Pope Understands Greatness of America
- 11 May 2008 by Author 0 Comments
Pope Understands Greatness of America
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 05/11/08
With the Pope’s visit last month we were treated not only to great wisdom and insights, but a civic lesson that too many Americans either never learned or have chosen to forget these days. The contrast of the Pope’s comments with frequently referenced ecclesiastical sermons from Chicago is stark, and speaks volumes of the character and values of both.
Speaking at the White House to the largest crowd ever assembled there, His Holiness set the tone for the rest of his comments by addressing President Bush, “I deeply appreciate your invitation to visit this great country.”
Too many Americans fall into the secular trap of moral equivalence. They see all countries as essentially equal: countries have people, geography and boundaries, and they have their respective political challenges and characters on the political stage. Those are the commonalities, yet it is the principles and values upon which countries are founded that distinguish them from the others. And there is no other country founded on the uniquely individualistic precepts of the inherent greatness and divinity of man, who is endowed by his creator with certain inalienable rights.
The Holy See articulated this uniqueness, “From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
He then placed these principles which make America great and unique into historical context. “The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time, too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideas and aspirations.
“As the nation faces the increasingly complex political and ethical issues of our time, I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more human and free society. Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, and sacrifice for the common good.
“Faith also gives us the strength to respond to our high calling and to hope that inspires us to work for an ever more just and fraternal society. Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.”
Insightfully, the Pope placed a challenge before all American Catholics. He expressed his desire that his visit would “strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.” I think that challenge can be equally applied to all of us, whether Catholic or not.
This vision of faith in America is far removed from the notion that we cling to our religion because we’re bitter and angry. Our nations’ religions are not crutches, but rather constitute the pillars of our nations’ strength and the fount of our nations’ values and soul. His articulation of America sounds like the true “audacity of hope,” not the hatred and bitterness spewed from the pulpit in Chicago.
These sentiments closely align with the observation of Keith Richburg, a black journalist with the Washington Post, who covered the wars in Africa for several years. He came to the conclusion that he was grateful that his ancestors came to this country as slaves, because it made it possible for him to be raised as an American and not an African. He recognized the greatness and goodness of America.
The Pope concluded his remarks, “My fervent prayer is that Almighty God will confirm this nation and its people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace. God bless America.” To which I can only add, “Amen.”
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.