Have You Heard About That Pope Guy?

(dear email subscribers – sorry for the double ding)

If you haven’t, you should see your doctor immediately. You’ve likely just awakened from a coma.

Like millions of others, I find this man intriguing. He has the attention of the world and speaks of mercy, peace, unity, and compassion. Early in his papacy, he criticized those in the church who put dogma above love. He admonished those obsessed by the hot button issues of abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception.

On the other hand, no teachings have changed. Birth control is still considered verboten. Sacramental marriage is still a thing. Women are no closer to leadership roles.

Source: USA Today

Everyone wants to use him as proof of the righteousness of their own points of view but he doesn’t fit neatly into our petty shoe box categories of liberal or conservative. In his speech to Congress, he defined his role in a simple sentence.

It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same.

That those uncomplicated words can sound divisive, even revolutionary speaks volumes about we the people.

The flap following his visit regarding whether he meant to or didn’t mean to meet with Kim Davis exemplified our need to claim the pope for our own team. Openly and vocally dismayed by the Davis meeting, I was not immune to the compulsion to prove the pope’s on my side. But reading commentary from people who disagreed with me sent me searching for the bigger lesson I suspected I was missing.  I landed on his words from 2013.

And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.

He speaks to this frequently, I’ve discovered – this Culture of Encounter.

It might be the idea that saves us from ourselves.

We have a tendency to sort out folks – skin color, language, religion, nationality, donkey, elephant – we want to parse, parse, parse. You’re either with me or against me. We separate ourselves into our respective corners and before long, people who disagree with us become enemies, one-dimensional caricatures, easy to dismiss, a completely unworthy other.

A few weeks ago, my daughter came home from a social action meeting at her Catholic high school and shared some startling statistics about human trafficking. It reminded me of something I’ve been (mostly unsuccessfully) trying to articulate for years.

If we just took a fraction of the money, passion, and resources that we put into the endless abortion debate and invested in a cause like human trafficking, imagine the difference we could make. If we work together, the potential is staggering. The beautiful thing is – in this context, our views on abortion are irrelevant.

And it’s not just human trafficking and abortion. It’s hunger, poverty, violence, inequality, addiction, immigration, education, empowerment. Yes, it’s even pink ribbons.

The revolution may not be televised after all, because it’s happening beyond the hype and circus that advertisers love. It’s happening on common ground, championed by a soft-spoken humble man both speaking of and living out a Culture of Encounter.

5 thoughts on “Have You Heard About That Pope Guy?”

  1. Katie, a great post. Thank you. This is what I believe, and have believed for a long time. It’s what motivated me to look to change professions in my early thirties, to look around for something I could do that was tangibly helpful to people. And that’s what led me to going back to school and becoming a PT. And after learning all that science, etc, I also realized once I started working that the most important thing I can bring to my patients during treatment is kindness. That’s it. One person at a time. Just being kind. Just acknowledging each person’s humanity. Just acknowledging that the cashier at the grocery store has had a long day & maybe that’s why she’s not very attentive. This is the only thing that saves me from feeling utterly overwhelmed by the crap-storm of awful news and political nonsense and, yes, even pink ribbons so that I don’t totally lose my sanity.

    It doesn’t require religion, dogma, anything. You just get out there, and be kind, and do good. That’s all. That’s everything.

    xoxo, Kathi

  2. How is a ‘culture of encounter’ advanced? By voluntary cooperation and exchange? Or by policies of coercion?

    1. I think this idea lies outside of public policy. We can choose to only focus on our areas of disagreement or we can come together over ideas about which we agree. It’s no more complicated than that.

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