The feast of St. Francis of Assisi today, and the aftermath of the recent visit of Pope Francis to the U.S., offers an opportunity to reflect on what it means to shift the religious and moral focus from issues to people. This has been the major achievement of Pope Francis, in my view, and was clear in his many comments lately and in the start of the Synod in Rome.
Blaise Cupich, whom Francis hand-picked to become Archbishop of Chicago, recently wrote an important and eloquent piece on how members of a community who disagree on some matters can still lived in harmony. He calls it the ethic of solidarity, not wanting to limit the "life issue" to the unborn but also to the unemployed, the undocumented, the unwanted, to all who are marginalized in society.
So the many non-believers who applaud much of what the pope says and were moved by his visit are not excluded from sharing common values with believers (Christians especially). If someone disagrees with us on one issue, it does not mean, writes Robert Sean Winters, that we cannot find common ground with them on many other issues.
This is in keeping with the spirit of the recent papal encyclical Laudato Si with its emphasis on a person-centered economy. It was the reason so many non-Catholics told me how much they approved of this pope. It is a refreshing contrast to the Us vs. Them approach of those in the culture wars, and it will take many years, perhaps a generation or more, for the Catholic Church to assimilate what could, and should, have been enacted following the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago.
But then being inclusive and finding common ground require hard work. It is always easier to rely on proclamations of exclusion and condemnation.