By: Maxwell Bruns ~Staff Writer~
The United States is a Christian nation founded on Christian values. Since the beginning, our country has been built for Christian people by Christian people, and the American WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) who choose to believe this lie are happy to welcome Pope Francis into the walls of our government during the week of Sept 21. Never mind the 3 million Muslims currently residing in America, or the 5 million Jewish people or the 78 million non-religiously affiliated Americans. In fact, 183.7 million of those individuals who actually identify as Christian in this country don’t support the pope as the head of their particular sect. And yet Pope Francis is being welcomed with open arms into our country’s ruling body, which, in any event, happens to have control over all of the demographics listed.
Why should we be okay with this? Why should we, as Americans who were founded on words like “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ” by men who called themselves deists, allow the head of the Catholic Church into our government? A lot of men who presumably have a lot of influence would say we shouldn’t.
David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told Politico that the pope is essentially a “public relations genius. The assumption is that he’s fixing the abuse crisis. And if people are open-minded, listen and eventually concur that, no, he’s not fixing it, the next line we hear from many Catholics is, ‘But by golly, he’s gonna.” Antonio Gonzales, director of AIM-WEST, said in the same article, “We’re hoping he (Pope Francis) wakes up. We’re hoping that those who have misguided him take a second look at themselves.” This is in reference to the pope’s decision to canonize Junipero Serra, a Catholic missionary attributed with the slaughter of many Native Americans.
Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly spoke out against the papacy’s opposition to trickle-down economics and the capitalistic slant of our nation. According to the New York Times, many GOP politicians call Pope Francis “Mr. Obama’s pope.” But that same article warns against the dangers of “pigeonholing any pope into the binary left-right spectrum of American politics,” and quite frankly, I agree. From my perspective, when the White House invites Pope Francis, it is inviting a man who has been critical of American discrepancies between rhetoric and economic policy. It is inviting a man who has snuck out in the wee hours of the morning to be among the Vatican’s poor and homeless. It is inviting a man who has extended not only tolerance, but acceptance to many minorities.
When he says, “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” one might not focus on the blatantly religious aspect of that statement, but rather the part that asks, “Who am I to judge?” When Pope Francis baptizes children born out of wedlock, the secular world sees a man who can rise above his status quo to accept human beings for who they are, in all their flaws.
When the pope comes to the U.S. this week, I urge everyone in attendance or watching to stop thinking about the fact that the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. I urge everyone to forget the politics related to his visit, and I urge you to listen to a man who has been an outstanding voice for social change already in the 21st century. I make this plea for two reasons: First, there is a lot of stigma and bias against the Catholic tradition, which may taint the words the pope is actually saying. Second, the pope’s words are not mandated by American party politics, and they apply to a further-reaching audience than just his fellow Catholics.
The pope is a Catholic human, in the sense of the word meaning universal, talking to humanity at large. And while his religion has had tremendous influence in shaping this world for the better, and there are many Catholics in this world, the “Holy Father’s” words are not just those of a religious figure, but those of a man appealing to the human in us all.