Reprinted from www.popularresistance.org by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
The visit of Pope Francis to the United States, speaking to both the US Congress and the UN General Assembly, placed the moral foundation of policy front and center in the public dialogue. It is important for the social movement to be based on values that show our moral and ethical character to put forward a positive vision for the future that will have widespread support.
Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air on multiple issues for the Catholic Church, but he has a challenge in being a moral spokesperson because the history of the Catholic Church is one of colonialism, profiting from war, hoarding extreme wealth as well as misogyny and pedophilia. His actions are not consistent with his words. For example, while the pope is calling for immediate action on climate change, there is no indication that the church is divesting from its carbon energy investments.
Climate Change Connects to All Issues, Essential for Justice
While Pope Francis did not mention climate change before the Congress, he did discuss the environmental crisis and in his climate encyclical he made many important points that showed climate is not only an environmental issue but a social justice issue connected to every aspect of life on earth. Further he puts the responsibility on developed countries and criticizes the weak response by government. He urges limiting consumption of carbon energy, a rapid shift to clean, sustainable energy and assistance for developing countries who bear the brunt of climate change even though they did the least to cause it.
His statements on the climate have inspired others to action. Religious leaders from the Jewish and Muslim faiths published their own views on climate. Non-religious statements were issued in Canada where artists, authors and activists came together for a call to action. People are calling on President Obama to heed the pope's call. Others conducted an 18 day water-only hunger fast at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission calling for no new permits for oil and gas infrastructure. More joined the fast as the pope arrived and those involved were inspired and have strengthened their commitment to end reliance on carbon fuels.
The pope speaking out on climate comes in the context of the world focusing on the climate talks in Paris this December and with escalating activism around the globe against carbon-based fuels and their infrastructure. Just this week there were protests against oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, First Nation women shutting down an Energy East Pipeline meeting in Canada, and activists in Virginia interrupting their governor at an energy meeting to criticize Dominion Resources which is building pipelines and an export terminal for fracked gas. Other activists are breaking from the oil and gas nightmare and seeking to build a solar dream; and still others view solar energy as leading to racial justice as well as clean energy.
Immigrants Seek Human Rights
The connection between climate and other issues was shown by climate justice protesters who joined in demonstrations at an immigrant detention center in Washington State saying they "believe the fight for migrant and climate justice are one and the same." Again activists were inspired to action by the visit of Pope Francis, with hundreds of immigrants marching to DC urging the pope to make migrant issues a priority. Immigration has always been a hot button issue in Washington, DC where fear of people coming to the United States has replaced the country's ideal of welcoming the "huddled masses." Now immigration is becoming a worldwide problem which will grow as climate impacts grow but is now pushed by wars and extreme extraction. And, it results in human rights abuses e.g. the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orba'n ordered attacks on unarmed migrants.
One issue which the pope spoke out more strongly on than expected was militarism. He told the United States, the largest arms dealer in the world, to end the arms trade and he told the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons and to seek diplomatic rather than military solutions to conflicts. The pope's call for ending nuclear arms comes at a time when bi-partisans in Washington are spending a trillion dollars to upgrade US nuclear weapons. The pope's visit encouraged activists to protest war and militarism in Washington, DC and linked war to poverty and the environmental crisis. It also coincided with ongoing protests at Hancock Air Base from where drone attacks originate.End Weapons Sales, Ban Nuclear Weapons and Seek Diplomacy Not War
Indigenous Still Colonized By Doctrine Of Discovery and Praise for Colonizer Priest
Pope Francis was not in step with calls from Indigenous peoples. The pope canonized a California friar who colonized Native Americans and was responsible for many deaths, torture and their being forced to give up their culture and heritage to work for the Catholic Church missions in California. Pope Francis claimed we should not judge people who lived in different times, but we are now in the Twenty First Century and the pope is treating an abuser of Indigenous people as if he were a saint.
Indigenous peoples from across the Americas came to Philadelphia to urge the pontiff to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of papal bulls from the 15th century that justified European colonization of newly "discovered" lands. One particular papal bull, issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1455, authorized Christian nations "to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all " enemies of Christ," take their land and "reduce their persons to perpetual slavery." While many other Christian denominations have repudiated this doctrine which provides legal justification for colonizers, the Catholic Church has yet to do so and did not during the visit to the United States. In July Pope Francis noted the "grave sins" against the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, and before Congress he acknowledged their rights "were not always respected." But, the legal doctrine that justifies abusive behavior remains in effect.
Correcting Thousands of Years of Misogyny
In Washington, DC protesters urged Pope Francis to end the oppression of women in the church and allow their ordination as priests.