The biggest story of the day yesterday of course was the selection of a new pope for the Catholic church. Approximately one hour after the white smoke rose from the chimney, Pope Francis I (nee Jorge Mario Bergoglio) appeared before a cheering crowd. It was a bit of a surprise on a couple accounts: He is a Jesuit and he is from South America.
Immediately, his past record was put to intense scrutiny and a mixed bag was the result. He carries on the tradition of previous popes and the Catholic church in his disdain of abortion and LBGT marriage and adoption rights
. There was some controversy regarding the imprisonment of a couple priests
way back in his younger days which has never been reconciled, There are other tinfoil hat theories regarding the "Illuminati" which I won't even bother with.
On the plus side, he is known for advocating for the poor, and walking the talk. He has always lived an austere existence, eschewing the rich trappings that come with a man of his position in the church (not unlike the kindly bishop in Les Miserables). That comes from being a Jesuit, who advocate for social justice and helping the poor. I have had the opportunity to meet several Jesuits who were protesting the SOA in southwest GA with us. They are a large part of that yearly protest. I find his membership in that order and his history of working with the poor to be encouraging.
While I understand that there was some hope that a more "progressive" pope would be chosen who would usher in more liberal values within the church (particularly regarding sexual morals), the church has been the longest continuously running government on the planet. Change will happen at a glacial pace. The fact that the new head of the church wants to focus on lifting up the poorest among us says that at least that
progressive/liberal value will be embraced.
The other big story yesterday is that the secret videographer that recorded Mitt Romney's "47%" comments came forward and discussed it
on the Ed Show last night (Ed Schultz's show on MSNBC). He revealed that he hadn't made up his mind who to vote for prior to that, and was interested in hearing what Romney had to say. It was after hearing just exactly what
he had to say (and how it differed from what he said in public), that Mr. Prouty decided to release the video. In particular, it was Romney's description of a Chinese sweatshop
that made Mr. Prouty realize that Romney's true feelings needed to be heard by - as he put it - those who cannot afford a $50k/plate dinner.
It took some courage to put the tape out initially, because he could have lost his job (as a catering company bartender). It is taking courage coming forward now because he will become an instant target of right-wingers who hate the fact that Obama is a two-term president. Kudos to him. He took a chance with his life and livelihood because he felt that social and economic fairness and honesty were too important to let this remain hidden.
Ultimately, all it takes for the advancement of social justice is for people to make it a priority. Martin Luther King Jr once said "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it always bends toward justice". Scott Prouty is a person who stepped up and shone a light to help illuminate the dark heart of economic injustice. The new pope is a member of an order that includes social justice as one of its main precepts, and has made it his life's work.
We should all look to these good works and take inspiration from them. We may not be able to make grand changes individually. But together, we can move that arc towards a place that's more fair for all.