Politics: The Pope Honors American Values

by Judy Ferro

Pope Francis’s address to Congress was nothing like the quotes my friends share on Facebook.

“Today we have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

Belief in “trickle down theories… expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those possessing economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Nor did the Pope, as he had last December, ask the United States to join in fighting to free the 35 million men, women and children held in slavery as captive laborers, soldiers, sex slaves, etc.

Even the Pope’s crusade to get nations to cooperate in fighting global warming received only a brief, subdued reference. It didn’t get fierier than “I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”

Really, that hardly merited the self-aggrandizing boycott of Arizona Representative Paul Gosar, who criticized the Pope for not limiting his concern to proper religious issues like abortion, homosexuality and religious freedom.

Yet, I wasn’t disappointed.

What the Pope did speak of was the values that created the American dream and our continuing efforts to keep that dream alive. He reminded Americans that our best was indeed great and that, in our hearts we know what is right.

He honored members of Congress saying they are called “to defend and preserve the dignity of [their] fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good…”

He honored the memories of four Americans who fought for their values—Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day founder of a Catholic organization for social justice, and Catholic theologian Thomas Merton. They “shared fundamental values which endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions, and conflicts while always finding the resources to move forward and to do so with dignity.”

Francis asked that we avoid recasting every conflict as good versus evil, but instead renew “that spirit of cooperation which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States.”

He honored business as “a noble vocation directed to producing wealth and improving the world.”

The Pope did touch on political issues, but with a light touch and a focus on values.

He asked that we not be overwhelmed by the number of immigrants, but instead treat each individual as we would want to be treated.

“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.”

He endorsed the Catholic bishops’ call for an end to the death penalty. “…A just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

He asked that we continue to help those trapped in a cycle of poverty and to alleviate environmental damage. “We have the freedom needed…to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is more human, more social, more integral.”

He asked that we support families, especially the children.

And he asked for a decrease in the export of weapons. (Wikipedia reports that the United States and Russia export more weapons than the next twelve largest exporters combined.)

The spirit of the Pope’s address could not have contrasted more starkly with the rhetoric of the presidential campaign circuit. I like to imagine some candidates are thinking, “I wish I’d said that.”

Global warming hits hard

by Judy Ferro

This weekend gave a lot of people a chance to be thankful that global warming is a hoax and nothing to take seriously.   A heatwave now and then is one thing, but no one wants 100+ degree weather becoming the norm, particularly when water is in short supply.

On the other hand, people like me who believe that humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a damaging rate, found more to fuel their worries.

Thursday’s Idaho Press-Tribune had five items about warming and drought.

An inch-high front-page headline “Heat Wave Danger” introduced an article warning that car interiors could reach temperatures fatal to kids and pets in less than 15 minutes.

Inside we learned that governors of ten western states were meeting to discuss how to deal with drought, including “ways to more efficiently use wastewater, better track soil moisture levels, work with other states and invest in water infrastructure.”

That was followed by an article about the water level in Lake Mead reaching new lows and hundreds of wildfires currently burning in Alaska.

And, in International news, a court in the Netherlands responded to citizens’ appeals to order the government to cut greenhouse emissions by 25%, rather than the 17% in current plans.

Friday’s paper followed up with a front-page assuring us that Idaho Power was prepared for a searing summer, but advised doing laundry after sunset and grilling outside if you must cook.

Inside, three articles on wildfires informed us that larger of two fires near Emmett was controlled after 10,000 acres burned, that Southern California is still battling a week-long 36-square-mile blaze, and that 300 fires in Alaska have burned 945 square miles.

International news informed us that 113 degree temperatures in southern Pakistan, coupled with power outages, had left 980 dead. (India’s recent heat wave had killed 2,200 people.)

On a lighter note, a New Republic article quoted various California conservative leaders who blame the drought on abortion, gay marriage, and immigrants. So warming IS caused by humans, but not by their carbon dioxide by-products?

And many may appreciate the black humor in Shell Oil Company now suffering because it wants global warming, that it claims doesn’t exist, to proceed faster. Ice in the Arctic seas continues to keep two dozen Shell oil-drilling ships anchored.

While American leaders maintaining a head-in-the-sand stance chastised Pope Francis, the Vatican released his 65-page encyclical entitled “Care for Our Common Home.”

Much of the Pope’s thesis focuses on the broader problem with our values. Too many of us are caught up in a culture of consumption for consumption’s sake. We fail to honor others, especially the poor, as children of God.  We have little concern for the common good.

When the Pope does address climate change, he is blunt: humans are destroying our earth rather than acting as good stewards of God’s gift.

He calls for a worldwide plan to replace the use of fossil fuels immediately. He dismisses “carbon credits,” supported by many in the U.S., as a way to give the richest companies the right to pollute.

The encyclical says that rich nations can help poorer ones develop solar power for less cost than they could deal with the effects of further global warming. It also asserts that progress must go hand-in-hand with programs to alleviate poverty.

The Pope actually talks of the “common good” like the old-time conservatives who embraced responsibility and civic duty. Today too many call it “socialism.”  It may be the key to humanity’s survival.