Pope Francis meets the United Nations in a Fractured World

Deal W. Hudson
September 15, 2015

When Pope Francis arrived at the United Nations today he was welcomed by the sight of the Vatican Flag, the first time the yellow and white flag had ever been raised at the UN since its founding in 1945.

In 1964, the Holy See, which is not a member, became a permanent observer at the UN and in 2004 gained all the rights of full membership except the right to vote, to submit resolution proposals without co-sponsoring, and to put forward candidates.

The other flag flying for the first time is that of the Palestinian state, with both the US and Israel being among the 8 votes, out of 116 with 45 abstentions, voting against the flag being displayed. I mention that only to underscore the kinds of tensions present at the UN prior to the Pontiff’s speech.

Pope Francis looked tired when he arrived at the UN, his first smile appearing only when two children came forward to greet him. (It should be remembered that Saint John Paul II had a similar habit of lighting up when children came near.)

As he takes the UN podium, the Pope has already delivered a major address at the U.S. Congress and shorter messages at the White House, at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and Saint Patrick’s Church in Washington, DC. (Each link above contains the full text of the respective speeches.)

Pope Francis addresses the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday in New York.

Pope Francis addresses the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday in New York.

The media commentators were once again busy speculating on what themes the Holy Father would emphasize.  I’m surprised that no one, at least no one who I have seen, has put a clock on all the Pontiff’s speeches to list the minutes and seconds given to climate change, immigration, religious liberty, marriage, and the defense of life.

Two points of emphasis stand out in Pope Francis speech to the UN, first, his speech contained an integral connection to the three previous pontiffs, Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Paul VI. His insistence on “the moral law written into human nature itself,” “the natural difference between man and woman,”  “the right to life, what we would call the existence of human nature itself, ” “the primary right of the family to educate their children,”  and the family as the “central cell” of society, all these continue the central themes of papal teaching over the past 40 years.

In fact, towards the end of his speech, the Pope said he hoped his words would be heard as a continuation of the message given by Pope Paul VI on the first visit of any Pontiff to the UN in 1965.

He quoted that earlier speech of Pope Paul VI twice, “The real danger comes from a man who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests.” Also, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it but of shedding light on it and inspiring it.”

The second emphasis will be the one mentioned exclusively by most of the media — the Pontiff’s stress on saving the environment and eliminating poverty, “oppressive” financial systems,  nuclear weapons, child exploitation, the drug trade, organized crime, sex trafficking, and war. All these efforts, he stressed should  be “understood as prudential activity guided by justice,”  approached by forgetting “we are dealing with real men and women and are struggling to live.”

The media will be deaf to the theological and philosophical principles Pope Francis both explicitly mentioned and implicitly relied upon throughout his powerful speech.

“Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature.*” Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word. . . . The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves when we see nothing else but ourselves”

“When we see nothing else but ourselves,” this is Pope Francis, the world’s pastor, preaching to the largest group of world leaders ever gathered at the United Nations.

*Benedict XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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