My colleague Joshua McElwee has posted a report on the Holy Father's meeting with the victims of clergy sex abuse and his subsequent remarks at the meeting with bishops gathered for the World Meeting of Families.
The defense of traditional marriage in the past few years has created a nomenclature and ideological focus all its own: Same sex marriage is a “civilization threat,” we have been told, the divorced and remarried are living in adultery, there are two cultures of marriage, one for the upper middle class, where marriage is thriving, and one for the poor and working poor where it is abysmal, with the strong implication that if those poor people just lived better moral lives (like us!), they would not be poor as well.
I admit that I was deeply worried about how this afternoon’s event at Independence Hall would turn out. The U.S. bishops have mounted a religious liberty campaign that was rooted in a fundamental problem, being tied to an excessive, at times almost paranoid, understanding of what constitutes illicit material cooperation with evil. Additionally, their campaign was so poorly framed and conducted, that they allowed one of America’s great political achievements, a source of common, shared American pride, and allowed it to become a partisan issue.
On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and uttered the most memorable line of his entire presidency: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” This morning, at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pope Francis began his homily with a similar sentiment. He said:
At Madison Square Garden, the Holy Father gave a two paragraph spiritual analysis of life in a modern city. This son of Buenos Aires showed he was paying attention all those years:
The Holy Father’s presence and remarks at the Inter-Religious service at Ground Zero in Manhattan do not need much commentary. The service was both complicated and simple, the diverse religious voices and colorful vestiture of the clergy speaking to the complexity of American religious experience, the prayers all striking a common theme: God calls humans to act humanely and He comforts those who are afflicted when some humans fail that simple measure of decency.
Pope Francis, after he finished the encomiums to the UN, jumped right into one of the international system’s most egregious injustices, the role that international financial organizations, such as the IMF, play in facilitating a rigged financial system that exploits the poor:
The biggest takeaway from the Pope’s comments at Vespers tonight at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York is this: The attack on women religious is truly dead. “In a special way I would like to express my esteem and gratitude to the religious women of the United States.” Pope Francis said.
At St. Patrick’s Church, where he met with the homeless and those at Catholic Charities who care for them, the Holy Father began by invoking St. Joseph, “a person whom I love, someone who is, and has been, very important throughout my life. He has been a support and an inspiration. He is the one I go to whenever I am ‘in a fix’.” It is rare that we hear anyone invoke someone who lived two thousand years ago with such intimacy, but the pope was only getting started.
There are not many people in the world who, if asked to identify four Americans worthy of emulation, would come up with the list Pope Francis did in his speech to a joint meeting of Congress: Abraham Lincoln, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. This is the second day in a row that the Holy Father has mentioned Rev. King, the most prominent U.S. clergyman to be killed in the twentieth century and truly one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. (On EWTN, in advance of the talk, the commentators gave a shout out to Mother Angelica. The pope did not.)