Pope's Leadership Underscores Church's Influence

By Cyr, Arthur I | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), April 16, 2016 | Go to article overview

Pope's Leadership Underscores Church's Influence


Cyr, Arthur I, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


A

-- eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth &" is a useful starting place for discussion of the influence of Pope Francis, who is proving to be a remarkably active and activist leader of the Roman Catholic Church. To modern readers, the Biblical quote (Exodus 21:24) may seem brutal, but the Old Testament sentiment actually meant revolutionary progress.

Ancient warfare involved unrestrained killing and pillaging. By contrast, this Hebrew law codified proportionality and restraint. Historically and currently, the Vatican has played an important role in restraining and restricting warfare.

The Roman Catholic Church historically also has given priority to humanitarian relief, an essential point often overlooked in the economically advanced economies and our increasingly secular societies. The inherent tension between the Vatican and modern capitalism tends to be downplayed by the media.

The essential Christian message emphasizes compassion, and the Catholic Church over centuries has played a vital role in relief of poverty and human misery, and in promotion of human rights. The cumulative positive impact is profound among the approximately 1 billion Roman Catholics currently on the planet, and well beyond.

Pope Francis' April 8 letter on marriage and the family should be viewed in this context. Media commentary emphasizes Rome's reiteration of commitment to traditional marriage, which was hardly news. The letter emphasizes tolerance for those who do not accept Catholic doctrine. That marks a change, important if overdue.

Both developed and developing economies are growing, but poverty and war have not been abolished. Last year, Francis celebrated a Catholic Mass in Revolution Square in Havana. Long-term Vatican efforts to pressure Cuba could prove to be profound.

During the Cold War, Pope John Paul II provided historic leadership in foreign policy. …

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