I have calmed down somewhat following my outrage two weeks ago regarding the news out of France of findings that since 1950 200,000 children have been abused by Roman Catholic clergy and an estimated 150,000 more by others working for and associated with the church. My initial thoughts were that there can be no redemption for the insitituion and I still wonder whether the ongoing revelations about abuse in every form, including patriarchy have destroyed the credibility of Roman Catholicism.
There are still rays of light along the way. and they are often in the form of willingness by Pope Francis to challenge conventions. One of these came in an address to the Fourth World Meeting of World Movements, an eclectic gathering of those working for a better world from all walks of life. Francis spoke to these "social poets" as he calls them, those addressing social inequalities with a persistent sense of hope. The pontiff identifies a number of these circumstances before issuing a challenge:
And thinking about these situations, I make a pest of myself with my questions. And I go on asking. And I ask everyone in the name of God.
I ask all the great pharmaceutical laboratories to release the patents. Make a gesture of humanity and allow every country, every people, every human being, to have access to the vaccines. There are countries where only three or four per cent of the inhabitants have been vaccinated.
In the name of God, I ask financial groups and international credit institutions to allow poor countries to assure “the basic needs of their people” and to cancel those debts that so often are contracted against the interests of those same peoples.
In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries -- mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness -- to stop destroying forests, wetlands and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people.
In the name of God, I ask the great food corporations to stop imposing monopolistic systems of production and distribution that inflate prices and end up withholding bread from the hungry.
In the name of God, I ask arms manufacturers and dealers to completely stop their activity, because it foments violence and war, it contributes to those awful geopolitical games which cost millions of lives displaced and millions dead.
In the name of God, I ask the technology giants to stop exploiting human weakness, people’s vulnerability, for the sake of profits without caring about the spread of hate speech, grooming, fake news, conspiracy theories, and political manipulation.
In the name of God, I ask the telecommunications giants to ease access to educational material and connectivity for teachers via the internet so that poor children can be educated even under quarantine.
In the name of God, I ask the media to stop the logic of post-truth, disinformation, defamation, slander and the unhealthy attraction to dirt and scandal, and to contribute to human fraternity and empathy with those who are most deeply damaged.
In the name of God, I call on powerful countries to stop aggression, blockades and unilateral sanctions against any country anywhere on earth. No to neo-colonialism. Conflicts must be resolved in multilateral fora such as the United Nations. We have already seen how unilateral interventions, invasions and occupations end up; even if they are justified by noble motives and fine words.
This system, with its relentless logic of profit, is escaping all human control. It is time to slow the locomotive down, an out-of-control locomotive hurtling towards the abyss. There is still time.
Together with the poor of the earth, I wish to ask governments in general, politicians of all parties, to represent their people and to work for the common good.
This is a bold and prophetic call to action, as is the rest of his address. And while Francis admits he doesn't have ready answers he expresses the urgency eloquently and invokes the God of mercy and justice as he does so.
I do commend him and can imagine that some of the criticism that he has received for views such as these within his own church will become every sharper. I'm grateful that he a social poet and a holy pest.
Here is the link to the full text of the address by Pope Francis: