Pope Francis to Congress: Preserve dignity of citizens; Give hope to convicted criminals

By Robin Vanderwall . . . If you’ve ever had a chance to view the Washington Monument on an overcast day, you may have noticed something peculiar. It’s not all the same shade of white. Part of the reason is by design. In building what would briefly become the world’s tallest man-made edifice (and remains to this day the world’s tallest stone structure), the Washington National Monument Society solicited the assistance of the several states, foreign governments, and international dignitaries.

One and all were asked to contribute a single stone, or to provide enough money for the purchase of one. So not all of the stones are cut from the same type of rock (but they’re either marble, granite, or bluestone gneiss).

One such dignitary who happily responded was Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) who sent a three-foot slab of “costly variegated marbles” recovered from ruins of the Temple of Concord in Rome (366 B.C.) and engraved with the words “From Rome.”

The Pope’s generous gift never made its way onto the monument. On March 5, 1854, under cloak of darkness, agents of the Know-Nothing party made their way to the base of the Monument, stole the Pope’s stone, carried it all the way down to a boat waiting on the Potomac, and unceremoniously dumped it in the middle of the river.

This incredulous act of bigoted hatred for Irish Catholics brought construction of the Monument (only a third complete at 150 feet) to a screeching halt. Indeed, no additional work would be done to the obelisk for 23 years when, in 1877, work on the final two-thirds resumed in earnest.

Exposed as it was to more than twenty years of environmental impact, the bottom third of the Monument remains a darker, grayer hue of white—a testament in stone about the bitter fruits of prejudice and hate.

Fast forward 150 years and we are now witness to an event that would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago: an address to a joint session of Congress by the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Catholic Church whose official titles, among others, include “Vicar of Jesus Christ”, “Successor of the Prince of the Apostles”, and “Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church”.

There are not just a few old bones rolling over in their graves. Rest assured that the “Know Nothings” have spun themselves into powder.

You may wonder what Pope Francis’ recent address to Congress has to do with registrants, their families, and our efforts to restore constitutionally protected civil rights to both. The answer is, quite a lot.

While Pope Francis surely did not come straight out and declare that public sex offender registries are an affront to the Heavenly Host, he had quite a bit to say about being good neighbors and recognizing our cultural descent into an “us versus them” dichotomy of the “righteous” and the “sinner”…forgetting, as we so often do, that there is nary a saint who isn’t also a sinner.

Consider, for example, Pope Francis’ charge to our national representatives in the opening remarks of his speech:

You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.” and “…you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Straight from the top we hear a summation of an ancient narrative as the Holy Father portrays Moses’ responsibility as law-giver to the Hebrews. Law is not to be used as an instrument to destroy or disfigure. Just the opposite. Law is an instrument of good to be exercised with great care for the dignity of all people…not simply for the benefit of victims.

Francis chides Congress to recall the fundamental principle which, for thousands of years, has been the bedrock of Western law:

We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

Surely these words hit close to home. Are not registrants discarded? Are they not exiled as irredeemable reprobates? Isn’t the registry a tool to deal with our “troublesome” lot of souls? Who can argue otherwise?

Having intoned the very words of Christ, Francis presses in with what I believe was his most aggressive appeal on behalf of convicted persons and registered citizens:

[E]very life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes…
…I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

Clearly this is a Pope who understands that the protection of unborn children is not the full proclamation of the Gospel, and that it may very well be that the hardest cases among us—rapists, pedophiles, child molesters, and the like—are the most needful of redemption, restoration, mercy, and the love of a forgiving people.

Let us hold onto the hope that at least a few members of our otherwise spineless, rubber-necking, parliament of bores did more than hear the words of Pope Francis, but received them. Can I hear an “Amen!”?

someone outside of NARSOL

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2 Thoughts to “Pope Francis to Congress: Preserve dignity of citizens; Give hope to convicted criminals”

  1. AvatarLadyHawk

    Wonderful courageous letter! I hope there are more letters written to any and every high soul there is who is representing the good of the people, such as the Pope ~ in EVERY organization for family. All church organizations. Great words are needed. Trust has been infected by men/women who fear what they don’t understand, such as SOL…there most definitely needs to be REFORM. Thank you for those who speak up for what is right. I pray their will be more. I pray more of us will become “sweetly bold” to help each other and our families.

  2. AvatarJay

    Praise goes to the pontiff in his edyfying and assuredly affectionate words. I can certainly attest that congress has eroded it’s own influence and rapport with the “represented”. I can say that with affirmation due to the dead response I received on multiple congressional inquires , regarding the federal branch of government I was employed by. When it became operationally discovered and ambiguously required of entites becoming aware of my previous sex offense, over a decade old, it became a matter of ping pong politics and a hot potato no constiuent wants to address no matter what aggrievable conclusion. The new way congressional inquires are handled, is with a tiered-out system that ignores purposeful inclusion of the exact representative or senator being away directly of a citizen’s greivance, unless it becomes media worthy or could make the constiuent look bad for the lack of a response. What’s even more abhorrent is the rubber stamping “enabled” by email and proxied memoradums, making lower directorates and entities responsible for congress’s casting of rejected rocks rolling outside its capitol stairs so to speak. We currently have congress so consumed by political posturing, that the people are nothing but necessary numbers with no voice but a highly coveted and cherished vote. When it becomes necessary to contact media for ill responses, the aforementioned usually become responsive or reactionary to enact damage control. I paid my debt to society and was made to repay again with government trying to fire me from my job due to my criminal past that they were consciously aware of and accepting under continued, contractual agreements and conditonal employment. It is inherently egregious to turn around and say, “oh your’e not worthy anymore and we don’t need you!” only to ignore and circumvent deserved retirement. I very much understand the pitfall of our “elected” to desperately desire the need to be politically correct for you are nothing more than a consequential casualty. More citizens need to go before senate floors and knock on doors just as john walsh did, who seems to have unfettered access to the capitol. At every meeting that adjourns for or against convicts, it becomes absolutely required that the voice of the convicted be present just as much as the victims. I’m not deterred by fear from going public of my plight or pleadings, but want to convey as effectively and soundly as possible. The pope is nothing but one man in flesh , the great and beheld to the highest , just one man .it takes nearly the entire empathy of mankind to exact change and to wrest the loose coins from congress pockets and put back into the hands of the proper people’s. There is even a code among thieves as well as prideful countrymen. Who arr we today compared to the very beginnings of of our foundational pillars. Shall we strike down the very base of exsistence or strike down the actual intent and meaning of laws well given. The pope setts the current for other heads and governing bodies to follow. I commend you for reflecting the disparity potrayed and practice at every level of government. The knee jerking has turned into illegal punches outside the ring under the cloak of political protection, with no judge, referee or true constitutionalist to intercede or interpret the illegality desired by any given audience that appluads such change , regardlessly who it effects. I pray for a better day for all. The societal ill is ignoring rehabilitation and rectifying nothing but perpetual punitive provisions and relying heavily on expected recidivism as a solving social model.

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