By DAVID CONCEPCION
During his visit to the United States, the Pope received astonishing media coverage as almost every major news outlet covered him. However, the American media has a tendency to take Pope Francis’ quotes out of context and make it sound unique, when in actuality, it has been Church teaching for hundreds of years.
One such instance was Pope Francis’ words on abortions. “Time” Magazine headlines read, ‘Repent and we will forgive abortions, Pope tells women.’ These headlines created a false perception that the Roman Catholic Church did not previously give absolution to women who have had abortions.
In fact, it has always been Church teaching that priests, who act with the power of God through confession, have always given absolution to women who have had abortions.
The American media’s coverage of Pope Francis framed him as a person who is new and revolutionary due to the apparent liberalization of his views on abortion, climate change and marriage resulting in a furthering division in American politics.
This false framing resulted in a huge debate between Democrats and Republicans in the United States, leaving them more divisive as they are both using the Pope’s message to further their political agendas.
This division led to one catholic representative’s absence, Rep. Paul Gosar, of the Pope’s address to the joint meeting of Congress, the first type of address from any Pope in the United States.
Fervent praise from the American left-wingers of the Pope’s message on things such as the environment and social justice, prove that they think that the Pope is on their side. The truth is, the Pope, and more specifically the Church he serves, does not take sides but rather represents its own views.
The fault is not that the majority of the American public does not do their research about the Catholic Church, but would rather research using articles with selectively chosen headlines to fit their own ideologies.
This is a result of our culture to politicize everything in our society, which can lead Americans without even realizing it, to take things out of context.
Politicization leads to classifications of the Pope as a political voice, when the only thing the Pope needs to be classified as is Catholic, as he represents the teaching of the Catholic Church and its two thousand years of history.
The American public has access to the vast amount of resources to understand the Church’s teaching on many subjects such as homosexuality and why it does not support it, or to further understand its stance on social justice, or the more popularly used key term, inequality.
What the American public needs to study is the teachings of the church. Its beauty is not due to the grandiose churches or the art of the Sistine Chapel, but the beauty of its teachings, which are based directly on the word of God.
Similarly, Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, received a lot of attention because it mentioned that the Church always believed that we have a responsibility as human beings to take care of the environment. In it, the Pope critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.”
Many commentators focused on climate change aspect, which caused many in the public such as Rep. Paul Gosar, to believe that this is the only thing the Pope highlights, although he continued to cite his predecessors such as Paul VI and St. John XXIII, signifying that the Church always believed that we have a responsibility as human beings to take care of the environment.
This does not mean the Church supports environmental policy, as it is not a legislative manual to solve our environmental issues, but a philosophical and theological take on mankind as stewards of the world which can translate to a wide variety of proposed policies on both sides of the aisle.
There are times in which the Pope says things that would make the American left uncomfortable, as the encyclical also says “concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.” The Church teaches that we as society have a duty to protect all life as we humans are also a part of nature.
The American classification of left or right on the Pope is a result of trying to summarize 2000 years’ worth of teachings into a short article. If you want to truly understand what the Church teaches it takes time, and a great way to understand the Pope, and the Church he serves, is to talk to a priest. After all, before he was Pope Francis, he held the title Father Bergoglio.