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.