LET FRAN­CIS BE FRAN­CIS Top bishop says not to politi­cize pa­pal visit, urges sup­port for Mass in Span­ish

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

The head of the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops is ask­ing Amer­i­cans to give Pope Fran­cis “room” to speak later this month with­out hav­ing it co-opted by those look­ing to force him to ref­eree po­lit­i­cal de­bates here at home. Arch­bishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ken­tucky, also de­fended the pope’s de­ci­sion to say a mass in Span­ish dur­ing his brief visit to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, say­ing it’s the Ar­gen­tine pope’s na­tive lan­guage, and Amer­i­cans should “welcome” that de­ci­sion.

“When­ever he wants to make very re­fined points, and es­pe­cially when he wants to in­ter­act, he’s most com­fort­able in Span­ish or in Ital­ian. For me, I think we’re the ones, if any­thing, who are in the driver’s seat not to politi­cize that, but re­ally to welcome it. It’s wel­com­ing some­one who’s com­ing to our coun­try, and just like I do for Thanks­giv­ing, I want to make them com­fort­able and make it as easy as pos­si­ble for us to hear their mes­sage.”

The chief rea­son for the pope’s visit is to at­tend a ma­jor church meet­ing in Philadelphia, but masses and speeches in Washington, in­clud­ing an ad­dress to a joint meet­ing of Congress, and in New York, in­clud­ing an ad­dress to the U.N., give him a highly public plat­form.

The Span­ish mass will be Sept. 23 at the Basil­ica of the Na­tional Shrine of the Im­mac­u­late Conception, where the pope plans to can­on­ize Ju­nipero Serra, an 18th-cen­tury Span­ish mis­sion­ary who founded many of the mis­sion churches in present-day Cal­i­for­nia.

Arch­bishop Kurtz said he ex­pects Pope Fran­cis to use his public ap­pear­ances to fur­ther his ap­peals for char­ity and mercy, and to call for Amer­i­cans in par­tic­u­lar to move be­yond a con­sumer cul­ture.

The pope’s ar­eas of em­pha­sis, in­clud­ing crit­i­cism of freemar­ket economies and a warn­ing over global warm­ing, have be­come am­mu­ni­tion for politi­cians on Capi­tol Hill, with Democrats de­ploy­ing his words with in­creas­ing fre­quency.

The arch­bishop ac­knowl­edged that, but said he hoped Amer­i­cans would “make room” for the pope to de­liver his mes­sage free from a po­lit­i­cal lens.

“These are, for him, I be­lieve, op­por­tu­ni­ties to seek to con­trib­ute to the com­mon good. And I, right now, I don’t see down­sides,” Arch­bishop Kurtz said on C-Span’s “Newsmakers” pro­gram, which will air Sun­day.

“Prob­a­bly the big­gest prob­lem would be not let­ting his whole mes­sage come out — that some peo­ple, if they were too quickly to co-opt it, or in­ter­pret it too nar­rowly in po­lit­i­cal terms. He’s com­ing as a pas­tor of souls, as a prophet, not a politi­cian,” the arch­bishop said.

While the church lead­er­ship may not see the pope’s com­ments as po­lit­i­cal, many church mem­bers, and the broader Amer­i­can public, do.

His re­cent en­cycli­cal, “Laudato Si: On care for our com­mon home,” made an ap­peal for hu­man­ity to tackle en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges, in­clud­ing global warm­ing, which is hotly de­bated in the U.S.

“Our Holy Fa­ther does not present him­self as a sci­en­tist,” Arch­bishop Kurtz said. “He presents him­self as a pas­tor of souls, as some­one in­ter­ested in the com­mon good, and as some­one seek­ing to use the best sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion avail­able.”

Fly­ing back from a trip to Latin Amer­ica this sum­mer, where he de­ployed some of his most force­ful crit­i­cism of free-mar­ket eco­nomic poli­cies, the pope was asked by re­porters about his crit­ics.

“I have heard that some crit­i­cisms were made in the United States — I’ve heard that — but I have not read them and have not had time to study them well,” he said.

He said he will study them, “then we shall di­a­logue about them.”

Prod­ded by a jour­nal­ist who said his eco­nomic cri­tique seemed in­tensely fo­cused on the poor, but not the mid­dle class, the pope called than an “er­ror” on his part and thanked the re­porter for point­ing it out.

“It’s a good cor­rec­tion, thanks. You are right. It’s an er­ror of mine not to think about this,” he said, ac­cord­ing to the New York Times.

His visit to the U.S. will come im­me­di­ately af­ter one to Cuba. The pope has been cred­ited with play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role in help­ing warm the decades of frosty re­la­tion­ships be­tween the is­land na­tion and the U.S., cul­mi­nat­ing with em­bassies open­ing in Washington and Ha­vana this sum­mer — though he has waved off credit.

In the U.S., the Catholic Church is en­gaged in sev­eral bat­tles over re­li­gious free­dom and the way the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has car­ried about the Af­ford­able Care Act. While sup­port­ive of broader gov­ern­ment-as­sisted health care, the Catholic bish­ops have backed re­li­gious non­prof­its who ob­jected to the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s or­der that most health plans pay for con­tra­cep­tion, which the church teaches is im­moral.

The gov­ern­ment tried to re­quire that non­prof­its cer­tify they don’t want to pro­vide con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age, and ei­ther the gov­ern­ment or a third-party in­surer will step in and make sure their em­ploy­ees can get cov­er­age with­out the non­prof­its hav­ing to pay for it. But some non­prof­its ar­gue that cer­ti­fi­ca­tion it­self, be­cause it still trig­gers con­tra­cep­tive care for their em­ploy­ees, makes them com­plicit in sin.

Arch­bishop Kurtz said he hopes the Supreme Court will take that case up in the term that be­gins in Oc­to­ber.

He said the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor, Catholic nuns who sued to chal­lenge the con­tra­cep­tive man­date, have be­come the “poster child for re­li­gious free­dom.”

More broadly the arch­bishop, who as a priest in Al­len­town, Penn­syl­va­nia, used to head Catholic Char­i­ties, said the more re­stric­tions that are placed on non­prof­its, the tougher it makes it for Catholic-af­fil­i­ated char­i­ties to help.

“We al­ways saw this as a true part­ner­ship and I think we saw it as plu­ral­ism at its best. We weren’t seek­ing as Catholic Char­i­ties to im­pose our con­vic­tions on the gov­ern­ment, on other peo­ple, but rather to say there are peo­ple within our na­tion who re­ally de­sire the level of ser­vice and the val­ues that ser­vice em­bod­ies that we pro­vide through Catholic Char­i­ties,” he said.

“We con­tinue to want to do that, and I think if for some rea­son that part­ner­ship is marred, I think most would agree the losers in many ways are go­ing to be the peo­ple we’re serv­ing.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

The chief rea­son for the pope’s visit is to at­tend a church meet­ing in Philadelphia, but masses in Washington, in­clud­ing an ad­dress to a joint meet­ing of Congress, and in New York, in­clud­ing an ad­dress to the U.N., give him a public plat­form.

Arch­bishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ken­tucky, de­fended the pope’s de­ci­sion to say a mass in Span­ish dur­ing his visit to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, say­ing it’s the Ar­gen­tine pope’s na­tive lan­guage, and Amer­i­cans should “welcome” that de­ci­sion.

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