Ever since Pope Francis has been leading the Catholic Church, he has been surprisingly quiet and even it would seem, dismissive about the most grave issues of our time, Why is that? First let us look at what Pope Francis has said. Here is one of his quotes in an interview with an Atheist reporter,
‘Pope Francis tells me: “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the worst is that they don’t even look for them any more. They are being crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live when you are being crushed by the present? Without a memory of the past and without the will to go forward into the future to build something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, I think, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”’
Pope Francis is also quoted as saying that the church can become “obsessed with the abortion issue”.
Youth Unemployment and the Loneliness of the Old
Why would the Pope put these two issues on such a high pedestal? Young people not having jobs is obviously not as serious as abortion or euthanasia, or is it? I believe the Pope sees evil as a domino or ripple effect. Some sins can ripple out and get bigger and bigger creating more and more waves. A young girl gets pregnant from her boyfriend, she has a minimum wage job and lives at home, her parents kick her out when they find out she got pregnant. What is she supposed to do? Abortion, to her, seems like the only option! But if she had a decent job, she wouldn’t be living at home, she could afford to care for another human being and if she felt safe, stable, independent and thought her work was meaningful, she just might be more responsible when it comes to her sexual choices (this goes the same for the man although I realize it’s typically only the woman who has to deal with this issue) or if she gets pregnant she can choose to keep the baby since she is in a more stable position.
I would argue that youth unemployment makes young people feel stressed, depressed, hopeless, anxious and afraid. These feelings make it more likely that they would turn to more grave sins like suicide, high risk activity like drugs, binge drinking or unprotected sex, which leads to abortion. Similarly elderly people who suffer from Loneliness are more likely to feel these negative feelings as well and therefore more likely to turn to euthanasia. See how this ripple effect happened? We don’t think of elderly Loneliness as very serious or urgent, but we here a lot of talk about the consequence which is euthanasia.
The Wider Perspective of Pope Francis
I believe Pope Francis is being incredibly insightful and purposeful in his words. What he is trying to tell the world in the statement he made above, is that conversion happens in an order. Here is what we need to do, in this order, if we want to change an individual persons ethical choices…
- First, Take care of a persons practical needs
- Then, Take care of a persons spiritual needs
- Only then are they able to make good ethical decisions (no matter what their religion or belief system!)
A person is not open to the gospel message if they can’t make ends meet. If your in a cage with a hungry lion, you aren’t considering whether or not it’s right to kill animals… That issue is irrelevant to your situation at that particular time. Once people are stable and secure, then they can think about faith and their spiritual needs. How can we expect someone to be pro-life if they don’t understand the dignity of a human person or the theology of the body? And how can they care about any of it if they haven’t yet had an encounter with Christ? Many times Jesus himself helped someone before preaching the gospel to them. Heal the blind man, talk to the outcast… Only then did he preach to them and let that change their moral decisions. I can feel the Atheists rolling their eyes at me… But even from an Atheists perspective we can agree to first take care of people’s immediate practical issues, then they can philosophize about right and wrong, social constructs, all that fun stuff.
Now I want to criticize the Pro-Life movement, but it may just be the way things are shown in the media. Why aren’t we more focused on ways to prevent abortion or alternatives like adoptions? The Pro-Life movement seems to spend all of its energy on changing legislation. If we spent more time preventing abortion by fighting for social justice and taking care of people’s spiritual needs, I believe we would make much more headway in being pro-life from a wider perspective. Now I hear people saying, “we do those things!” But I’ve been to Pro-Life events, like the March for Life. The only thing I ever hear is that we need to change legislation and promote abstinence from sex and wait until marriage. I’m saying that those are both ethical actions that only apply to the already converted. As a Christian I believe we should be more concerned with a persons soul than with their personal moral decisions as grave as they may be. There is nothing so serious that God can’t forgive it right? But we don’t act as if that was true. Legislation cannot change people’s hearts, Jesus never passed a single law! He simply let people encounter him and then said sin no more….the rest was up to them.