There is a flurry of conversations on social media and the network news channels about Pope Francis I’s address to Congress on Sept. 24, 2015. Some stress that the separation of church and state should have keep the pope out of Congress. The pope was not looking to convert any members of Congress to Catholicism. He continues to address global issues relating to distribution of wealth, immigration, war, global cooperation in solving problems, and global warming. These issues are political because partisan politics has become the major barrier to addressing any of these issues in a realistic way.
Domenic Montanaro of National Public Radio (NPR) was among the first to provide an analysis of the pope’s speech. The details of each of his points can be accessed directly. While the contents of the speech were predictable, the manner that he chose to make his points indicate the ability that Pope Francis has acquired in diplomacy. The pope did add a couple of unexpected points with regard to global abandonment of the death penalty, and a call to end global wars. The title of Montanaro’s comments is The 10 Most Political Moments in Pope Francis’ Address to Congress.
Pope Francis conveys a message that is consistent with Catholic dogma. He is focused on making the world a better place, and in making the Catholic Church more inclusive. He is very unlikely to allow priests and nuns to marry, to allow female priests, to accept abortion, and probably to not accept birth control. In some ways, he gains from clinging to the existing church dogma because it allows him to focus on issues external to the Church. Many conservative Catholics in the US are not happy with his criticism of capitalism that exploits workers for the purpose of increasing profits.
Since the first days of becoming pope, Pope Francis has emphasized a need to limit excesses of power and the trappings of power. He has been consistent in his actions, and he has addressed the major issues that are threats to long-term global security. He compared the immigration crisis on the southern border of the US to what Europe is facing with the mass exodus from Syria, Iraq, and other countries in the Middle East. He discussed the expenditures to arm and execute regional wars versus the needs to assist poor countries to feed their citizens.
Congress needed to hear Pope Francis’ message because many of the global issues he has chosen to address originate or are exacerbated by the US. The US is the leading country for acquiring and controlling wealth. The US is the leading armament supplier to support wars around the world. The US has more people in jail than any other nation, with more people on death row than any other country. Pope Francis called for an end to the death penalty in the US and around the world.
While Pope Francis’ speech before Congress was focused on the positive and the potential of the US to regain its moral compass, nobody expects his speech to have much impact on the Washington politics. Partisan politics and obstacles that exist will continue in Congress to prevent solutions for immigration, taxation of the wealthy, undue influence of political contributors, and the rest of the Washington mess.
Fox News, which occasionally takes things out of context, had a positive response to the pope’s message. Fox titled their response Pope Francis delivers message of ‘hope and healing’ in address to Congress. Fox’s recognition of his focus on working for the common good and following the Golden Rule is a breath of fresh air. This focus is the essence of why Pope Francis’ comments are freed from partisan politics, but does not excuse the excesses in accumulating wealth, and the failure to solve poverty, hunger and political turmoil in the US and around the world.
Pope Francis commentary on the sanctity of life reaffirms the Church’s stand on abortion. His focus on traditional marriage quietly reaffirmed the traditional heterosexual marriage without condemning homosexuality. Pope Francis used the opportunity to speak before Congress to put forward his agenda in a clear and gentle way. It remains to be seen what positive outcomes will occur from this brief guidance that he provided to Congress.