Pope Francis has had people reeling since he arrived on U.S. soil. He’s pushed love, forgiveness, decency, and climate change awareness,. He’s discussed corporate greed and economic inequality, calling out those who ignore the poorest among us. He’s reprimanded bishops who have swept pedophilia among their priests under the rug. He’s got some people saying he’s talking like a leftie, and others accusing him of being a socialist. Good for him. He’s just talking common sense stuff.
No, he hasn’t been perfect. He has not called for women to be allowed to become priests. No, he has not said that over-population is a serious problem and it’s time that Catholics worldwide embrace birth control. And no, he’s not come out pro-choice.
But he’s been on the money most of the time, and has shown great courage in not just being a religious leader, but a political leader as well.
On Sunday, he went one better, when he visited a prison in Philadelphia and immediately decried our prison system and any other prison system like ours. After embracing a prisoner, Francis called it, “painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society.”
That sentiment echoed what he told the U.S. Congress on Thursday, when he said: “just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”
That’s the sort of courage every politician ought to have, but few do, and the sort of courage that great statesmen always have. Good for you, Pope Francis.