Pope Francis to US Congress on threats to the family

GTY_pope_congress_11_mm_150924_4x3_992As I am in Tokyo, I haven’t kept my eyes glued to coverage of the papal visit of Pope Francis. I did, however, tune in via Slingbox to watch His Holiness address Congress. I had wished for stronger, clearer, obvious, inescapable words on some important issues, but he got the job done… at least if the listener is willing to hear him properly.

That said, one of my correspondents texted me:

CNN is reporting (Anderson Cooper) that Francis was intimating in his speech before Congress that he’s pro- gay marriage.

If I haven’t been tapping the live feed of Pope Francis, even less have I followed CNN.  Why bother with them if you can catch Fr. Murray and the gang on EWTN’s coverage. Still, it is hard to fathom how anyone could construe that from what Pope Francis said.

His words about the family:

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. [Pretty clear what he means, no?] I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

His delivery at that moment was energetic, thus underscoring his intent.

Yes, I too wish that he had been unmistakably clear.  But I got his point.


I turned on the moderation queue.

Some of you simply want to bash the Pope while contributing nothing of substance in your comments.  We don’t need that.

Think before posting.  Make your comment count.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Back pew sitter says:

    I’ve watched some of today’s coverage with a sinking heart. I think I’ll stop watching.

  2. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Ben Shapiro comments on what follows the paragraph quoted above: “Did this lead to a discussion of traditional marriage? It did not. The Pope instead redirected to a vague statement about ‘the young,’ whom he says are trapped in a ‘hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair’ rather than starting families. Given that the Justices of the Supreme Court attended the speech, it would have been an opportune moment to say something about Justice Kennedy, a Catholic, writing glorification of homosexual relationships into the Constitution. Alas, the Pope continued not to speak truth to power, instead opting for leftist tropes that will please the media and do little to redirect the nation’s moral conversation.”


    I wonder how clear what he means would be to various parts of his audience (including viewers, listeners, readers), when he said, “Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.” Might some, thinking like Justice Kennedy writes, not sincerely conclude, ‘Yes, at last, “called into question” as they should be, and answered correctly with “love” – love is recognized at last as “the very basis of marriage and the family”, love between any two (or more?) people, love which moves those same-sex couples to adopt children or artificially inseminate one of the partners or a loving surrogate mother somewhere.’? Might they not hear in “I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life”, ‘the richness and the beauty of family life in all it myriad, varied forms’ and love in the Holy Father the lore of a cheerful purple dinosaur heard often enough discoursing on this very subject (in some form)?

    Perhaps something like this is how many could sincerely construe “that Francis was intimating in his speech before Congress that he’s pro- gay marriage” from this very passage.

  3. jfk03 says:

    Very few words of comfort for the pro-life movement. Many words of encouragement to progressives. That’s my overall impression.

  4. transparent2one says:

    This pope just isn’t American enough. He should have come out with guns in both hands demanding repentance and conversion.

  5. benedetta says:

    I thought that the Holy Father’s historic presence before Congress was very eloquent, strong, and articulated well the Church’s commitment to protecting and defending human life. I think that our elected officials needed to hear him, as do all of our leaders in various spheres of influence and power, and I think that if they are honest they will commend their consciences and prayers to his wise advice, and stop playing games with our lives, real lives, the lives of real human beings, real Americans, lives which matter in the eternal sense and not only the temporal political one in terms of what they can do for them. I pray that his words and presence are effective.

  6. majuscule says:

    I have been looking for the clear positive comments (needing a magnifying glass but I’m getting help reading trusted blogs) and posting replies to comments on Facebook. Some of my friends are Protestants with no understanding of Catholicism. Some of their friends are lapsed Catholics.

    This seems better than anonymous comboxes. Some of the people are thanking me for the links I’m posting to articles that make sense to me. They won’t see them on TV or in the MSM.

    I do wish he had been clearer. So do the Protestants and former Catholics I’m Facebooking with.

  7. Cantor says:

    The best summary I’ve seen of the Pope’s message to Congress is at AOL:

    Pope challenges Congress to be better; Congress continues as usual


  8. Mojoron says:

    One thing that struck me the hardest is not what Francis said or what was covered in his address, but the ridiculous post-delivery punditization by the right and left. The “catholic” pundits on Fox especially made stupid comments, particularly showing their ignorance of Church teaching and the importance of where and in what formality the Pope speaks. While the Pope did ruffle my feathers (it seems that he took Obama’s play book and copied it) I understand that he is speaking for himself and not necessarily the Church. While Francis’ points are well taken, he did speak like a Jesuit and not like a theologian, aka BXVI or JPII. His words will carry much weight with the political left in the USA who will use anyone’s idea’s to further their agenda, even those of a Catholic Pope. I will steal a term to describe the left: cafeteria socialists.

