Pope and Change

As a Catholic, I share the gratitude -- and joy! -- of so many that Pope Francis has re-centered the Church on the issues that Jesus truly prioritized in his teachings: mercy for the poor, comfort for the sick and a Kingdom on Earth that we can make heavenly through our actions and our pastoral care. He hasn't changed or ignored the Church's teachings on abortion, gay marriage, or other issues, he has simply stressed that, when, "religion becomes a 'little convent' [...] of 'I'm good and you're bad,' of moral regulations" then the Church "loses its reality of adoring God, of believing in God."

Amen to that. As Pope Francis stressed in his remarks before Congress, there is nothing political about calling for immigrants to be treated with dignity whether they come from across the Mexican border or from half a world away in Syria. There's nothing partisan about ensuring that the poor can access healthcare or that we pass on a clean and sustainable planet to the next generation. Simply put, there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that we must be bold and righteous in seizing solutions to the problems of our age.

In his second encyclical as Pope, Laudato si', Pope Francis recognized that humans are called in Genesis to "'till and keep' the garden of the world" and that this "implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature." By painting the global threat posed by climate change in stark moral terms, Pope Francis cut like a hot knife through the partisan rancor that had gripped the climate change debate here in America. This isn't about party or profit; it's about doing what's right -- for God, for us, and for our children.

The same goes for Pope Francis' take on sweeping global issues like a wave of global immigration and the need to ensure that even the poorest among us have access to health care. While speaking before Congress, Pope Francis won bipartisan applause with the statement, "we, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners." As a child of an immigrant family myself, I was moved by his words.

There's nothing partisan about Pope Francis's statements like these. Time and time again, he's simply noted that there are political solutions to moral problems -- and that failing to reach these solutions is a moral failure, not just a political one.

I know I just said that he isn't a partisan. But, candidly, I am. And I can't help but note--as a proud Democrat as well as a proud Catholic--that these days Democrats are the party more interested in reaching real solutions to these global challenges. This hasn't always been the case. After all, it was that great Republican lion, Ronald Reagan, who stepped forward to extend amnesty to undocumented immigrants. It was President Richard Nixon who acted to create the Environmental Protection Agency. In the 2016 race, Hillary Clinton has laid out a comprehensive vision to tackle climate change, immigration and health care inequalities alike. To put it mildly, after the summer of Donald Trump, the same cannot be said of the Republicans.

I can't say that I'm optimistic, but I hope that the Republican Party will soon remember that Jesus exhorts us to worship him through our treatment of the poor -- Matthew 25:35, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Or as it's put a bit differently on the inscription at the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free."

Until then, I'll follow Pope Francis and keep praying.