The article was submitted by Cath Kestler, OFA (Organizing For Action) Chautauqua County Director and a resident of Silver Creek.
Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation.—Pope Francis
Pope Francis spent a whirlwind US visit spanning six schedule packed days arriving in Washington, DC; breaking a barrier by being the first pope ever to address Congress, onward to New York City, and wrapping up his visit in Philadelphia.
Francis hopes to bridge the realms of the disadvantaged and elite, trying to turn the attention of the mightiest nation on Earth away from ideological battles and towards a world he said desperately needs help.
The pope has come out saying that religious dialogue must be broader in scope, not simply focused on such issues as homosexuality and abortion.
While he does not consider women should be ordained as priests, Pope Francis considers women an essential part of the church. He presents a more accepting attitude towards homosexuality and supports the funding of Planned Parenthood.
Along that line, the pope has stirred up the status quo when he announced that priests around the world will be allowed to forgive the “sin of abortion” during a “year of mercy”, which starts December 8, 2015 and ends November 11, 2016. The pope wrote about this act of compassion stating: “I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope.”
The pope continued his pattern of deep engagement late last year into early 2015, both political and environmental conflicts around the world. He spoke out against global abuses and the misuse of political and economic power, he lamented the disappearances and suspected murders of 43 students in Mexico; the dangers and losses of life caused by immigration; financial mismanagement within the church itself; and sexual abuse. His decision to crackdown on church corruption caused him to receive death threats. Pope Francis brought together Presidents Raul Castro, of Cuba and President Barack Obama, of the United States, in a historic meeting that precipitated significant foreign policy changes and the resumed relations with the country that have been absent for years.
Pope Francis showed himself to be progressive on several scientific issues, he supports the Big Bang theory and evolution. He stated, “The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.” He also said that evolution “is not inconsistent with the notion of creation.”
In June 2015, Pope Francis released a 184-page encyclical, a type of papal message, warning of the dangers of climate change. He wrote: “If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems with serious consequences for all of us.”
During the pope’s first ever historic visit to the US, he dove into some thorny political debates, thus urging the world’s wealthiest nation to welcome immigrants, do more to address climate change, and to end homelessness. Though the pope is at ease speaking Spanish, he gave his speech to a joint session of Congress using heavily-accented English, which he practiced many times before his speech.
In an acutely polarized Congress, it was unclear if lawmakers’ minds were changed by Francis’ words in Washington or at the United Nations, where he condemned the “boundless thirst” for wealth and power. Before his arrival, Francis denied he was a “lefty” despite his criticisms of the excesses of capitalism that is apparent here. His speeches gave both Democrats and Republicans fodder to support the intense partisan battles that elucidates modern Washington, DC.
In the days that led up to the pope’s arrival, the Senate brought up another vote to defund Planned Parenthood, but was blocked by the Democrats; knowing beforehand the pope’s stance of forgiveness to those that have had an abortion. Pope Francis’ message was loud and clear, while he praised President Obama for his actions on reducing air pollution while urging Congress and other world leaders at the UN to do more for climate change.
During his Congressional address Francis issued silent moral challenge in the complex heroes he held up to those in attendance: Abraham Lincoln; the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who condemned war and advocated interfaith cooperation; and Dorothy Day, founder of the pacifist Catholic Worker Movement that helped and advocated for the homeless.
After enjoining Congress to work for the common good of the people, he went to lunch with the homeless and said here was “no moral justification” for their plight, after turning down an opportunity to dine on Capitol Hill.
I look forward to see how the pope’s words effect the way business transpires in Congress and the Senate due to the fact that Christianity is brought up at every turn and actually used as an excuse to vote “Yay” or “Nay”.
I have been accused of pushing my views upon those faith based people; my column is and always have been written from a liberal progressive perspective point of view.