  9. cwillia1 says:

    I am sorry but the only people who gets what the pope “clearly means” are faithful Catholics. There are people who see no threat to the family from same-sex marriage.

  10. Roguejim says:

    Enough with the nuanced messages. The majority of people today need to be hit right between the eyes. It’s how they like it. Subtlety is lost on them. Pope Francis could take a lesson from the Church Fathers.

  11. Itchy-ear Nancy Pelosi and Biden were giddy with excitement as if their own religion had just been validated. Any coded message about abortion and gay marriage simply just fell on deaf ears.

  12. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    I have to agree, sadly, with all the first three commenters. This was a great opportunity for the Pope to give unequivocal support for life, religious freedom, and traditional marriage. Instead the pro-life cause gets one sentence followed immediately by a paragraph on abolishing the death penalty, as if abortion in this country weren’t killing 100 times as many innocent babies per day as there are convicted criminals executed in a year. The bishops, Catholic institutions, and the Little Sisters of the Poor who are fighting the HHS mandate could also have used a specific word of support. It does no good to say you are for religious liberty. President Obama says that. In fact, except for that one sentence about protecting life at all stages of development, I am not sure President Obama couldn’t have given the entire speech.

  13. ConstantlyConverting says:

    I was kind of hoping for a more sack cloth and ashes kind of speech, but there was no way around his positions.

    He met with the Little Sisters, who everyone knows are fighting the mandate. He said his mission was a pro-life mission, at all stages of life. This actually also got applause. He defended life, eloquently.

    He spoke about the need for employment, respect for life, walking with people. Maybe Sr. Chittister, I think that is her name, might retract her pro-birth only statement that I’ve seen “meme”ed so many times, as the Pope just highlighted her total inaccuracy.

    He had lunch with the homeless, and talked about a need for subsidiarity and solidarity, while praising the charity and opportunity in the U.S.

    He asked us to trust and open our doors. We are all wanderers in a foreign land.

    He could have been a bit more aggressive, but coming from a country south of the U.S., he is surely aware of the history of anti-Catholicism pervasive in our culture, that has been aimed south of the border.

  14. Gratias says:

    A Jesuitical speech. Supposedly about four Americans but served as an excuse to propound leftist talking points about Global Warming, Muslim migration, Latin American illegal immigration, death penalty; nothing on abortion, individual rights as opposed to the rights of government or Gay marriage. I guess the ends justify the means but it was disappointing to me.

  15. Vincent says:

    I think you’re all being a little harsh. The Pope is on American soil, by invitation. We would hardly appreciate it if Obama (or another head of state) turned up at the Vatican and gave a speech about corruption in religious institutions. Or how the Vatican should accept birth control. Etc. There are rules and procedures to follow at these kind of occasions.

    That said, I would have liked to have seen more iron fist in the velvet glove. There seems to have been slightly too much velvet glove.

    But maybe the private conversations…

  16. mpolo says:

    German media is covering this as “Pope bashes the evil Republicans”. Although, they remarked in the last paragraph, even the Republican sitting behind him was driven to shed a tear…

    Really. I’m not making this up. I think our society has become incapable of hearing any message without filtering it through their own beliefs, and thus skewing it in their “favor”.

  17. Cornelius says:

    It’s very ironic: in prudential areas where the Church has no special expertise to command a particular solution (i.e., immigration, climate change, death penalty), the Pope is clear and explicit in his recommendations.

    But in areas where the Church has a mandate to teach and can brook no legitimate dissent (i.e., abortion, same-sex acts), the Pope is muted and indirect.

    It’s very strange. Phil Lawler has an interesting theory about this. He thinks the Pope is trying to draw dissenters back to the Church by presenting policy positions they will agree with, knowing that those who oppose abortion and same-sex acts are already safely in the bosom of the Church and don’t need such lures.

  18. steve51b31 says:

    Fr. Z,

    I believe that you hit it squarely on point… For those who are willing to read between the lines, his inferences are clear and direct.
    Alas, that the ” progressive world” including our congress, courts, and media will publicly only acknowledge the pleasant and feel good fluff !

  19. thomas777 says:

    We are far too often drowning in ambiguities. I wish he had been blunt. On the day congress votes on the PPF funding issue we get nothing about abortion. It’s a miss. I am not saying he did not say good things. That is not the issue. He has done good stuff during his pontificate. I can see where, for instance, he is attacking institutional Professional clerics when he made the annulment process free. Someone makes about 15 million off those things just in the US.

    That having been said, on this day, he missed the mark. Good stuff, but not the most important stuff. They can’t all be Pope John Paul the II, but I perhaps wrongly hoped for more in this case.

  20. LarryW2LJ says:

    This is why I favor “plain speaking” as Harry Truman called it. Be clear and unambiguous. Flowery is for Shakespeare. Say what you mean, mean what you say, but above all, leave no doubt as to what you have said.

