Tuesday, May 6, 2014

re: "Popes and Presidents Can Make a Powerful Team" (BC Courier Times, 5/6/14)

Markos Kounalakis rightly notes that "Pope Francis' ascension to St. Peter's throne creates unique opportunities for President Barack Obama to leverage a fresh, credible message of social justice and leadership aimed at Latin America" (Popes and Presidents Can Make a Powerful Team, Bucks County Courier Times, 5/6/14).  Agreed.  Yet, like much of what gets reported about Pope Francis and the relationship of church and state, Kounalakis is offering a very superficial piece. 

Kounalakis claims that, "The president shares a passion and a purpose with Pope Francis. They are both committed to combating inequality."  Yes and No.  The most casual of readers should realize that Pope Francis and the president have different notions about "social justice" and "inequality."  I suspect that  Kounalakis is missing the significance of Pope Francis' gift to the president, after their March 2014 visit. 

Pope Francis gave President Obama a bound copy of his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium; it touches upon a great array of topics in proclaiming the Joy of the GospelIn response, Mr. Obama said "I actually will probably read this in the Oval Office when I’m deeply frustrated. I’m sure it will give me strength and calm me down" (cf, Dave Andrusko, 3/27/14).  

If he really has started to read Evangelii Gaudium, calmness may be the last thing that Mr. Obama feels!  Mr. Obama will have to be taken aback by much of Pope Francis has to say in Evangelii Gaudium:
  • "65. Despite the tide of secularism which has swept our societies, in many countries – even those where Christians are a minority – the Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need....Yet, we find it difficult to make people see that when we raise other questions less palatable to public opinion, we are doing so out of fidelity to precisely the same convictions about human dignity and the common good.
  • "66. The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple....
  • "213….defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, 'every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual'."

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