of the all men and women, this generation and for generations to come, (Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 166).
It has been our intention to actualize the guidelines for action set forth by the teachers of our faith. In the document "Global Climate Change: A Plea For Dialogue Prudence and the Common Good," our bishops seek to move steadily beyond the fossil fuel industry which, in spite of alleged prosperity, does not mitigate the damage done to the atmospheric environment and the advancement of the climate change epidemic. As a Catholic institution, which has rejected our request to join other Catholic institutions in taking The St. Francis Pledge, we sought transparency (the dialogue implied), and prudence in the decision making process that led to securing wealth in spite of what was, then, a risk to life, both human and organic.
We have seen consistent upsets in the fulfillment of the promises made to communities who have welcomed the oil and gas industry - upsets similar to those failures and structural injustices noted by the signatories of the 1975 pastoral, "This Land is Home to Me: A Pastoral Letter on the Poverty and Powerlessness in Appalachia" - and failures in local sustained economic and social growth, failures in moving away from fossil fuel development in light of environmental prostitution, failures in developing a culture that sees creation as a gift, embodying and reflecting our Creator's beauty, goodness, and truth, ultimately diminishing our efforts to establish a "Culture of Life," we cannot but help call on all men and women of good will, especially those given authority in various organizations, to continue refining their understanding of the natural world, our exploitation of it for the sake of satisfying the "American way of life," our responsibility and talent in light of this destruction, and ability to move beyond it in search of a sustainable way of life.
The impact of hydraulic fracturing on the environment - i.e., air, water, and land, and human life - and its faux-presentation as a fuel for energy independence, its lack of sustained economic benefit, its disrespect, in most instances, of the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, the common good, the right to life and dignity of the human person is preposterous and does not seek advance the status of the poor and vulnerable, resulting in injustice. In a world that has grown hungry for what it faintly recalls as peace, we cannot but question this industry and the action of our beloved academic institution in memory of the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation."
Joseph Antoniello, president
Students for a Fair Society