The Holy Father in America

The fact that the President of the United States invited a transgender woman, a pro-abortion nun, and a gay Episcopalian bishop as part of a large welcoming party to greet Pope Francis demonstrates the extent of communication issues that have plagued the Vatican and beguiled the rest of us. A merciful stance -- as we are supposed to be merciful -- has however been interpreted as tolerance for sin and lifestyles that contravene what the Church teaches. We will this week (9/22/15) and then during the October Synod learn something and perhaps much more than we currently know about the Holy Father's actual viewpoints, flushed out in full by the glare of the most intense media scrutiny possible, as the Pope speaks right here in the United States in New York and Washington -- the global nexus of communication. Both liberals and conservatives will likely be taken aback by certain things he says, as the Church is not a political entity that bows to whims and campaigns and talk-show hosts of which it is likely not even aware. Christianity is neither "liberal" or "conservative." It is beyond labels. The potential to bring back disaffected or lukewarm Christmas-only Catholics, and even those who have never practiced the faith, is an exciting prospect, as long as what is spoken is not taken as weakening Catholic doctrine. Here is the tightrope that Pope Francis will walk from Washington to New York to Philadelphia -- where the focus will be on exactly what is under attack: the family. There will thus be drawn into sharp relief issues that threaten age-old and God-designed concepts of family, including: divorce, homosexuality, and a general blurring of gender. There is also great potential to bring Hispanic American Catholics into a more tightly-knit Catholicism, as opposed to watching them stray into secularism or Evangelical groups. The hope is for unity -- though there is also the potential for division, in a nation that of late thrives on divisiveness. Embracing immigrants is one matter; one need only glance at the Statue of Liberty to know what Americans are supposed to feel; but the rule of law is another. How much will acceptance of illegal immigrants, as opposed to the welcoming of legitimate ones, be espoused by the Supreme Pontiff? The moral dimension of preserving God's Creation may finally take its rightful place in the minds of both conservatives and liberals, unless it strays onto political territory. Many are holding their breath. Drawn into focus will also be the Pope's view on money, wastefulness, greed, and materialism (right there in the financial district, where there is the idol of a bull, as if in ancient Babylon). No one knows exactly what Pope Francis will stay. But at the end of the week, there will have been news; no doubt about that. The stages he is set to step upon -- at the White House, Congress, the United Nations -- are extraordinary. There will be quotes, sound bytes, then spin. But at least on a number of issues, there will finally be clarity, whether or not to one's liking.

[see also: Detailed schedule and Vatican updates]