Author: Meghan Clark

Seeing My Country through the Eyes of Pope Francis

Speaking to Congress, Pope Francis offered his understanding of the American spirit. He revealed for us who we are in the core of our identity as a nation and challenged us to remember our own story.   Identifying himself as “a son of this continent,” Francis reminded us that the uniqueness and inspiration of America lies in our aspiration to freedom, dreams, and welcoming the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free.       “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” Pope Francis reminds us. We are in the midst of a global refugee crisis and Francis implores us: “We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.” He consistently speaks on behalf of refugees. Yet, here he is identifying the very heart of the American identity – we are a nation of immigrants and therefore we should respond with hospitality for refugees. What is this American Spirit that welcomes those searching life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  Pope Francis chose 4 persons who exemplified the answer: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Lincoln who reminds us that “Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good;” and...

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Welcoming Pope Francis…From Nairobi

How does a Catholic moral theologian welcome Pope Francis to her country from across the globe? Since I am not in the US, I decided to Welcome the Holy Father by writing op-eds. I hope that you enjoy them. Over at Al Jazeera America, Let’s welcome Pope Francis by rejecting unbridled capitalism U.S. leaders like to trumpet the successes of American capitalism and entrepreneurial spirit. Many commentators have tried to absolve the U.S. from the Pope’s harsh critiques, suggesting that he doesn’t understand American capitalism or he’s referring to crony capitalism elsewhere. However, these rationalizations blind us to the dark side of capitalism in which, in Pope Francis’ own words, “masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.” Unbridled capitalism places profits over people. The accumulation of extreme wealth it funnels into the hands of few elites is built at the expense of the majority. It becomes difficult to create bonds of community and solidarity in an environment of greater the inequality between rich and poor. Those living in poverty become invisible or dismissed as the problem. Pope Francis has highlighted homelessness to distinguish capitalism’s throwaway culture from one of solidarity. The Vatican’s outreach in Rome to the homeless includes building showers, a shelter, handing out sleeping bagsand inviting them to dinner in the Sistine Chapel. In Catholic social teaching, a...

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Environmental Racism, Gun Violence Homicides and the Construction of Memorial Acclamations

Guest Post By: Shawnee M. Daniels-Sykes, Ph.D., Mount Mary University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Essentially, for Pope Francis “a sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be realized if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion, and concern for our fellow human beings…Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings, and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (LS 91) Here Pope Francis speaks once again in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, to the intimate connection between human life and environmental ecology. My reflections focus on one aspect of environmental racism that, arguably, also needs to be included in this discussion on human life and environmental ecology. Environmental racism, I submit, refers to the notion that race interpenetrates social class in the United States and is often a more potent prediction of which communities or populations are disproportionately impacted by human and environmental adversities.  In this example, environmental racism is primarily found in urban and/or economically poor communities of color in the United States, especially given the highly disproportionate rate of gun violent homicides. The public construction of thousands of death shrines, or what I am titling memorial acclamations, to mark these homicides can provide us with concrete images of the interconnectedness between human life undercut by environmental racism. It is important to note, however, that these memorial acclamations are...

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Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home (5 Themes to Note)

It’s here! A new social encyclical! As a Catholic moral theologian, I feel a bit like a child on Christmas morning. While I know that most of you were not setting your alarms for the 5am Vatican press conference, we have all been anxiously awaiting Pope Francis’s “environmental encyclical.” And, let me just say – you will not be disappointed. The Holy Father has delivered an amazing tour de force in a jam packed 100+ (!) pages. Pope Francis invites us to work together, challenges us to take a long hard look in the mirror at our relationship to...

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