Habemus Papam: We Have a Pope

Pope Francis is touching millions -- by being nice. Who knew that would work? (Wikipedia Photo)

Pope Francis is touching millions — by being nice. Who knew that would work? (Wikipedia Photo)

[WARNING: One of the side effects of reading the following may be a brief period of feeling somewhat good about things. It should pass by itself (just read any other article on The Daily Impact) but if it persists for more than four hours, please seek medical attention.]

I am not a Catholic. Not even a Christian, really, despite my admiration for the teachings of Christ; none of the organizations that profess to represent him seem to me to do so. I am not an atheist, it’s just that the God that I believe in is not the one they are all talking about. But as of today, I am a Papist.

One did not have to be American to be thrilled by Lincoln, or British to be energized by Winston Churchill, Democrat to be enthralled by Kennedy, or black to be moved by King. They transcended their labels and their time to speak eternal truths to all humanity. Pope Francis, for who he is and what he says — especially in his speech to the U.S. Congress last week — has joined their ranks. The TV commentator Van Jones made a similar confession the other day, and went further to say that he thought the Pope had ignited a Great Awakening of spirituality in this country. We’ll see whether the Awakening survives the Pope’s departure — whether the people instead resume their Great Nap — but something profound did happen here last week, something beyond Catholicism and even beyond religion.

For its structure, precise language and artfulness, the speech to the Congress was a masterpiece. Instead of the debating technique we’ve become used to — I’m right and you’re wrong, deluded, stupid, naive, criminal and damned to hell — Francis delivered the ultimate sucker punch by saying that you and I have duties together, and have struggles together, and we could do better. As he spoke, many members of Congress couldn’t figure out whether they should stand and clap, sit and scowl, or fall to their knees. To quote Van Jones again, the Pope “did not call anyone out, he called them up.”

The Pope’s position, in brief.

  • Every one of us has “a common responsibility” toward our country, to help all its citizens grow — not in wealth or in GDP or in military might, but in compassion, security, freedom, peace and justice.
  • Politicians have a similar mission, but with emphasis on “those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.” Legislators and leaders are called to protect the poor, not the Koch brothers.
  • We must all guard against the “simplistic reductionism which sees only good and evil.” Fundamentalism “of any kind” leads to violence.
  • “If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to economy and finance.”
  • We must change our ways to “avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

The Pope was speaking to a group of people who have demonstrated for decades that their mission is to raise money, stay in office, protect the rich, screw the poor and screw the environment. Which makes the tone of what he said more remarkable than what he said.

As he did with the violent criminals he visited in their Philadelphia prison, Francis approached the Members of Congress as if they had no past, only a future which they could make bright; as if they deserved no judgment for their sins, only help in achieving their potential; as if they were not enemies to be feared, but friends to be hugged, and blessed.

That is how he treated us all, and one result was that on the final triumphant night, nearly a million people congregated in Philadelphia not to be stimulated by a rock band or thrilled by a ball game or angered by a charismatic politician, but to celebrate the mass with this humble priest to all the world. Their attendance there was not an act of politics, or even necessarily of religion. It was an act of decency.

Imagine if you can — a million decent people.

Makes me proud to be an American and a Papist.

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17 Responses to Habemus Papam: We Have a Pope

  1. Lawrence Miller says:

    Like you, I am spiritual, not religious, and I am part of no church.

    I was very dissapointed in Pope Fransis’s overall message. He not only evaded dealing with, but promoted one of the most basic causes of global evonomic and environmental collapse – over population. His refusal to endorse birth control in third world countries was criminal – no attempts at sugar coating has any credibility.

    Fransis is just another misogynistc Pope leading an evil institution. That is just reality.

    Lawrence Miller, Gerrardstown, WV

    • Carlos Mansilla says:

      Mr Miller, between China and India they add 2700 millions,about half the world population. and overpasse it if you add Indonesia, as long as you consider them third world enough .
      Should the Pope have gone to this three countries instead, with a mixture of Hinduism, Jainism , Islam, Budhism al of them divided into diffrent sects an a host o diffrent small creeds.?
      Or to the world´s most powerfull one, while it still is ?

  2. Tom says:

    Lawrence, though i agree that he should DEFINITELY be promoting abstinence, birth control AND abortion (even sterilization for some), he’s not a woman hater. Beside that, the overpopulation meme needs a little update, since the relatively few we have in the U.S. pollute WAAAAAAY more than those third worlders.

    At least he brought up climate change and protecting the only environment we have – yeah, far too late – but he did touch on the subject, which is more than we can say of our own politicians, so i’m cuttin’ him some slack.

    i’m no Popedilliac, but the guy did a good job on his U.S. tour imho.

    Great post Mr. Lewis!

  3. SomeoneInAsia says:

    Look, it’s not that I don’t value people like Pope Francis and the things they say, but collectively we’ve already gone way past the point at which his words could still have made a difference. There are now already more than 7 billion of us around, and our resources are all drying up. And if people like Gandhi and E F Schumacher could not turn the sorry mud tide of modern industrial ‘civilization’, what makes us think a mere couple speeches by Pope Francis are going to be able to do the job?

    When TSHTF and you’re struggling with everyone else to feed yourself and your family and children, how many are still going to be in the mood for things like spiritual values? We’re going to need someone spiritual enough to be able to re-enact Jesus’ miracle of feeding 5,000 men — daily — before people will listen and profess an interest in things like spiritual verities again. I doubt if Pope Francis is that good.

