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Pope Francis just completed his address to a joint session of Congress. Joining him on the dias were House Speaker Boehner and Vice-President Biden, both of whom are also Catholic. Interestingly (to me), Catholic Supreme Court Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas did not attend.  Justices Breyer and Kagan, neither of whom is a Catholic, were also no shows. The other four justices- Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Roberts (Catholic) and Kennedy (Catholic) were there for the speech in which the Pontiff called for the protection and defense of “human life at every stage of its development.”  While this seemed it would be the opening to an expected denunciation of abortion, Francis pivoted and in the next sentence explained: “This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty.”

The Pope also addressed another hot-button issue in a way more nuanced than some would wish. While some of my friends on the right would have loved to hear a denunciation of something they like to call “Islamofascism,” Pope Francis said:

“Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.”

But it all came down to the Golden Rule and isn’t that what it’s all about: “ We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ ”


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