The Pope observed that the members of Congress, as representatives of the people, have a responsibility to promote the common good. “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”
In response to “the disturbing social and political situation of the world today,” the Pope warned of the dangers of fundamentalism, religious or of some other type, and of “simplistic reductionism.” Instead, he asserted, “Our response must be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. . . . We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”
He maintained that politics must be in service of the common good and the human person, and accordingly, politics “cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life.”
He called for a humane and just response to immigrants, noting that the great majority of persons on the American continent, including himself, are the descendants of immigrants. He called for “the global abolition of the death penalty,” maintaining that “every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity” and that the rehabilitation of persons committed of crimes is more beneficial for society. And he called for a fight on many fronts against poverty and hunger, including especially addressing its causes.
Quoting from his encyclical Laudato Si,’ he called for “a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps,’ and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. . . . Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’ and ‘an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.’” He maintained that we must put technology in the service of a “‘healthier, more human, more social, more integral’” form of progress.
Speaking before the political representatives of a nation that, as all the world knows, sells far more arms than any other nation, the Pope proclaimed the following:
Being at the service of dialogue and peace . . . means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.
The progressive discourse of the Pope during his journey to the United States was very favorably received in the Third World. Indeed, it complements the Third World perspective formulated by movements of national liberation, and it reiterates some of the demands of Third World international organizations, such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 plus China.
However, the Pope’s speech before the US Congress did not reflect a Third World perspective. There was not a word about colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, or neoliberalism as the cause of the great problems and challenges that humanity confronts. Nor was it a Marxist discourse. There was no recognition that socially irresponsible policies are driven by the particular interests of the ruling classes within nations and of the ruling nations in the world-system. The call to responsible action by the Pope was expressed from a religious and moral perspective, and not from a Third World, Marxist, or socialist perspective.
The progressive Christian perspective of Pope Francis is an example of “reform form below” that has several goals in common with Third World socialism, and accordingly, it suggests the possibility of a political alliance between Third World socialist and popular governments and the progressive wing of world Christianity in a struggle to establish a more just and sustainable world-system. Such an alliance that would stand in opposition to the structural immorality and violence of the neocolonial world-system. See “Reform from above; reform from below” 8/27/2014; and “We can know the true and the good” 4/3/2104.
I will reflect further on the possibility of a Socialist-Christian alliance in a subsequent post.