    (Well, at least Pope Francis was concerned about all those issues and wanted to make a difference. AFAIK we Chinese never produced anyone like him. Or like Gandhi or Schumacher.

    I’m ashamed of being Chinese. Really.)

    • Carlos Mansilla says:

      You have a very good reason to be ashamed , besides being in the need to study China´s spiritual tradition.
      Greed is the cause and reason of China´s deterioration of the enviroment , of turning Shangai uninhabitable, of polluting 40 % of the water and 20 % of the arable land, and all this in 20 years while still revering Mao and calling yourselves communists

      • SomeoneInAsia says:

        Just to clarify a couple things, I’m a Singaporean Chinese and I’ve in fact studied a great deal about Confucianism and Daoism, which I loved very much.

        Perhaps I should have said it more clearly: China since the communist takeover has never produced any major intellectual or cultural figures anymore. Up to the early 20th century China has been able to produce lots and lots of wonderful things — in literature, in philosophy, in science, in art, you name it. But ever since the (bloody no-good) communists took over, she’s become a cultural and intellectual desert (and is now becoming a physical one, too, as you pointed out). There’s zero freedom of thought and expression. Even basic standards of human morality and decency have been heavily eroded. (Pope Francis would never, ever have a chance to go around giving speeches in China today.) Add furthermore what the bloody CCP is leading the once beautiful nation towards, and you can understand now why I’m ashamed of being Chinese.

        The depredations of the (bloody) West from the early 19th century onwards actually played a BIG role in how China became what she is today. But that is another story (which I can always tell you in a future post if it should merit your interest).

        • Philip says:

          I’m interested so please do tell me/us in a future post.

          • SomeoneInAsia says:

            As you wish.

            By the early 19th century China under the Qing Dynasty was supporting around one third of a billion people. The European powers, mainly the (brutish) British, were of course establishing empires all over Asia and elsewhere. The Brits wanted all sorts of things from China, but could only pay for them in silver — until they discovered they could sell opium to the Chinese, which they did, in large quantities. This was one of the earliest examples of drug trafficking. Large numbers of Chinese became hopeless addicts. When the Qing government sought to control the opium trade, the Brits declared war. That’s the Opium War for you.

            China lost and had to cede the island of Hong Kong to the Brits, plus pay large amounts of danegeld (Anglogeld, rather) on a regular basis. The Chinese economy suffered as a result and the lives of the Chinese people grew increasingly difficult. More and more revolts took place. (Having a rotten Empress Dowager on the throne didn’t help either.) The opium trade continued in the meantime, of course.

            Eventually in the early 20th century the Qing Dynasty came to an end. Political opportunists mushroomed, one of them, the Chinese Communist Party, being the one eventually to seize power on the mainland. And just what shining examples of good government the CCP provided, you can find out on your own.

            We must not forget Japan. Since a certain Commodore Perry from the US forced the sorry ways of the West on Japan (again in the early 19th century), she began industrializing to the point where she needed more resources to fuel the industrialization process and began to run short of them. The Western powers (not again) blocked her attempts to gain access to more resources, so in the early 20th century she resorted to attacking her Asian neighbors for them, notably China, thereby adding to the misery the Chinese were already enduring after all the bloody mess brought about by the Western intruders.

            Not a very pleasant bedtime story, is it?

  4. Mike Kay says:

    I want to believe that the Pope is a decent, spiritual man.
    I want to believe this because the legacy of all the abrahamiic faiths, Christianity not excepted, is one of barbaric political and ideological suppression. This history of lies, murder, and genocide is largely glossed over today, conveniently forgotten. Some of the victims of the extermination campaign are laughed at today, or even claimed to not have existed. Yet those of us who claim the the blood line of those burnt at the stake know it was no joke, nor some made up tale.
    I want to believe the Pope is a decent, spiritual man, because our leaders don’t have the slightest clue what a working spirituality really is. What it isn’t is manufacturing lies to tar and feather your latest defenceless victim.
    Most of all, I need to believe that there is someone with a voice who can grab the halls of power by the shorthairs, and remind them that their fantasy existence has real consequences that carry real weight, not only for those they dismiss, but for their own atrophied souls.

  5. Rob Rhodes says:

    It would be nice if the pope relaxed about birth control but it seems inconsistent for us in N. America to focus on that fault in his message while we consume as if we were twenty people in the poor world. Personally, I revere that which has given us everything and all we will ever be; the living earth and the cosmos that gave it life. Whether or not Pope Francis ever endorses birth control he will not save Earth from the crises it faces but he may guide some to respond as well instead of as badly as we can.

    The improvement I would like to see is for him to fly scheduled with a small staff instead of his own plane, then a bus and train tour once here, that he would be leading from the front.

    • Carlos Mansilla says:

      Would you let him ride a bike instead. or for you time is only valuable for the US ?

      • Rob Rhodes says:

        I am not suggesting that the Pope take the train while people in the US fly, rather that he might inspire high resource consumers among his followers to reduce their consumption if he takes all practical steps to reduce his own. One of the things I have noticed about many who loudly warn of global warming and resource depletion is that they fly a lot. That includes Al Gore, Naomi Klein, Obama and the Pope. If there is to be a movement for sustainability and resilience it will not be led by those who only tell others how to live buy by those who show others. I cycle, grow as much food as I can and never fly but nobody is paying attention to my behaviour. I have no opinion on the value of time in the US, I am not American.

  6. Ken Barrows says:

    I wonder if the Pope and Kim Davis discussed the future of the world.