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Editorial Reflections

Pope sets a new tone in the midst of the cacophony of loud voices, inequities

 Lately the refusal of Congress and other deliberating bodies to deliberate reminds me of bringing up young children.

The house and yard are swarming with the children’s friends, each wanting individual attention paid to his/her owie, appetite or grievance. One has a tantrum. Nerve endings become frazzled.  There are more demands than can be distinguished and a feeling of helplessness sets in.  

By school age, most stop dealing with frustration by lying on the floor kicking and screaming, or holding their breath.

In the midst of this worldwide cacophony, a gentle, quiet man has been named pope and placed center stage, challenging the childlike behavior on all levels of government and in everyday discourse.

Instead of playground arguments—I stopped watching a weekly news roundup because participants were shouting most of the time—Pope Francis suggests that there should be quiet discussions.  

He helps us see it’s more about privilege than political party. 

For example, businesses, government and school districts that can afford higher -than-average salaries or bonuses for top management say they can’t afford to pay a living wage to employees on the lowest rungs of the pay scale, because “it would cost jobs.”

Public employee retirement systems need fixing.  They weren’t funded at promised levels. We need a problem-solving approach, not a “let’s-get-the-freeloaders” tone.  Fixing inequities is a first step.  Usually, a retired lower-level employee cannot be hired for any job in the agency and still draw a pension.  A retired executive can become a highly paid consultant and still draw his pension.

The minimum wage is still a poverty level wage, even in Washington where it is the highest in the nation.  Talk of a living wage or raising the federal minimum wage stirs a dire warning that it would cost jobs. That argument was put forth when the minimum wage was first proposed in 1938.  No reliable studies support that statement.

Some who say we must cut food stamps can find more for the military.

At first, it seemed Pope Francis might be overwhelmed by the job, but now he is more like a respected, soft-spoken relative with a backbone of steel.  He’s optimistic and positive.  He likes neighbors so he lives where he shares meals and Mass with them, instead of living in splendid isolation.

He reminds us that, when we focus on hot-button social issues, we lose sight of what our faith is about: pastoral love, care for real people, compassion, social justice, service, mercy and the Gospel.

At a June conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization he said: “Current levels of production are sufficient, yet millions of people are still suffering and dying of starvation.  This is scandalous.  A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from fruits of the earth.”

We need more love and less judgment.  Let’s hope people follow him as a role model. Let’s pray for him.  He prays for us.

Nancy Minard - Contributing editor

Copyright © October 2013 - The Fig Tree