Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wisdom with a Capital W

 Earlier today I posted on Facebook my initial reaction to Pope Francis' address to Congress, "Wisdom with a Capital W".  I stand with that line for the address and for his entire time in Washington. 

  I came across a few negative comments suggesting that the pope should have given Obama, and later Congress, a "smackdown" or a "setting straight."
   That is just not the way of Pope Francis.To
understand his way we need only look to the talk he gave to the US bishops yesterday at a midday prayer service.  He commended them for their work in calling the nation to respect life and likewise on immigration, but he also warned them against using "harsh and divisive language" and talk that leads to polarization. He also urged them to use a method of dialogue.

   Moving ahead to the address to congress he himself gave an example of these words to the bishops.  He certainly stated clearly that life at every stage of its development must be respected, but he did no moralistic finger waving. Let's face it that approach may sometimes may sometimes make us feel good when it is done to people we oppose, but it usually drives them further away rather than leading them to look at our position.

   Others thought he was really going to sock it to the right on climate change.  In fact, he did not use the phrase "climate change."  He used a softer expression--"man made pollution of the environment." I think that whether we agree with climate change or not we can all agree that we humans have polluted the environment and that we do have a responsibility to care for the earth, "our common home"

     On immigration his Holiness did not directly enter into the area of immigration law.  He used neither the term "illegal" or "undocumented', the buzz words from both sides.  He simply called us to realize why people want to immigrate and asked us to listen to their stories and respond.  This is what he means by dialogue in all areas.  We too easily begin by telling people why they are wrong.  Pope Francis calls us to listen to them first.

  It is because of this approach that I say that this speech was filled with wisdom.

  Even more important than all of this is the way that this talk was crafted in the context of the approaches of 4 great Americans, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.  I hope that Americans not familiar with the last two would get themselves acquainted with them. I do not have the space in this article to go down that road, but they were a great choice by the Pope.

   Lastly I would simply state that Pope Francis has offered a spiritual vision in which we as a nation should see ourselves. It was a call to hope and to dream, and we certainly need more of both.



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