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LETTER: Pope a simple priest, progressive politician

First Posted: 2:54 am - September 29th, 2015

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To the editor:

Unfortunately, I missed about half of Pope Francis’ address to the joint session of Congress. I did, however, read the entire transcript. This was a powerful, transcendent, historic address. I don’t identify as a Christian; that in no way influences my admiration for this truly humble man.

How can one not admire a man who chooses to be escorted in a little Fiat and chooses a simple lunch with the homeless instead of an elaborate affair with the leaders of the House and Senate? In his address, the pope chose to recognize four individuals: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day.

Here are the pope’s words: “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.”

This pope is a mixture of all of these individuals; that is what makes him so universally appealing. Dorothy Day may be the least well-known, but his worldview is most closely aligned with hers.

Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist, Christian socialist and Catholic convert. She advocated the Catholic economic theory of distributism.

In the 1930s, Day helped to establish the Catholic Worker Movement, a pacifist movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. She co-founded a newspaper, The Catholic Worker. She was arrested a dozen times, the first as a suffragette in 1917, the last during a workers’ demonstration in California in 1973, and took part in many labor and anti-military protests.

On a interesting side note; Ralph Bellamy, the person who penned the Pledge of Allegiance, was also a Christian socialist as was MLK and Nelson Mandela. In this light, it is understandable why some conservatives view Pope Francis as a threat.

Democrats believe the U.S. needs to regulate the economy and the environment, while allowing people to make their own choices about whom they marry and whether to have an abortion. Republicans think people should generally be able to do what they want with their money and their carbon footprint, but social behavior should be regulated by the state.

This is probably a oversimplification, yet one would have to agree that Francis aligns more with Democrats than Republicans. He favors immigration reform, played a major role in the Obama administration’s detente with Cuba and supports the Iran nuclear deal.

Pope Francis always says that he is but a simple priest, yet he is also an excellent politician — and a progressive one at that.

Devon Bray

Cheraw

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