Cherry-picking Pope Francis’ Address to Congress

Well, at least I am honest about it!

Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress this morning.

(CSPAN Video)

The audience included some of the justices of the Supreme Court but not the ones (Catholics Scalia, Thomas, and Alito) who won’t submit to lecturing by THIS pope in case he would dare to talk about things like corporate greed, climate change, the poors, and the death penalty. And he did!

I don’t agree with everything this pope says but I welcome his words that encourage people to join with those of us who care about people, justice, and our endangered planet.

Selected quotes …

(Transcript courtesy of Mother Jones: Remarks as Prepared)

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

On religion and the dangers of fundamentalism:

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. 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. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

On human dignity:

Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

On immigration:

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.[…]

On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.

On abolition of the death penalty:

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

On poverty:

I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.

On the need to address man-made climate change:

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

On the despair of those caught in a culture of hopelessness:

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

On what makes a nation great:

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In conclusion:

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

Bolding also added to further highlight the things that I care about!!



  1. I think that on the whole, Republicans will be more disappointed in this speech than Democrats will be.

    This pope is against the death penalty, for action against climate change, for compassion towards immigrants, for decent pay for an honest days work, and anxious about the loss of the dreams of our youth for a better future.

  2. In the news: US Catholic groups debate divesting from fossil fuels

    When Pope Francis speaks to Congress on Thursday, environmentalists expect him to renew his call for rich countries to do more to combat climate change, and some believe that effort should begin with Catholic institutions in the U.S., which are facing a small but vocal effort to pressure them to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

    “The [divestment] conversations are happening now at a level they weren’t a year ago,” said Kevin Ahern, a religious studies professor at Manhattan College. “Pope Francis is trying to ask the church institutions, ‘How do we really embody what we’re teaching?’” […]

    Though many observers believe an internal debate on divestment is underway — the Vatican invited a noted supporter of divestment, free-market critic Naomi Klein, to speak at its summit on climate change in July — the Vatican’s public stance is noncommittal. “The Vatican bank may think of initiatives which are at the core of this change,” a Vatican representative said in its only statement on the matter. “So we will see in the future. It may be considered.”

  3. I loved the head-fake in the death penalty segue:

    The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

    I gasped, thinking he was headed toward abortion, and some GOPers cheered. But he went in an unexpected direction. I’m not a Catholic, not even religious, but this pope is pope-ing better than all the previous popes.

    • I was all prepared to be outraged about how they sat on their hands during the immigration part of the speech (except for the faux tear from Marco “No Path To Citizenship on My Watch” Rubio) and then cheered that comment thinking he was going to go after the Democrats for chopping up babbies and selling their parts … instead DEATH PENALTY!!

      It was a great moment. I wonder if someone has a gif or some other trite image found on the Internets showing it. ;)

      He is more like the popes of the last 19th century. For example, Pope Leo XIII would have found common cause with Francis:

      … some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient workingmen’s guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organization took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. […]

      “It is lawful,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “for a man to hold private property; and it is also necessary for the carrying on of human existence.”” But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used? – the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor: “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need. […]

      … the first thing of all to secure is to save unfortunate working people from the cruelty of men of greed, who use human beings as mere instruments for money-making. It is neither just nor human so to grind men down with excessive labor as to stupefy their minds and wear out their bodies.

      Cherry-picked, of course.

  4. In the News: Pope’s Visit To D.C. Inspires Hundreds To Rally For Climate Justice

    On Thursday morning — as Pope Francis prepared to make history by addressing Congress — hundreds of activists gathered on the National Mall. Holding signs, petitioning for signatures, and offering spirited remarks to an expectant crowd, the activists represented a spectrum of causes and religious denominations, from young evangelicals to Black Lives Matter leaders.

    And they all came together for a common purpose: to demand action on climate change.

