20 Sep Healing a House Divided
Lunch with the homeless. A visit to a community center with a heart for immigrants. Sunday morning spent with inmates at a correctional facility.
Pope Francis is a man who knows how to speak through profound gestures. These stops on his agenda will be powerful, unprecedented moments that remind millions of our duty to build a society that is more welcoming, inclusive and just. But the lasting legacy of his visit to the United States may very well be his public addresses in Philadelphia as part of the World Meeting of Families.
Throughout his time as successor to St. Peter, Francis has garnered international headlines for his ever-present care for the vulnerable and his “wish for a church that is poor and for the poor.” But embedded in that fundamental concern for those in need is a message that could help end the divide between so-called “social justice Catholics” and “pro-life Catholics.”
These two supposed “wings” of the American church are often pitted against each other — one said to have an overriding concern for issues of hunger and homelessness to the exclusion of hot-button topics such as abortion or gay marriage, the other accused of completely focusing on sexual morality and ignoring the needs of children after they leave the womb.
These crude caricatures describe an unfortunately common mentality of “us versus them” that goes directly against Christ’s fervent wish “that they all may be one.” These internecine battles create a false impression that to truly care about the poor, one must give up fights on abortion or same-sex marriage, or that a focus on moral issues enables us to put Christ’s (and Pope Francis’) summons to feed the hungry and care for the oppressed and refugees on the back burner.
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Patrick T. Brown is a nonprofit communications professional in Princeton, N.J., and a Catholic Voices USA associate.