In the past few months, we have witnessed the gravest attacks on life, marriage, and religious liberty that our nation has ever endured. Planned Parenthood is profiting from unborn babies they dismember. The Supreme Court has undermined the truth of marriage in all 50 states. And Christians are being fined, and even thrown in jail, for their faith. These recent actions are attempting to rip by the roots the tenets that have made this nation the freest on the face of the planet.
Yet this week presents an historic and a hopeful moment for the nation. Pope Francis is visiting the United States. In stark contrast to media elites and national leaders smothering the truth of life, marriage, and religious liberty, Pope Francis has unabashedly stood for these primary gifts to humanity.
Life and Marriage Require Each Other
Without life, there is no sacred union; without marriage, there is no life within a family. Faith has never survived the absence of them both. “It is God who gives life,” Pope Francis has powerfully said. “Let us respect and love human life, especially vulnerable life in a mother’s womb.”
I couldn’t agree more. The family faces similar threats, he has explained: some in power are attempting to “disfigure God’s plan for creation” by “the growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage.”
We must protect both, as they are central to faith and foundational to civilization. Especially in a country founded upon religious freedom, we must unequivocally stand for life and marriage and the right to worship. If we do not protect these liberties here, how will we defend those who lack basic human rights abroad?
We, like Pope Francis, must speak boldly on these central issues of faith and family. We need not be afraid of the truth, because the truth has power. On marriage, we cannot redefine what God has defined for us. We can call it any “enduring bond,” but then marriage ceases to be a sacred union ordained by God.
Just as on the issue of life: we can claim abortion isn’t extinguishing the body of a human soul, though the tragic practice does exactly that. And while cultural battles wage to dismantle the family, many under the rule of ISIS and other dictators are becoming martyrs for the faith. Many are dying simply because they proclaim the name of Jesus. We all can learn from Pope Francis and call this injustice what it is. “Their blood confesses Christ,” as Pope Francis has cried—let’s amplify that cry and stand for all who are defenseless against evil regimes.
The Church Lives Outside Its Walls
Pope Francis has spoken to the world, proclaiming the inherent truth and goodness of life, marriage, and religious liberty. I am grateful for his leadership on these central issues. In an era when many global leaders are descending to relativism, his courageous defense of the dignity of the human person, the beauty in the sacrament of marriage, and the duty to speak for those who are persecuted is a light to the world of the scriptural truths that are ever-present in our lives.
Just as we saw in the case of the Planned Parenthood videos, the media will want to turn our attention off of what’s really at stake and distract us with anything they can to make the pope’s visit divisive. Indeed, there are policy discussions to be had on issues like the environment and U.S. relations with communist countries such as Cuba. These distinctions are important, but let us not forget what we have in common and what this leader of the church brings to America as a gift to us—his care for the family and his heart of mercy for the most vulnerable.
In the first-ever papal address to Congress, Pope Francis continues to blaze a trail by going where no predecessor has been. The media will cover that extensively, but will they cover his trip to feed the homeless in DC, or to meet with students in East Harlem, or to shake hands with prison inmates in Philadelphia? That’s the true heart of the church—beyond any four walls in Congress.
In this Year of Mercy, may Pope Francis’s example inspire us to treat all with charity, pray for those who are persecuted, and speak out for those without a voice. It is an honor to meet a man who has lived the faith so selflessly. I thank Pope Francis for his service to God and to the world, and I hope during his visit we are each reminded of our call to see every person with the eyes of Christ.