Pope Francis delivered his historic speech Thursday to a joint session of Congress, and anyone expecting a fairly liberal bent to the pontiff's message wasn't disappointed. End the death penalty. More openness for immigration. Do something about poverty and homelessness. And, while you're at it, climate change. It was like your typical Attytood blog post, except more eloquent and without the typos. Conservative social causes? He has a few, but then again too few to mention, apparently.
There were a couple of surprises, however. One was Francis' invocation of two fairly radical American Catholic thinkers and doers of the 20th Century, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. The other was the pope's harsh and graphic condemnation of the international arms trade:
"Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?" he asked. "Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money – money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."
That's a very good point. In addition to spending much, much more on its own military -- both in raw numbers and on a per capita basis -- than any nation in the world, the United States remains one of the world's leading arms exporters, shipping some $8.2 billion in high-tech lethal weaponry to our cash-paying friends around the globe. Wherever cluster bombs are dropped or tear gas lobbed at pro-democracy protesters in the world, there's an excellent chance that a U.S. company profited on the transaction.
This is the kind of thing that used to be an issue. Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, was a staunch pacifist who vehemently opposed the use and spread of nuclear weapons, which inspired the now largely forgotten Catholic peace movement that flourished in the Vietnam War era. By then, that wild-eyed radical -- President Dwight Eisenhower -- had also tried to warn America about the perils of the military-industrial complex. Today, America's runaway military budget and its billion-dollar arms deals rarely raise a peep. Like Michael Corleone said, "Don't ask me about my business, Kay."
Until Pope Francis brought it up -- which (along with his blood-soaked imagery) made it all the more jarring. Will it make a difference? God only knows, but it was refreshing to hear somebody asking the right questions again.