27 Sep '15     home | previous

Pope Francis: good complexity

Pope Francis describes politics in a way that some have failed to understand. Politics is societal. We are all in it one way or another, and no one is bad necessarily because he is a politician. Let us not separate the good and evil of politicians from the people who elect them, or the good and evil of the unelected trying to be elected. Speaking of responsibilities, Pope Francis told Congress:

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.

He spoke against conceit and the need to find a good balance between attitudinal extremes. He said:

We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.

During his speech, the pope urged legislators to work together against the "environmental deterioration caused by human activity." And he has criticized aspects of capitalism. The pundit Rush Limbaugh has asked whether the Pope is a Marxist. That would be a simplistic reductionism, indeed. Criticizing capitalism does not make one a Marxist or an anti-capitalist. Marxism came into the world focusing on conflict between economic classes, aiming for the triumph of the working class and obliterating the capitalists as a class. That is not Pope Francis. Criticism is obliteration only as exaggeration and simple-minded distortion.

The day after speaking to Congress, Pope Francis addressed the United Nations. He spoke of the UN's achievement, saying,

All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

The Pope took issue with the UN's insistence that abortion rights and population control measures be adopted in member states. We don't agree on everything. But contrary to nationalistic claims of exceptional or unique wisdom, Pope Frances spoke of a "pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes." He added:

The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity.

People on the political right in the US will dislike the Pope's views on the United Nations, as some of them do his view on climate change. Pope Francis sees science as compatible with his faith. With him the conflict with science during the time of Galileo in the 17th century no longer exists. But we have people who disagree with him, such as the presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has complained that Pope Francis is "not a scientist, he's a religious leader" – as if people who are not scientists by profession cannot incorporate science into their view of things.

And there is Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma who argues:

God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.

Pope Francis has a better idea concerning arrogance is. We need more people like who have his brand of humility and his complexity of mind. Pope Francis speaks of friendship toward people whose beliefs differ from his. I'll never meet him. I'm not a Christian, but I appreciate his benevolence.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.