Pope Francis: A Practical Morality

Politicians take an all-or-nothing stand on issues while a spiritual leader urges practical morality to get things done. It’s ironic. Since when did it take courage to compromise? Pope Francis wrote, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”  Politicians, take note.

When it comes to brokering compromise, the head of the Catholic Church walks the talk. He was instrumental in renewing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. When the Pontiff was welcomed to Havana recently, a giant poster of Jesus Christ was hung near a building portrait of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara at Revolution Plaza, the public square.

It’s a big world, there’s room for all of us.

But too often, the big picture of “all of us” is lost. Actions that affect all individuals, say, the federal budget, are stymied on single issues like Planned Parenthood.  Compromise is viewed as weakness and that doesn’t play well in the polls. On the political stage, be a one-(wo)man band and bang your drum loudly.

Yet leadership, whether spiritual or secular, is measured in actual service, not sound bites.   As the pontiff said to the crowds in Cuba, “All of us are called by virtue of our Christian vocation to that service which truly serves, and to help one another not to be tempted by a ‘service’ which is really ‘self-serving’.”

Self-serving.  Hmm. Image-making and election campaigns come to mind. Ego trumps humility.  A sense of power replaces acts of service. Jesus Christ advised his followers, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” Mark 10:4344.

A hard, hard lesson in times of me, me, me.

Some may dismiss the Pope’s aim of resolving conflicts, pointing instead to the pedophile scandals or to his anti-abortion stance as reasons not to listen. This is just more of a one-trick-pony mindset.  There is no group, association, demographic, or institution that is blameless or uncontroversial in all things. There is no policy-making where everyone is 100% satisfied.

Building bridges is the pope’s message, and that requires openness and flexibility. He encouraged all to make societal and global changes personal when he wrote, “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”

Pope Francis uses his platform for peace and he practiced what he preached when he helped to renew friendlier relations between the U.S.  and Cuba.  As he told the people in Havana, “We service people, not ideas.”   That’s love in action.

Published through GateHouse Media, 9/22/2015

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Suzette Standring

SUZETTE MARTINEZ STANDRING is a nationally syndicated columnist with GateHouse Media. Her two award winning books, The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets from Top Op-Ed Columnists (2014) and The Art of Column Writing (2008) are used in journalism courses such as Johns Hopkins University. Suzette is a past president of The National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and the host of It’s All Write With Suzette, a cable TV show about writing. Visit www.readsuzette.com or email suzmar@comcast.net
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