    “We realize that climate change is the upstream issue, and that downstream, it affects all of us. It is a global an issue as you’ll ever want to encounter. If you’re concerned about immigration, then you realize climate change creates so many climate refugees. If you’re a person who is interested in protecting animals, then you realize that if we didn’t eat animals, we’d be reducing our carbon emissions by almost as much as the entire transportation sector,” Lise Van Susteren, head of Moral Action on Climate Justice, the organization responsible for the rally, told ThinkProgress. “Each group recognizes that we have so much common ground, and that if we put our energies together, that we can see some real differences.”

  5. In the News: Catholic Presidential Candidate Explains Why He Won’t Listen To Pope Francis

    Appearing on “Special Report,” Sen. Rubio (R-FL) told host Bret Baier that Pope Francis is “infallible” — but only on questions of morality.

    “On moral issues, he speaks with incredible authority,” Rubio said. “He’s done so consistently on the value of life, on the sanctity of life, on the importance of marriage and on the family. [But] On economic issues, the pope is a person.”

    Apparently, according to Senator Marco “Kick Over the Ladder After I Climb to the Top” Rubio, addressing poverty and the incredible devastation climate change is wreaking on those least able to cope with it are not moral issues.

  6. From NPR, the 10 most political moments of the pope’s speech:

    1. Embracing John Kerry (Francis made a point of going over to Secretary of State John Kerry and shaking his hand. That is a major change from 2004, when church officials then called on denying Kerry communion because of his support for abortion rights when he was the Democratic nominee for president.)
    2. A call to rise above polarization
    3. A call for the country to open its arms to immigrants and refugees
    4. A reminder on abortion
    5. Strongly advocating for abolishing the death penalty
    6. Poverty and the necessity of ‘distribution of wealth’
    7. Business should be about ‘service to the common good’
    8. Calling on Congress to act on climate change
    9. Anti-war message and a call to stop arms trade
    10. The importance of family and marriage

    That looks like a 8 wins for progressives, 1 tie (I would contend that protecting the children of same-sex couples is pro-family although the pope would disagree), and one loss. Maybe one of these days “women’s lives” will count for something in a church run by men. But no one will be holding their breaths waiting for that to happen.

    • As I remember, he did not define either family or marriage. If so, that may have been his way of getting out of the cross fire.

      • I wondered about that … he didn’t come right out and say anything. Obviously, the Republicans thought it meant being against same-sex marriage and the Democrats likely thought the same thing. I marked it down as a tie because I think a guy as smart as Francis could one day be convinced that a child having two parent that love him or her is better than having one or none; the gender of the parents should not matter. But the issue is tied up in the supremacy of the male in the church hierarchy and, really, in all their teachings. I am certain that the idea of defining a family without a man would make their heads asplode.

  7. Interesting that Scalia, Alito, and Thomas, all Catholics, did not go to hear the Pope though other Justices did.

    • They only like the popes who agree with them and they know that they would get a D- from this pope on the issues that matter to him.

  8. From Pope Francis’ address to the U.N …

    ThinkProgress: Pope Delivers Pointed Address On Greed, Power, And The Climate

    Francis’ speech seemed to be a fusion of his two major publications as pope — Evangelii Gaudium, a 2013 exhortation that focused largely on economics, and Laudato Si’, a 2015 papal encyclical that called for action on climate change. He quoted from both publications extensively throughout his speech, just as he did during his address to Congress on Thursday and his speech in front of the White House on Wednesday.[…]

    But even as Francis drilled down on environmental issues, he refused to cleanly [separate] our changing climate from economics. He made clear that the negative effects of climate change are more severely felt by the impoverished, and that “selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.”
    “The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment,” he said. “They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste.’” […]

    In the end, though, Francis’ message to U.N. wasn’t one of gloom, but of hope. He expressed firm optimism that world leaders could, at their best, address the many interconnected problems of the world if they operate together.

    “Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion,” Francis said.

  9. NPR: Tough Words From Pope Francis: 8 Great Quotes From His U.N. Speech

    “Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.”

    “The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste.’

    “…Putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.”

    “It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programs, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.”

    “Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc.”

    “This absolute minimum [global standard of living] has three names: lodging, labor and land.”

    “For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education.”

    “The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic.”

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