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Friday, September 25, 2015

Did The Pope Intentionally Walk Congress?

The Pope addressed a joint session of Congress today (see here for the transcript). If one were to go over the most recent history of what the Pope has said with what has been said and debated in Congress, one would think that the Pope could challenge Congress as he did the Mafia, but he didn't. Instead, he gave them a pass. He didn't cite them for any wrongdoing. He did bring up some issues. But he didn't do so in a way that required Congress to react.

How did the Pope talk about issues to Congress? He mentioned 4 Americans whose lives or work were receiving attention because of anniversaries. The Americans he mentioned were Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. 

When mentioning Lincoln and how he strove for freedom and liberty, the Pope warned against the increasing violence we see in the world and clearly stated that no group was immune from practicing violence. Thus we must be watchful about any group's fundamentalism according to the Pope. Here, it is obvious that the Pope and I have different ideas as to what Christian Fundamentalism is. The Pope's warning about fundamentalism had everything to do with extremism, not the basic tenets of any faith or ideology.  In addition, he warned against having a simplistic view that divides the world between those who are good and those who aren't. In contrast, we need to guard against 'feeding the enemy within.' Such is always an excellent and well needed warning to all of us. 

In contrast to those two problem any of us could display, the Pope grouped together the idea justice with rehabilitation. His words were, 'Our response must instead be of hope and healing, peace and justice.' The last pair of concepts is important because in a punitive society like our own, justice is all too often associated with exacting revenge. Such an idea goes against what the Pope was advocating.

Then as the Pope continued talking about justice and how liberty was a core value of our nation, he said the following:
If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good
  
This was the closest the Pope came to firing a fastball for a strike at Congress. Considering how some have concluded that our nation is now an oligarchy (see BBC article and Jimmy Carter's view). All that kept this statement from being either a called strike was that the Pope did not make any direct reference to Congress when saying this.

The Pope then went on to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. and the building of dreams. He related this reference to today's almost unprecedented number of immigrants in the world as well as the people who preceded us and how they were mistreated. Thus, the Pope urged all of us in saying we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past when meeting those who are different. So we must be humane to immigrants from the South who cross our paths, especially those who need help. Here, the Pope urges us to follow the Golden Rule.

The Pope then went on to mention Dorothy Day and her work to helped the oppressed. She founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Here, he continued to talk about the need for a 'global solidarity' to fight 'poverty and hunger. The Pope continued only to bring in the subject of the distribution of wealth and business. Though business can be an noble endeavor, it must be practiced for the "common good." This last idea is far from purpose of business many Americans first think of. Business, in the minds of many Americans, provides opportunities to advance oneself. And since business swims in the pool of competition, to do well for oneself is often done at the expense of others.

In addition, to working for the common good, the Pope reminded Congress as well as ourselves of what he had previously said about protecting the environment. This is an important subject to bring up when talking about business.

The Pope finally mentions Thomas Merton. Merton was born during WW I. He offered new ways of thinking for the Church that helped promote peace. From here, the Pope mentioned the global arms dealing, an activity in which America is deeply involved. Here, the Pope challenged all of us to not be complicit with the ongoing selling of weapons which only serves to deepen the wounds of conflicts and wars by remaining silent. We should note here that if Congress has any weakness, it doesn't include being silent. However, what Congress does talk about is not often pertinent to the furtherance of peace and justice in the world.

The Pope did say a lot that all of us need to hear regarding peace and justice. It is shame though that the Pope did not speak in a way that would cause Congress to react, to swing at his pitches. In the end, the Pope did not speak in a way that would cause Congress to confess its sins.




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