  21. tufty says:

    Is it bashing the Pope to say that he never one time mentioned Jesus in his address to Congress?
    The Pope never said the name of Jesus or referred to Him in any way. The Pope.

  22. NOLAChas says:

    The Pope’s speeches lack clarity and instruction on Catholic truths, and therefore missed an great opportunity to provided the shove needed to get a majority of the American public to call for the protection of the the unborn.
    I think there is a longing for clear instruction on moral issues and the Pope’s words stop far short of such instruction and a call to action. Dialogue is good, but with out a sense of absolute truth, it is merely dust in the wind.

  23. Dialogos says:

    While I too wish there had been a more explicit/overt defense of life and marriage, I am glad for what His Holiness did say. I am not depressed by what he said; I AM depressed by much of the post-speech spin. One thing I will note is that I think the Pope was more effective by sticking to his prepared remarks (rather than the too-frequent off-the-cuff approach): I suspect somebody with some English skills and knowledge of U.S. history provided some help. (Hats off to CBS for their extensive coverage of his visit–I hope they’ll talk to their former producer, the Reverend Mr. Kandra.)

  24. Sonshine135 says:

    While I understand that one should not blind with the brightness of the truth (Emily Dickenson). The vague generalities that the Holy Father speaks in are reflective of many of the statements that have been issued, twisted, and defiled since even before the Second Vatican Council. So while the leadership in Holy Mother Church attempts to make the medicine more appetizing with a spoonful of sugar (Mary Poppins), it is only serving to dilute the medicine, thus curing no one. That is almost a byproduct of 2015 PC Society: Dilute everything, offend no one- unless you are deemed un-PC that is, and make nice with the world. While making the Pope likable, it doesn’t serve to spread the message of Catholicism.

    Now, some of the things that the Pope has done that have been good:
    – Mentioning the sanctity of all life, and offering the message on the attacks on marriage and the family. As stated by Father Z above, I found this to be the strongest and clearest message the Pope has given on this trip. It actually has me very interested in what he will say in Philadelphia.

    – Visiting the Little Sisters of the Poor. This was not covered very well by the media, because it doesn’t fit their narrative. I think it would have been a stronger statement had the Pope visited them before going to the White House, but he did visit them nonetheless. It should be a thinly veiled statement to the White House, but it will likely be swept under the rug.

    As a side note, after the Pope’s Speech yesterday, the Senate Democrats rejected the bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood. Again, this was buried in a lot of coverage, but it shows the hypocrisy of many of these so called Catholic Democrats.

  25. Wow, you’re in Japan. That’s great. I live in Fukuoka. It’s a bit far from Tokyo but if you have time I’d love to show you around. You might want to visit Tsuwano. There’s a very interesting story about the place you might want to read up on even if you don’t have time to go.

    Are you saying Mass here? I’d love to attend. Are you able to hear confessions while you’re here? Japanese priests don’t really like doing it.

  26. chantgirl says:

    At this moment in America, we have had a Christian thrown in jail for opposing gay “marriage”, we have Catholic institutions and groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor going to court to defend their right to be Catholics in their public actions, we have “catholic” politicians supporting Planned Parenthood even after the horrific truth of fetal organ trafficking has come to light, and we have law-abiding, hardworking families being squeezed financially to pay for welfare for an avalanche of illegal immigrants. This would have been the perfect opportunity to speak truth to power. I can only wonder what a John the Baptist, or a Catherine of Sienna, or a Mother Teresa would have said.

  27. When the Catholic message has to be supplied by the listener’s interpretation, that is a problem.

  28. St Donatus says:

    Here is the important quote “Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.” Now how would I interpret it, if say he wasn’t the Pope. ‘He is concerned for the family. Fundamental relationships, like marriage and the family are being called into question. What threats is he talking about? Divorce? Single Parent Families? Having children outside of marriage? Nothing there saying that the family structure shouldn’t be changed, but we just don’t want to follow those options that would destroy the family, whatever the family is in his mind. He has already indicated that he is okay with same sex marriages, since he has allowed members of same sex families to be god parents. So that couldn’t be it. He has indicated that he is okay with making ‘Catholic Divorce’ easier, so divorce isn’t it. He has compassion for single parent families, so that couldn’t be it. So what type of family is acceptable and which not. What threats is he talking about?

    We can interpret his words as we desire since, as usual, he is so ambiguous that one doesn’t know where he stands. So one can only go by his actions. Those actions indicate that he supports same sex unions, ‘Catholic divorce’, etc. This can easily be seen by how he has stacked the synod with liberal bishops, the number two in charge being one who support homosexual marriage. At the same time he removed ones from the first synod that were fighting the hardest against divorce and homosexual marriage.

