Friday, September 25, 2015

"Pope Francis Looked Happier To Be With The Homeless Than With Members Of Congress" (ThinkProgress headline yesterday)


ThinkProgress caption (yesterday): "Pope Francis greets supporters during a visit to Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C."

"The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person. . . . We can imagine what Joseph must have been thinking. How is it that the Son of God has no home? Why are we homeless, why don’t we have housing?"
-- Pope Francis yesterday in Washington, during his visit to a
Catholic Charities lunch for the needy, many of them homeless

by Ken

While I was rummaging around some of the online coverage of Pope Francis's visit yesterday, I stumbled across a reader comment on one of the posts that I meant to copy but didn't get around to as I tried to nail down assorted stuff for my post. It voiced the commenter's wish that the NYT, instead of describing the pope as left-leaning (or left-something) had described him as humanity-leaning (or humanity-whatever).

This is, of course, driving American right-wingers, Catholic and otherwise, positively batty, but the commenter is quite right, because Pope Francis really and truly isn't "left-leaning," or left-anything-else. There's nothing un-conservative about the pontiff -- it's just that his views about what needs conserving are clearly very different from those of the crack-brained fascists into which American conservatives have evolved.

What could possibly be more conservative, after all, than trying to save the planet? Or, for that matter, wanting to ensure that its resources are made fairly available to all its inhabitants? If you fancy yourself a conservative, after all, isn't this kind of Ground Zero?

The pope's big speeches -- like the one to Congress yesterday, or to the U.N. today -- have been getting most of the attention on his U.S. visit. But some other events on his crowded schedule have gotten perhaps less attention than they deserve. I was grabbed, for example, by the headline on a ThinkProgress Economy post by Jack Jenkins, reporting on his visit to the free lunch for the hungry at Washington's St. Patrick's Church provided on Wednesday afternoons by St. Maria's Meals, a Catholic Charities undertaking. The headline is the one I've put atop this post: "Pope Francis Looked Happier To Be With The Homeless Than With Members Of Congress."

It isn't just American so-called conservatives who have settled into this anti-human view of basic humanity. The pope has been taking on the vast machinery of the church over which he now presides, which has similarly settled somehow into a worldview that it's mission is the preservation and enrichment of its elites. Lip service continues to be paid to Jesus, of course, but my goodness, how little present-day Christianity -- and here I emphatically don't mean just Catholicism -- has in common with Christ. And notice how violent the reaction is when a cleric of Pope Francis's standing has the chutzpah to dust off what are supposed to be his institution's core values.

Remember the episode when the archbishop of San Francisco, Sal "The Faucet" Cordileone, actually installed a sort of overhead sprinkler system to deter homeless people from seeking shelter under the overhang of St. Mary's Cathedral? Wouldn't you think that Sal "The Faucet" might have tackled the problem of homeless people in need of shelter by asking what Jesus would have done? I don't think this is it.

Can there be any doubt that, like Pope Francis, Jesus would have been happier spending time with the homeless -- and people who dedicate themselves to providing some nourishment to them -- than with members of Congress?

Here's Jack Jenkins's report (lots of links onsite).
Pope Francis Looked Happier To Be With The Homeless Than With Members Of Congress

By Jack Jenkins | Sept. 24, 2015, 2:33pm

Shortly after finishing his historic address to Congress Thursday morning, Pope Francis declined to stay and talk with lawmakers, choosing to spend his time with a very different group of people: The homeless.

After receiving a standing ovation from Congress, Supreme Court Justices, and various other governmental officials, Francis left the U.S. Capitol to travel to nearby St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. There he spoke before roughly 250 staff and volunteers before joining another 300 people — many of them homeless — for lunch with St. Maria’s Meals, a project of the local branch of Catholic Charities.

“The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person,” Francis told the group, referencing the birth of Jesus Christ, who was born to Joseph and Mary in a stable according to the Biblical account. “[He] knew what it was to start life without a roof over his head. We can imagine what Joseph must have been thinking. How is it that the Son of God has no home? Why are we homeless, why don’t we have housing?”

“Joseph’s questions are timely even today; they accompany all those who throughout history have been, and are, homeless,” Francis said.

Francis was reportedly mobbed by gleeful supporters when he reached the site, but proceeded to work the crowd, wearing a grin noticeably broader than when he addressed Congress earlier that day. Chefs were said to prepare chicken and pasta for the event, creating dishes the local Catholic Charities CEO called “easy to serve, but very healthy, very nutritious.”

The food program began roughly three years ago, and reportedly serves dinner to anywhere from 250 to 500 poverty-stricken or homeless people each Wednesday. Catholic Charities helps run six homeless shelters throughout the city.

Washington, D.C. has been fighting a homelessness crisis for several years, only recently seeing a dip in the homeless population after launching several assistance efforts.

“We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing,” Francis said. “There are many unjust situations, but we know that God is suffering with us, experiencing them at our side …[Jesus] tells us this clearly: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’”

The gesture is part of Francis’ longstanding support for the homeless since becoming pope. In addition to speaking out on behalf of the poor in Evangelii Gaudium, his first exhortation as pontiff, he has also made headlines for personal attempts to help the impoverished: Francis celebrated his birthday in 2014 by giving sleeping bags to the homeless, is rumored to sneak out of the Vatican at night to minister to those sleeping on the streets, and announced last November plans to install showers in St. Peter’s Square to serve those with no place to bathe. He also promised in January that the Vatican will soon start offering free shaves and haircuts to those who otherwise can’t afford them.
Okay, there's one more paragraph, but it falls more under the heading of Strategies for Dealing with the Homeless Which Sal "The Faucet" Cordileone would endorse:
Francis’ trip has not been a joyous occasion for all homeless people, however. New York City police dispersed about a dozen homeless people from the foot of a Harlem train station on Wednesday, attempting to clear the area ahead of the pontiff’s visit to the city later this week.


The post focuses on the wrong-direction radicalizing of the Church, and includes tidbits like these:
So. The Pope told Congress to welcome immigrants, house the homeless, feed the poor and stop selling weapons to murderous regimes.

It is almost as if he is Catholic. . . .

Francis isn’t a radical Pope. He hasn’t said abortion is ok, or even birth control, or homosexuality.  He’s pretty doctrinaire.  What he has done is shift emphasis to the issues Jesus spent more time talking about, and extended those issues to modern concerns like climate change. . . .

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