Why can’t people be smart enough to realize that both sides want the best and affirm some things that are good and true, and both sides have blind spots where they think they’re right, but they’re actually off beam.
The value of a papal visit is that a pope speaks for the Catholic Church and therefore brings an international, historical and spiritual viewpoint to the discussion. I’ve written here about why a pope is necessary for political discussion.
Here are five papal takeaways for right wingers and five for left wingers.
1. The Pope is Criticizing Greed – When the pope attacks unfettered capitalism he is simply stating part of historic Catholic social teaching. It’s okay to disagree with him about the details, but his underlying critique is on a system that encourages un limited greed. You don’t think greed is a good thing do you? Do you think the American system should be above criticism? Instead of muttering your disagreements with the Pope’s critique of capitalism why not see where you can agree?
2. The Pope is an Advocate for the Poor – That’s being like Jesus isn’t it? When is the last time you read the gospel? You’re also in favor of helping the poor aren’t you? Before you slam the Pope as a Socialist take time to inform yourself. Have you actually read his comments or just the headlines? If he challenges us to help immigrants and refugees we should listen. What country did your grandparents or great grandparents come from? Again, you may disagree about the detail, but do you not agree that the rich have a responsibility to the poor and that we are called to be our brother’s keeper? If not, which religion do you follow, because it ain’t Christianity.
3. The Pope is Against Pollution, Wanton Consumerism and Waste – Maybe you disagree with him about the alleged human causes of climate change. That’s okay. Those views are not church doctrine. But you’re not actually in favor of pollution and the destruction of the natural environment are you? Are you in favor of a total slash and burn, rape and pillage policy regarding the world’s resources? Probably not. Pope Francis is calling on humanity to use the world’s precious resources wisely and carefully. That’s a good thing isn’t it? Furthermore, his call for us not to waste and use wantonly connects with his pro life message. He constantly calls on us not to waste and wantonly consume one another too. You do think that’s a good thing don’t you?
4. The Pope is Against War and Killing – Popes are always against war. Aren’t you? If the pope criticizes nations that spend more money on weapons than on health care isn’t that a good thing? We should face it. America is a warrior country. We’re always fighting a war somewhere, and very few of those wars are just according to church teaching. It’s right to defend our country, but it’s also right to be against war and only use violence as a last resort.
5. The Pope Sets an Example of Simplicity – Pope Francis is strong on significant gestures. In everything he does he is setting an example of apostolic simplicity. This echoes into the reverent but simple way he celebrates Mass, his choice of cars, his choice of dwellings and his choice of friends. Do you disagree with his example of simplicity? Don’t you think it reflects well on the church? Isn’t it Christ-like? It goes with his whole anti-materialistic message. That’s something you as a Catholic would agree with isn’t it?
1. The Pope is Against Abortion – You love life don’t you? Why be opposed to Catholic teaching which condemns abortion? Do you really want to make it possible to kill yet more unborn babies? I know, I know, you think it is the woman’s right to choose. Don’t you think she ought to exercise that choice before she has sexual intercourse? Shouldn’t she–and the man she’s with–be more responsible? Instead of being pro-abortion, why don’t you listen to the Catholics and help us support the adoption option and all the work we do to help women in crisis pregnancies?
2. The Pope is Against Same Sex Marriage – Be honest. You think gay people have the right to be married, but do you really think gay marriage helps build up the family and strengthens human society? If so, in what way exactly? It is possible to be against same sex marriage without being bigots and haters. Do you really need to impose this redefinition of marriage on everyone? Even against their religious convictions? Is that how you envision freedom? Have you ever thought that the kind of marriage the pope supports (between one man and one woman for life) is what actually what defines marriage? Pope Francis is merely pointing out that gay “marriage” is a contradiction in terms. It’s like saying “car without wheels”.
3. The Pope is Against Sexual Immorality – Yes, freedom is a good thing, but do you honestly think pornography, prostitution, adultery, human trafficking, sado masochism and a total sexual free for all builds up the common good? Do you think quick no fault divorce, sexual promiscuity, teen and pre teen sex are all good? You don’t have to be a puritanical prude to see that these things are harmful to society, breed diseases of all sorts and damage vulnerable people. If the Pope is against all these things its because he’s for the cultivation of true love, true life and true human flourishing, and every civilization has always maintained that self discipline in the area of sexuality is necessary for the common good.
4. The Pope is Against Selfish Individualism Maybe the American national anthem ought to be Frank Sinatra’s My Way. Pope Francis calls for solidarity within communities, within nations and within the whole human family. Just doing what you want when you want where you want with whoever you want is a sign of selfish immaturity. Pope Francis calls all of us to be more grown up than that and to live for higher goals and a greater good. Your individual freedom has limits. Grown ups know that and accept it. Adolescents don’t.
5. Pope Francis is Against Atheistic Secularism Stop for a moment and think. The Pope is not just a “spiritual leader”. He’s not just an inspiring figure on the world stage who happens to stand for sweet ideas like being nice to poor people and getting rid of pollution. He’s not just a moral teacher who scolds nasty rich people and hugs poor little children. He is Catholic. He believes and teaches religious truths revealed by God to humanity through the God-Man Jesus Christ. This is his main mission: to save souls from hell and lead them to heaven. He is therefore the enemy of sentimental, shallow and selfish secularism. If you are a humanistic atheist and you feel all warm and cozy about the pope, don’t.
If you area a non believer –either conservative or liberal– you should not be misled by the pope’s media image.
Yes, he smiles and waves. He is polite and respectful. He is courteous and kind.
But if you think that is all he is and this leads you to either like or dislike him, don’t be deceived.
He is not what he seems.
He is not just a kindly old guy who believes out of date religious stuff.
He is the Vicar of Christ
And therefore he is to you the greatest stranger–and the greatest danger.