    If I were a liberal catholic who was homosexual, had multiple non-nullified marriages, or frequently had multiple sexual partners (living a life of mortal sin), I know how I would want to interpret his words. I know, because that is exactly how I interpreted some of the words of priests in my younger, more liberal years. I acted on that ambiguity as well.

  29. But Father! says:

    Hopefully this will be judged as “substantial” and “charitable”, particularly since I don’t think it diverges from what Fr. Z has himself said in the last year.

    If there was any doubt prior to this visit, it is now completely clear that the Pope, an intelligent man, must be deliberately treating the masses of people and media that disagree fundamentally on a wide variety of important church teaching with incredible indirection and gentleness.

    I once thought that the Pope was possibly ignorant of the efficiency in which his personal style enabled the Western media to either twist things he said or ignore those things that the secular culture disagrees with. I no longer believe that it is possible for him to be so ignorant.

    I’ve tried to imagine the upsides the Pope sees in not confronting the secular culture. One of only two ways I can make this make sense is to believe that he has a profound optimism that the culture is not beyond redemption and that torturing the faithful with his elliptical approach is a small price to bring the culture along.. with geological slowness. There is another obvious and less charitable explanation that I’ll leave to the reader’s imagination.

  30. Dutchman says:

    The same logic that says a man can have the biological equipment to be a man but is a woma pen because he simply chooses to be. Is the same logic that can hear words of encouragement for gay marriage in words clearly to the contrary. Have to say some of the more conservative bent also have the magic facility to hear disaster in words that are at best benign. I liked the speech.

  31. gaudiumcumpace says:

    I think that the Holy Father is imitating Jesus in the way he preaches: those who have ears will hear.
    Jesus did not call the adulterous woman as such, rather he spoke of how she ought to live.
    Pope Francis seems to me to be poignantly calling out to everyone’s imprint of God’s love in their hearts to hear and follow.
    He has no need to speak the words “abortion”, “gay marriage” or any of the hot topics, rather, his call to one and all is to seek God’s goodness in their lives; it is a call to those who sincerely “seek themselves” (seek God).
    For those who want the Pope to chastise all the evil in this world, he is doing so with words of wisdom (seek the beauty of Truth in your lives).
    For the comments which continue to state disappointment in our Holy Father’s words, I am reminded of the apostles of Jesus who called on Him to strike dead the evil men, which Jesus did not. I further think that our Pope is perhaps calling upon those Catholics who truly wish, state and strive to be faithful, to strive for the humility of Christ, rather than become the ones that point fingers at others.

  32. Cosmos says:

    I disagree with the assessment. One almost pathological tendency of the modern world is to declare themes. The Pope has, for example, declared a “Year of Mercy.”

    Why did he do this? Because he wants to make darn sure that THAT particular message is heard!!!! He wants his intention on that subject to be unmistakable. He is trying to make it easy for the press to repeat the word, “mercy.”

    Based on the Pope’s words, I think he is using his mission is to establish common ground with the POLITICAL/IDEOLOGICAL left. He may not be political or ideological (debatable), but he knows his audience is. He want the progressives. As he has stated, he believes that communism, socialism, and other movements have stolen Christianity’s thunder because we have neglected our God-given mission to the “poor,” broadly-conceived. The CLEAR emphasis is on poverty, immigration, pollution, criminal law etc.

    What he is not particularity interested in taking stands that re-confirm the Church’s solidarity with political/ideological conservatives. He seems to have no interest in attracting conservatives on their terms, and thinks they need no encouragement. So while he doubtlessly agrees with them on issues like abortion and family, he seems to think clear, consistent emphasis on these issues is ill-advised.

    So conservatives get a bone every once in a while that confirms that the Pope is, indeed, Catholic. If you are constantly talking about protecting the poor and weak, little babies (i.e., fetuses) get a line or two from time to time.

    But we also have to face the fact that this Pope, thus far, has shown no intention of being our ally in the culture war and may, in fact, inadvertently empower and embolden those who hate Catholic teaching in their efforts to undermine us. If his relationship with Cardinal Daneels isn’t a tell, nothing is.

  33. DonL says:

    “I believe that you hit it squarely on point… For those who are willing to read between the lines, his inferences are clear and direct.”

    They didn’t crucify Christ because he left His flock with skills on reading between the lines, nor was he timid because he wasn’t in His home town.

  34. Gail F says:

    I read the speech after he gave it; I think it was a very good speech. He was addressing the congress of a foreign government, he talked in generalizations and made broad points. I think that was appropriate. Yes, I would have liked a much more pointed speech in which “his yes was yes and his no was no,” but I think it was appropriate for the occasion. He wasn’t on tv giving Catholics marching orders. Am I sorry it wasn’t “I have a dream,” or “ask not what you can do for your country”? Yes. But very few speeches are.

  35. The Cobbler says:

    There’s a version of that photo going around the internet with the words “Pope Francis visits the sick”.

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