The Great Pope In The Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Brave
If you're a regular DWT reader, you probably already know I turned into a virtual papist when Francis became Pope. If I thought future popes would be like him instead of like the guy he replaced, I'd probably seriously consider converting to Catholicism. Today I even had good feelings towards John Boehner for playing an instrumental role in bringing Pope Francis' message to the American people by way of his address to a joint meeting.
I imagine that the far right of the American Catholic Church is stewing today, especially the reactionary overly political archbishops who have been howling like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz that Obama has been violating their religious freedom (freedom to exercise bigotry). That wasn't the Pope's priority today, was it? He didn't have much to say about abortion or marriage equality either, the apparent raison d'être for hate-mongers like Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop Charlie Chaput of Philadelphia, not to mention the satanic Cardinal Raymond Burke. I suspect none of them were eager for the Pope to spend his time prioritizing income inequality, climate change, ending the death penalty, immigration and refugees.
You can listen to the Pope's entire speech before Congress above. Here are some key paragraphs I've pulled out, starting with a few lines that might even put these monkeys in a better light:
Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you. Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.Here are the other excerpts I've pulled out:
Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.
... I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.Los Angeles Congressman Ted Lieu was in the audience for the speech. His comments were typical of what many in Congress experienced:
... We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.
Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.
... In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.
Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.
In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.
How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.
It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good." This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home." “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps," and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States-- and this Congress-- have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology”; “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power”; and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral." In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.
... Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.
... A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.
God bless America!
His Holiness Pope Francis’ address to Congress this morning was a historic, electric moment. The Pope’s address to Congress was full of hope, inspiration, and moral fierceness. As a Catholic, I was deeply honored to be in the Pope’s presence this morning. Today’s historic address illuminates why we love Pope Francis. He speaks truth to power. He challenges us to do not what is easy, but what is right. He asks us to tackle the toughest issues, to do the hard work necessary to create a safer, healthier, more just and more equitable society for each and every American, for each and every citizen of the world. The Pope’s inspirational comments on fierce and urgent issues like immigration, income inequality, the death penalty and climate change deeply resonated with me. I hope the Pope’s message of unity, open dialogue and moral action prove to be a watershed moment for the United States Congress in its most solemn duty to act on behalf of the American people to bring justice, equality and peace to our nation and our world.Among the Blue America-endorsed candidates who were inspired enough by the Pope's address today were Paul Clements (MI), Bao Nguyen (CA) and Ruben Kihuen (NV).
Here's Paul Clements:
Pope Francis is an inspiration. Let us respond to his call to respect the dignity of each person by raising the minimum wage. Let us feed the hungry by restoring food stamps. Let us protect nature by decisively reducing carbon pollution, and let us lead the world in responding to climate change. If we are to build a culture of care, the first step is to trash the Ryan budget. A culture of care requires a budget that supports each person’s participation in our economic and community life. But let’s be serious. In practical terms, responding to the Pope’s call means turning party-line Republicans (such as my opponent Fred Upton) out of Congress.And here's Ruben Kihuen:
As a Catholic, I am proud to see the Pope address the most pressing issues of the day from immigration to Climate Change to inequality. It's time for Congress to take action on these issues instead pandering to the Tea Party minority bent on shutting down the government over women's health care.One more congressional candidate, Bao Nguyen: "As I listened to Holy Father’s address to the joint meeting of Congress, I was initially struck by his mastery of dialogue. His Holiness offered a brilliant distillation of complex political, economic, social, and spiritual issues conveyed with words as simple, direct, and unadorned as his own lifestyle. As Catholic and an immigrant, I was blessed to hear His Holiness speak not only of hope and compassion, but also deliver a stirring call to action regarding our nation’s immigration crisis. My personal immigration story, from Vietnam to the United States, was only possible because in this country, my family found a welcoming community and fair shot at the American Dream. While my story is unique, it’s also universal-- and it was inspiring to hear His Holiness urge all Americans to hear the countless stories of others who one day hope for a better life for themselves and their children.”
I'm sure you know what a big Francis fan-boy Bernie Sanders has become. Here's the message he sent out to his own followers today after the Pope spoke:
Brothers and Sisters: I am not a theologian, an expert on the Bible, or a Catholic. I am just a U.S. senator from the small state of Vermont.
But I am emailing you today to discuss Pope Francis in the hope that we can examine the very profound lessons that he is teaching people all over this world and some of the issues for which he is advocating.
Now, there are issues on which the pope and I disagree — like choice and marriage equality-- but from the moment he was elected, Pope Francis immediately let it be known that he would be a different kind of pope, a different kind of religious leader. He forces us to address some of the major issues facing humanity: war, income and wealth inequality, poverty, unemployment, greed, the death penalty and other issues that too many prefer to ignore.
He is reaching out not just to the Catholic Church. He's reaching out to people all over the world with an incredibly strong message of social justice talking about the grotesque levels of wealth and income inequality.
Pope Francis is looking in the eyes of the wealthiest people around the world who make billions of dollars, and he is saying we cannot continue to ignore the needs of the poor, the needs of the sick, the dispossessed, the elderly people who are living alone, the young people who can't find jobs. He is saying that the accumulation of money, that the worship of money, is not what life should be about. We cannot turn our backs on our fellow human beings.
He is asking us to create a new society where the economy works for all, and not just the wealthy and the powerful. He is asking us to be the kind of people whose happiness and well-being comes from serving others and being part of a human community, not spending our lives accumulating more and more wealth and power while oppressing others. He is saying that as a planet and as a people we have got to do better.
That's why I was so pleased that in his address to Congress today, Pope Francis spoke of Dorothy Day, who was a tireless advocate for the impoverished and working people in America. I think it was extraordinary that he cited her as one of the most important people in recent American history.
As the founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper, Dorothy Day organized workers to stand up against the wealthy and powerful. Pope Francis said of her today in Congress:
In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.Dorothy Day fought this fight, and as Pope Francis says, we must continue it. We need to move toward an economy which works for all, and not just the few.
How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem. The fact that the pope singled out Dorothy Day-- a fierce advocate in the fight for economic justice-- as one of the leaders he admires most is quite remarkable. We are living in a nation which worships the acquisition of money and great wealth, but turns its back on those in need. We are admiring people with billions of dollars, while we ignore people who sleep out on the streets. That must end.
We have so much poverty in a land of plenty. Together, we can work to make our country more fair for everybody.