Pope Francis Tells Kim Davis to “Stay Strong” and Nullifies His Entire U.S. Trip!

Pope & Kim

Since Pope Francis’ historic visit to the U.S., states have executed three death row inmates. The White House has promised further arms sales to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Our military has continued daily airstrikes in Syria. It has bombed a Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. Yet another mass shooting facilitated by out-of-control arms manufacturers and their government servants has shocked us all. At the same time, preliminary work on the Keystone XL pipeline has continued unabated.

In his congressional address, the pope condemned all such actions in no uncertain terms.

Meanwhile, defying all expectations, the pontiff chose not to address specifically abortion, contraception and gay marriage. Those matters, he has said, have been over-emphasized while the essence of Jesus’ Gospel (Good News to the poor) has been correspondingly downplayed. In fact, Francis has described the Church’s pelvic concerns as “obsessions.”

Nonetheless, since the pope’s departure virtually the only lasting conversation has circled around two words spoken to Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Apparently at the invitation of the conservative Vatican Nuncio (ambassador), Ms. Davis appeared in a reception line, had her case briefly explained to the pope, shook his hand, and heard two words: “stay strong.” Those two words have overshadowed the thousands of sentences spoken by the pope in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia.

“Stay strong” was enthusiastically embraced by the mainstream media (MSM) as if it were the most significant papal utterance between September 22nd and September 25th. Apparently, it relocated commentators on familiar, comfortable ground far from the decidedly annoying “bold cultural revolution” advocated by the gentle visitor from the Vatican.

Later while on the plane back to Rome, the pope was pointedly asked about government officials who refuse to discharge a duty if they feel it violates conscience. In keeping with church tradition, the pope replied, “Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right.”

The MSM seized upon that pronouncement as a further expression of papal support for Kim Davis.

Only a few applied the pronouncement’s logic to Kim Davis herself, who has been divorced three times and married four. Following the logic of “conscientious objection,” it would be much more consistent for Christian administrators in Rowan County to refuse all of Ms. Davis’ petitions for divorce which Jesus condemned as adulterous. (He said absolutely nothing about homosexuality.)

Much less did the MSM bother to apply the pope’s words about conscientious objection to whistle blowers in general or in particular to Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, the work of WikiLeaks, or to military personnel refusing orders. Once again, that would have moved the discussion into decidedly uncomfortable territory. It would have been too “political.”

In the meantime, national leaders, led by the United States, largely refuse to “become strong,” much less “stay strong” on matters of capital punishment, and weapons of mass destruction.  They’ve continued our headlong plunge towards the abyss represented by climate chaos – the lion in the room that threatens to devour us all.

According to Pope Francis, it’s towards taming that lion that focus and concern should be directed — instead of towards meaningless sideshows.

The Pope’s Address to Congress: First Impressions

Pope Congress 2

It was a fabulous speech by the world’s leading spiritual and thought-leader, who has just produced our century’s most important public document, Laudato Si’, the papal encyclical on the environment.

Pope Francis addressed not just the dignitaries in the Senate chambers, but all of us – parents struggling to support families, social activists, the elderly and the young.

The pope emphasized communitarian values: dialog, the common good, solidarity, cooperation, sharing, and the Golden Rule.

He held up for emulation four counter-cultural heroes he understood as embodying the most admirable of “American” values. They weren’t Rockefeller, Reagan, Jobs, or even FDR. Instead they were:

  1. Abraham Lincoln: the champion of liberty for the oppressed
  2. Martin Luther King: the advocate of pluralism and non-exclusion
  3. Dorothy Day: the apostle of social justice and the rights of the poor
  4. Thomas Merton: the Cistercian monk who embodied openness to God and the capacity for inter-faith dialog.

Of course, Lincoln and King were victims of assassination for championing the rights of African Americans.

Day and Merton vigorously resisted what Dorothy Day called “this filthy, rotten system.” (As is well-known, she was also an unwed mother whose first pregnancy ended in abortion.)

Following the examples of The Four, the pope called for the end of:

  • Fundamentalisms of every kind – including economic fundamentalisms
  • Political polarizations that prevent opposing parties from dialog and cooperation
  • Exclusion of immigrants by a nation of immigrant descendants
  • Capital punishment and its replacement by programs of rehabilitation
  • The global arms trade and arms sales in general along with the wars and violence they stimulate
  • Violent conflict and its replacement by difficult but essentially diplomatic process of dialog
  • The human roots of climate chaos and the related problems of poverty
  • Unlimited and directionless development of technology

Throughout this gentle but radical speech, the audience seemed to be waiting for the other shoe to drop – i.e. for the pope to mollify his conservative critics by addressing their favorite “religious issues” contraception, abortion, gay marriage. But the shoe never hit the floor.

At two points the pope about to untie his footwear. In mid-speech, he stated that we must protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. This lured his audience into a standing ovation.

However, the illustration of his point was not abortion, but capital punishment. Punishment for crime, Francis said, must never exclude hope and rehabilitation. We must end the death penalty, he asserted, since every life is sacred.

Then towards the end of his address, Francis spoke of his anticipated presence at this weekend’s Philadelphia Conference on the family. Families, he said, are threatened as never before, both from within and without.

But then, instead of addressing gay marriage, the pope spoke of the “most vulnerable” in this context – not the unborn, but “the young” threatened by violence, abuse and despair. Many of them hesitate to even start families, he lamented – some because of their own lack of possibilities. Others demur because they have too many possibilities. “Their problems are our problems,” the pope said. We must address them and solve their underlying causes.

It was a masterful speech. It continually lured conservatives into standing ovations for issues they constantly oppose: the end of the capital punishment, protection of the environment, openness to immigrants, the end of arms sales of all kinds. The address summoned legislators to their real responsibility – pursuing the common good, the chief aim, the pope said, of all politics.

The pope’s basic message was be daring and courageous – like the counter-cultural activists, Lincoln, King, Day, Merton, and (I would add) Pope Francis!