Pope Francis addressed a joint meeting of Congress on Sep. 24.  I watched the speech with about 60 others at Dominican University.  Here’s what struck me.

A Critique of Unbridled Capitalism

He talked about defending human dignity, working for the common good, meeting the needs of the vulnerable.  He talked about it is the workers who sustain society while acknowledging the capitalists are good at creating wealth but not always at distributing wealth. He said that business is a noble vocation.  He said “their problems” are “our problems.”

He urged us to put technology at the service of society.

Dialog.  He used the word dialog a lot instead of speech or preach.  He said that we need a “conversation.”  He said  that a person’s “historical memory” influences how they understand what is said.  It’s a way of seeing and interpreting reality.  He used four Americans, therefore, to get his points across: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. He talked about respecting differences and the need to create new forms of social consensus.

He talked about the voice of faith and of dreams, saying that dreams serve to awaken the deepest and truest in us.  He proposed that the golden rule be the yardstick by which we measure everything.

Regarding immigration, he said we should not judge the past on the one hand but on the other hand be careful not to repeat it (re. European invasion of Native Americans). 

He said no religion is immune to error. He spoke against “simplistic reductionism” and polarization.  He talked about defeating the enemy within and unjust structures.

He took a shot at the military industrial complex.

He reiterated that “the family” is essential to society (which got a stand O from both sides of the aisle).

He had a hopeful tone.  At one point he said, “I am confident. . . .”

When asked if he thought the pope’s speech would have any effect on the politicians, David Brooks  said he thought that it would, that it raised their eyes from framing things in terms of self-interest and win/lose to a higher, more noble level.  He implied that that’s what everyone really wants to do ultimately and they feel good after being brought to that place.