Have you read Gaudete et Exsultate?
That’s the name of the new Apostolic Exhortation released this week by Pope Francis.
The Holy Father wrote that his purpose was to “re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time…” urging each of us to think about the entirety of our lives “as a mission” and to pursue holiness in our everyday life, especially with our next-door neighbors — the “middle class of holiness.”
But I’m sure you read the headlines. Predictably, the document also contained several paragraphs that have been used by political partisans to club their adversaries — including shameful attacks on pro-life advocates.
Specifically Pope Francis wrote:
Remember the 22,000 word exhortation was about holiness! And pursuing holiness. And becoming saints…
But our politics-soaked world can’t resist the urge to reduce every document to a partisan catfight.
So what’s the story here?
OUR TAKE: This isn’t complicated. Think with the Church. All of the Church, including recent popes who are now saints. Pope Francis did not write that pro-life advocates focused on ending abortion need to focus their priorities elsewhere. Instead, he reaffirmed the clear teaching of the Church, namely that all lives are sacred — the unborn, the poor, the vulnerable, migrants, and every single person on the earth.
This is not up for debate — and no pro-life person that we know disputes this.
What IS important to remember is that the right to life is foundational to every other right. You can’t pretend to care about migrants, the elderly, or victims of human trafficking if you support the right to destroy innocent human life in the womb!
Saint John Paul II put it perfectly when he wrote:
Pope Francis is a custodian of this truth — not the arbiter of it. And no media personality or partisan hack can change this.
What about the poor? The vulnerable? CV is fighting every day to defend the sanctity of human life in the womb. So what do we believe must be done to protect the poor?
Pope Francis spoke to Italian steelworkers in 2014 reaffirming Catholic social teaching on the importance of work, and how it provides a dignity to workers that isn’t easily replaceable:
Gainful employment restores dignity, and is the best path out of poverty.
Unemployment in the United States is now at near record lows (it’s at just 4.1%).
Our free enterprise system has blessed our nation with enormous wealth. Many cities today report a shortage of workers. Businesses can’t find enough people to hire. Jobs are everywhere and wages will inevitably rise. This is exactly the time to help the poor find work.
So why is welfare dependency still at near record levels? In fact the number of able-bodied adults on Medicaid has quadrupled since 2000, while the cost to taxpayers has gone up 500%.
Thankfully, President Trump initiated some much needed welfare reforms this week.
The reforms will ensure that the truly needy continue to receive the help they need, while encouraging the able-bodied to find a job and stay employed. The Executive Order encourages innovations in the states, but makes clear that some basic requirements must still be met. The Trump administration is making it clear it wants to re-establish the work requirement that was instrumental in the groundbreaking welfare reform of 1996.
We really have to ask ourselves: What’s the best way to actually help people? To help the poor abandon the demoralizing dependency in which they find themselves and work towards fulfilling lives where their potential can be fully realized, and their dignity affirmed?
What can government legitimately do well? And how can it harm?
And of course, what responsibilities do we have?
Which is why I love this quote from St. Mother Teresa:
Don’t mistake our message for reducing what Pope Francis wrote to a presidential executive order. Civic communities are complex. Presidents, politicians and the like come and go. The goal, in the end is not jobs, profits, or economic growth — but the security and stability to seek our final destiny.
The goal is for each of us to become saints, and eternal life in heaven!
Read the new Apostolic Exhortation