Pope Francis, in a powerful speech to the U.S. Congress Thursday morning, used his moral authority to speak out for compassion in regards to immigration, urgency in regards to care for the earth, and dialogue and peace when it comes to foreign affairs and interfaith relations. He condemned the military industrial complex while emphasizing a special concern for the poorest among us.
He mentioned his care for humans at all stages of life and used that as a springboard to talk about the death penalty. He spoke of his special interest in the family, and used that to launch into his desire for the young to be able to dream.
It was a beautiful speech, full of heart for the least of these. However, I think we can lay to rest the idea that this is a pope that has no politics. It wasn't just the issues that Pope Francis talked about, it was also the Americans that Pope Francis referenced that showed his heart so clearly.
The Pope grounded his address in the spiritual witness of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, and Dorothy Day.
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did; when it fosters a culture which enables people to "dream" of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work; the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
These four iconic progressive Christian figures had profound spiritual convictions that were completely intertwined with their political desire for justice, peace and equality.
There was no mention of a Billy Graham or any of the many other religious figures that are more commonly associated with the more conservative strains of Christian thought. It is especially striking that Pope Francis bypassed the many Catholics he could have included to reference Dorothy Day, who was open about her socialist affinity, and her inclusion made me wonder if a canonization is on the horizon.
This is not to argue that Pope Francis is partisan. He would never support the Democratic party, not only because of stances on abortion and gay marriage, but also because of how tepid the Democrats have been on poverty.
However, it is now dishonest to say that Pope Francis transcends politics. When asked about his political leanings on the plane up from Cuba, Francis insisted, "I am certain I have never said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the Church, I follow the Church and in this, I do not think I am wrong."
As we all know, every religion has many traditions within it. After Pope Francis' moving speech to Congress it is clear in which tradition the Pope stands.