Pope Francis avoids pitfalls and endorsements during impressive speech to Congress
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Pope Francis delivered his much-anticipated speech to Congress today, touching briefly on major issues facing the world. While Pope Francis did not get into specific policies, he called attention to several issues that plague the world today. He also avoided mention of some key hot-button topics, likely because they would have distracted from the larger message.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis took full advantage of his opportunity to address a joint session of Congress and used the time to refocus that body on the moral implications of the issues they debate.
The first issue he addressed was the tendency to polarize every issue into two opposing camps, something that Americans have a nasty habit of doing. He reminded Congress that issues, and the people behind them, are rarely all good or all bad, but rather they have many shades of character and they change.
Pope Francis spoke, "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."
After this, Pope Francis alighted briefly on issues ranging from war, to the family to the environment and the creation of jobs. He also invoked historical personages to illustrate his points mentioning; Abraham Lincoln and his advocacy for liberty, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his call for "plurality and non-exclusion," Dorothy Day, and her advocacy for "social justice and the rights of persons," and Thomas Merton, and "the capacity for dialogue and openness to God."
The speech drives home an important point. Pope Francis is not advocating a particular political philosophy, but rather the truth itself. He repeatedly reinforced the concepts of social responsibility, the importance and dignity of life and the family, and the need for the economy to work for all people, not just a few. He added that political leaders have the responsibility to serve as Moses did, leading a great nation of people to a better place.
The political pundits will be dissecting his speech and working overtime to tease out the slightest hint of an endorsement of one candidate or one issue or another. They will say the Pope endorsed or condemned a particular course of action. They will ask, "What does it mean?" then provide their own answer as if they are appointed to do your thinking for you.
Pope Francis called for nothing specific and spoke generally. His goal was to guide Congress to make moral and ethical decisions based on the Truth as it is found in the Catholic Church. He asked that body to respect refugee populations and immigrants, but he condemned no policies. He did not condone, or condemn the idea of a "wall" on the southern border. He called for business to look to the common good rather than to serve the interests of a few. However, he did not mention $15 hour wages.
He spoke about the environment, but he made no call to reduce emissions to a particular goal, or even to reduce CO2 at all. He offered no particular plan to save the whales or any other aspect of the environment.
The most specific recommendation he made was a call for the abolition of the death penalty, but even there, he did not get into specifics.
It is not the role and responsibility of the Holy Father to get involved in specific matters, but rather to lead on moral issues both by word and example. Once again, Pope Francis performs brilliantly.
So now the media will have its day, and will construe his words to endorse their issues, but whenever you see this, remember that today, Pope Francis spoke Truth to power and that Truth has no political affiliation.
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