Pope pleases liberals, conservatives alike

Published 1:58 am Saturday, September 26, 2015

A long time ago, I married a Catholic.

Mr. Honey and I are separated in age by 18 years. He was divorced and had a child. He had just opened a new business. There were plenty of reasons my parents should have opposed this union.

There was one. From my mother.

“I hope he doesn’t make you become Catholic,” she said. It’s not that she had anything against them, per se, she’s just not big on change.

She had good reason to worry. My then husband-to-be wasn’t just Catholic – he was also Catholic educated, both boarding school and college. But in the end, after years of attending services at both, we decided to forego the red tape of having our Methodist-blessed vows redone, and just compromised at the Episcopal church.

I’ve thought of that often this week, as the Catholics have been much in the news, thanks to Pope Francis’s visit to the United States. Who could help but be awed by a man whose position traditionally would have shrouded in pomp and circumstance, yet he skipped a lunch with important people in Washington to visit a homeless shelter.

Speaking to a much-divided Congress, he said things both liberals and conservatives embraced.

He defended immigration, and reminded us that all Americans – save those few Native Americans who have not intermarried – are the sons and daughters of immigrants.

“We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” Francis said. “I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”

He endorsed pro-environmental legislation, and issued a plea to abolish the death penalty.

But he also defended the traditional family and the sanctity of life at “every stage of its development.”

The commentators to whom I listened on a long drive Thursday afternoon noted that two of the most polarized members of Congress – the liberal Pelosi and staunch conservative Boehner – both consider themselves devout Catholics. They also predicted that each side would hear a different message as a takeaway.

I hope we learned more from his actions than his words.

Pope Francis didn’t just tell us to care for the poor, he went to a homeless shelter and showed us how. He didn’t just call for an end to arms, he participated in multi-faith service, asking for the prayers of believers and good thoughts of non-believers.

Even my mother would agree – this man who puts his faith in action is a good example for us all.

The pope is learning English, and is said to have practiced all summer to deliver his speech in our native language. Though he lapsed back to Spanish for much of the trip, one phrase he learned well.

“God bless America.”

Would that we would all embrace the good feelings he generate in Congress and find more ways to bridge our polarized extremes. That would be the best blessing for which America could hope.

Amen, and amen.