Reviewing the Pope’s Speech: Overall, Worthwhile

The head of the Catholic Church and the head of state of the Vatican came to speak today in Washington before Congress. Here is the plain-text transcript of the speech to read for yourself.

The transcript above is as it should be, in black-and-white print, uncontaminated by photographs, commentary, captions, or other fruits of media-consultant-driven tactics of subliminal psychological manipulation found on every media web page. Instead, just the text…

And now comes my commentary, absolutely contaminated by opinionated polemy. If you can’t stomach that, stop now and go to a more appropriate site.

First, some background: I am a Christian–imperfect, sinful, and as such prone rightly or wrongly to fits of sarcasm, mockery, profanity, smack talk and horrifying flatulence–but no less or more a Christian than the Pope or any other. I am an independent Christian, having attended services of many denominations but belonging to none, beholden to no human organizational doctrine or dogma. Instead I follow and worship only God himself (in three Persons–Father, Son and Holy Spirit); I follow not any given church’s doctrine but instead God’s Holy Word–both as manifest through the Bible and through direct communication with God in the form of prayer and his powerful answers in the form of blessings and actions in my life.

Given that, I can stand independently of any pressure to conform or adhere to any particular declaration of the quite-fallible church bureaucracy. I recognize the Pope’s church for exactly what it is: needed, absolutely an agent of good, but also a group of imperfect humans like me who are prone to err. That includes the Pope. I do not consider the papacy as a position (or as a man) more holy or better than anyone else. He and I both have to sit on toilets and take dumps, and we both bleed red when cut. The only man before whom I will bow is Jesus himself.

That’s not meant to badmouth Francis personally; it’s simply factually true, in a pragmatic and physical sense. I have great respect for the Popes of my lifetime and the mostly positive and necessary ambassadorship they have provided for Jesus. Through all the sideshows and scandals, the Catholic Church in particular has done great net good; the refusal of secular humanists, anti-Christians, “angry atheists” and others with similar agendas to recognize this and give it due weight is an insidiously vile form of hatred and bigotry in its own right. Despite not being a member of the Catholic denomination, am a strong supporter of several of its charities and the Godly motivation behind them.

Though I see the Pope as mortal like everybody else, I do recognize his unique standing and capacity to influence millions through the very smallest of actions or utterances. The current Pope, who took the name Francis after the patron saint of animals, shares a great deal in common despite our seeming differences. He and I both arose from poor and humble origins; in many respects our personal Venn diagrams overlap considerably despite our wildly divergent nationalities, languages and life paths. I have a lot of respect for the man, even when I disagree with him; for in the role and under a really hot media microscope he must speak out about a lot of topics that will be dissected, interpreted, misinterpreted, and even abused.

Popes, by the nature of their positions and vast audiences will be loved and hated, sometimes by the very same people depending on what they say today. Most certainly they are unduly politicized. Liberals and conservatives alike will cherry-pick Francis’ statements on assorted topics and use them as rhetorical weapons or crutches for their own agendas. Wisely, one liberal Catholic writer warned against such behavior amongst fellow liberals before this trip. [Yes, sometimes a liberal can be wise…it is possible, if uncommon.] It’s no secret that I am a sociopolitical conservative and religious dude, but one thing you have not seen me do is take papal quotes and mold them into personal props. I’m much more of an independent thinker than that!

So what was my impression of his speech? Reading through it, most of what he said was fairly predictable and consistent with the various doctrines of that denomination. I agree with some points and quibble with others, as usual. Foremost, I was pleased that he mentioned the importance of family, as a core representation of the ideal of social good. This was a much-needed message given the rampant attacks on the sacrament of marriage as prescribed biblically (see the verses in my last BLOG entry) and on the wholesome and holy ideal of the nuclear and extended family as God intended, with father, mother and children. His discussion of the role of Moses was refreshing. And I agree with him that we need to take care of the Earth on which we live, despite the truth that some pundits will twist his words into advocacies for all manner of costly measures that will hike the cost of fossil fuels, and in doing so, increase the very poverty the Pope rightly decries.

The most striking aspects to me, however, were what the Pope did not discuss, at least not overtly. I was disappointed at topics that were left out. Omission is a very important way of conveying the notion that the topic is of lesser importance or does not matter much. So…search the text linked above.

    * The speech failed to mention the thousands of martyrs for Christ, the Christians who are being slaughtered for their beliefs all over the world (mainly Africa and the Middle East), overwhelmingly by barbaric Islamist jihadists and their bloodthirsty and intensely hateful sycophants. Francis has spoken of this before on a few occasions, but this audience desperately needed the reminder. Too many in this country–not just the overtly secular but the naive and/or apathetic–are either coddled by their own entitlement or blind to this horrible state of affairs; worse, others know of it but don’t seem to care.

    * The word “abortion” was not used in the speech. The Pope was too indirect in talking about protecting life at every stage. Come on, man…be blunt, be forthright, hammer that nail squarely, don’t be wishy-washy!

    * What responsibility to the countries that originate these refugees and immigrants have toward their own, in order that they need not be compelled to flee in the first place?

    * Not once in the entire speech does the name Jesus appear. That’s mystifying to me, given the position of the speaker. I’d love to hear an explanation for that from the source himself (not from a third-party speculator).

One facet of his speech also contained a gross historical misrepresentation: Lincoln’s legacy was not conciliatory; he instead fought the terrible institution of slavery through…get this…war. So given that fact, I would ask the Pontiff if war sometimes is justified–and in particular, the one that brought an ultimately Constitutional end to American slavery. God Himself has waged mass conflict as documented often (mainly in the Old Testament); even Jesus rampaged through the temple that was infested with money-changers. Sometimes conflict, even war, is needed–nowhere nearly as often as it has been the case in reality, but sometimes.

I also would ask the Pontiff to reconcile his stated stance on how to treat immigrants with the Vatican’s own extremely strict immigration policy (which includes an extensive, tall physical wall).

All in all, the speech was worthwhile because it brought (albeit ephemerally) a Godly mindset to the Capitol, a place where God has been mocked, rejected, voted against and ridiculed in word and deed, by too many, for too long.


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