Since his papacy began in 2013, Pope Francis has spent a great deal of time fighting for social justice. Although the Catholic doctrine has very conservative views on subjects like birth control, homosexuality, and abortion, it also insists that people must care for the most vulnerable in our society, including the sick and the poor. As a religious leader, Pope Francis has focused more on such aspects of the faith, rather than on casting judgment for issues of sexual morality.
The pope has also spoken out against inequalities created by excessive capitalism. About globalization, the pontiff remarked that it has helped many people rise from poverty but has also “damned many others to starve to death.” Although global wealth is increasing, poverty is also on the rise.
On this subject, Pope Francis has also said, “Jesus tells us what the ‘protocol’ is, on which we will be judged. It is the one we read in chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel: I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was in prison, I was sick, I was naked and you helped me, clothed me, visited me, took care of me. Whenever we do this to one of our brothers, we do this to Jesus. Caring for our neighbor; for those who are poor, who suffer in body and in soul, for those who are in need. This is the touchstone.”
In general, Catholics believe in the virtue of social welfare, and many condemn the budget cuts proposed by Trump and GOP, which are particularly hard on the poor.
According to Pope Francis, fighting poverty has nothing to do with socialism or any other ideology. On the contrary, it is an important part of the Christian faith.
He said, “This concern for the poor is in the Gospel, it is within the tradition of the Church, it is not an invention of communism and it must not be turned into an ideology, as has sometimes happened before in the course of history.”
In another quote, Pope Francis stated that if he were to read sermons from Church Fathers in the second and third century, he would be accused by some of spreading Marxist thought.
The pope has also made many statements on other social justice issues, including defending the rights of immigrants, the need to offer sanctuary to refugees, and to fight against racism and discrimination based on religious belief.
“You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,” Pope Francis said.
The pontiff has also spoken out against so-called “fake news” and biased reporting, stating last year that “journalism based on gossip is akin to terrorism.”
Pope Francis has helped spark a political movement on the religious left
For all his talk about social justice, Pope Francis’ teachings have fallen on deaf ears in the Trump administration. Much of Trump’s policy is decidedly anti-immigration, and his Muslim ban has blocked many refugees, in some cases also those who had already been promised asylum.
The GOP’s failed health reform bill would have hit the poor and elderly particularly hard, and Trump’s budget proposal includes deeps cuts to social welfare programs, including many that offer services and food to needy seniors, women, and children.
Because of such policy, the religious left is growing as a political force in the United States.
In a Reuters article on March 27, Reverend Serene Jones, the president of New York’s Union Theological Seminary, said, “The election of Trump has been a clarion call to progressives in the Protestant and Catholic churches in America to move out of a place of primarily professing progressive policies to really taking action.”
Since Donald Trump became president, the seminary’s monthly lectures on social justice have been at full capacity, drawing crowds three times the size they attracted before he became president.
Some of the religious left have been inspired by Pope Francis’ fight for social justice, as mentioned earlier in this article.
J. Patrick Hornbeck II, theology department chairman at Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York, told Reuters it is a “dirty little secret” in American politics that the religious left has existed all along — they just haven’t been particularly successful at banding together.
Hornbeck said, “It has taken a crisis, or perceived crisis, like Trump’s election to cause folks on the religious left to really own their religion in the public square.”
Progressive religious leaders have fought for social justice causes in the past, such as to abolish slavery and establish civil rights. Now, they are hitting the streets, taking action, and raising their voices again, both Roman Catholics like Pope Francis, as well as Protestants and religious leaders in Judaism and Islam.
Although the religious left is growing, they still have a long way to go before they reach the political clout of the religious right. Many conservative Christians support Trump’s policies and welcome such moves as defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides many health services to poor women.
However, when it comes to fighting for social justice during the Trump era, Pope Francis and company are here to stay.
[Featured Image by Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock]