Last Thursday my heart swelled with pride as I listened to Pope Francis call the U.S. Congress to action against the extreme economic inequality in the United States and throughout the world. In his opening remarks, he reminded Congress of their larger mission 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.”
Disappointment and Discontent
This statement is not only true of governments but of religions as well. All major religions hold similar tenets to the “Golden Rule,” which Pope Francis referenced. In his remarks, the Pope reminded us that ensuring the common good is a religious issue as well as a secular responsibility. However, religions, just like politicians, often let their people down.
I was disappointed many times over my 13 years of southern Catholic schooling by religious leaders, teachers and priests. In college I fled my Catholic upbringing in search of a religious space that more closely aligned with my social justice compass. With space and time I found it easier to dismiss the whole of my Catholicism, erasing the positive lessons I learned about equality, compassion, justice and peace.
Ensuring the common good is a religious issue as well as a secular responsibility.”
A Call to Human Rights
Listening to Pope Francis speak reminded me that all institutions – religious, or secular – have shortcomings. But his call to break the cycle of inequality is simple. He stated, “The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.”
No matter your creed, religion or spirituality, the Pope’s call to basic human rights cannot be disputed. Religions, just like political parties, mobilize and energize people to change the status quo – and in this case create lasting and systematic changes to reduce the levels of inequality in the United States.
I will continue to grapple with many aspects of my Catholic faith but on this issue I am clear. If Pope Francis is paving a new path for economic equality in the United States, then I am definitely following.