Francis needs to go beyond his play-it-safe verbiage

by Colman McCarthy

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Unless Pope Francis, in his Sept. 23 speech to a joint session of Congress, condemns U.S. militarism with the same fervor of Martin Luther King Jr., who once decried the U.S. government as the world's most violent;

Unless Francis calls on members of the Senate and House to begin defunding the billions of dollars authorized for newer nuclear weapons, and speaks with the fire of Micah who said, "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more";

Unless he states it is time to close the 700 U.S. military bases around the globe;

Unless he expresses support for those members of Congress who believe the moment is long overdue to use the moral force of diplomacy rather than the force of bombs to settle disputes;

Unless he expresses dismay that among developed nations, the United States is near the bottom in the percentage of its foreign aid to the world's poor;

Unless he praises those members like Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who have long worked to restore relations with Cuba;

Unless he wonders when Congress will no longer subsidize agribusiness and its contributions to global warming;

Unless he aligns himself with the members of Congress who oppose the death penalty;

Unless elsewhere in his stay in Washington he takes time to comfort John Wojnowski, who was molested by a Catholic priest and who almost daily for the past 17 years and nearly 5,000 days has stood in front of the Vatican embassy with signs denouncing the pedophilia cover-ups;

Unless Francis visits the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House on Rock Creek Church Road and will be the only pope among Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI to visit a Worker house, even though its volunteers' commitments to housing and feeding the poor are unrivaled in carrying out the Gospel's message of social justice;

Unless he censures Georgetown University and the other Catholic schools for hosting ROTC programs;

Unless after he meets with President Barack Obama in the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., he walks across the way to 1601 Pennsylvania Ave., to bless Concepcion Picciotto and her friends who have camped in Lafayette Park since 1981 to protest nuclear weapons, only to be regularly arrested for their efforts;

Unless he offers an apology from the church for its complicity in past assaults against natives and minorities, as he did on his July visit to Latin America;

Unless he is self-critical about the Vatican's immorality, including banking scandals and sex crimes;

Unless when in New York City he breaks away from the showboating pomp that is a specialty of Cardinal Timothy Dolan and visits fellow Jesuit Fr. Daniel Berrigan, said to be in frail health;

Unless he reinstates Roy Bourgeois to the priesthood;

Unless he speaks with the full-contact ire of the biblical Amos and stands with the peacemaking activism of so many in the church's flock;

Then Francis, in his speeches and visitations, won't have gone much beyond incensed pieties and play-it-safe verbiage.

[Colman McCarthy directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C. His email is]

A version of this story appeared in the Aug 28-Sept 10, 2015 print issue under the headline: Francis needs to go beyond his play-it-safe verbiage.

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