September 21, 2015 Leave a comment
Lots of interesting stuff being written about the Pope with his coming visit. Will Saletan had a really interesting piece (perhaps a little too hung up on “liberal” vs. “progressive”) that nicely explored the Pope’s political beliefs and our response to them. Apparently, a lot of of Americans think the Pope is way more liberal than he actually is. I guess as someone who really understands both Catholic theology and American politics, I never really made that mistake.
But, the Pope is still way more liberal than his predecessors, because politics is a matter of emphasis.
Francis isn’t trying to solve liberals’ pet issues. He’s trying to get rid of them. He said as much in an interview two years ago: “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.”Not equivalent is his way of saying that he’s not particularly interested in enforcing sexual or family morality. If you want to know what interests him, look at what’s on his schedule in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia this week: sessions withimmigrants, laborers, prisoners, and homeless people. Pope Francis is a social justice guy.
And that’s why I and so many other Catholics (and heck, non-Catholics, too) love him. Social justice. For me, far more than anything else, Christianity is about what Jesus had to say in in Matthew 25:
34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for 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, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’
EJ Dionne is somebody who knows Catholicism and knows politics, so he also has an excellent column on the matter:
It’s hard to see how progressives don’t come out ahead, simply because the pope has radically reordered the priorities of the church. He is not fighting culture wars. He is fighting against them. This, in part, is what accounts for his broad popularity among former Catholics, Americans of other faiths and even secularists and atheists.
Someone speaking in Spanish — the language of most of the pope’s coming addresses — about justice, poverty, a warming planet and the imperative of welcoming immigrants would not have gotten a warm reception at the Republicans’ presidential debate last week…
In a moving New York Times piece about one of the pope’s planned stops in New York, columnist Jim Dwyer described the invitation list: “carwashers . . .Hudson Valley farmworkers, day-laborers, immigrant mothers, and teenagers and children who have crossed the border without their parents.” In Philadelphia, Francis will visit the city’s largest jail. In Washington, he will bless the needy who get help from Catholic Charities. His ministry will be right out of what the Catholic Mass says of Jesus: “To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners freedom, and to those in sorrow joy.”
No, the Pope is not about the change the position of the Catholic church on abortion, gays, contraception, or the role of women. But he has changed the tone on all of these. And it’s not realistic to expect all that much more at this point. For me, most importantly, he has reminded people what the Church is really supposed to be about– and that’s in the Jesus’ words from Matthew and the quote above.