Pope Francis spoke at the United Nations Friday morning and his remarks were, more or less, what was expected: a long push for climate change legislation mixed with concern about the world’s unjust economy. So in general, there wasn’t much to see. But in their particulars, some of the pope’s musings were interesting.
For instance, the Holy Father called on the U.N. to expand the Security Council, saying that
adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises.
At least it seems as though Francis was advocating an expanded Security Council. He has a penchant for speaking as obliquely as possible. This isn’t always the case, mind you. For example, in the course of his 800-word disquisition on climate change, Francis expressly advocated for something called the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Climate change was the main body of the pope’s speech, but he managed to interweave it with his economic critique, saying, “The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man.”
(Two quick points: (1) It’s interesting to note that Francis goes the full-Gore on climate change, upgrading it from a global catastrophe to an extinction-level event. (2) He used the word “baneful” twice in his remarks.)
As he segued to his economic critique, Francis called on the United Nations to focus on eradicating “extreme poverty.” He said that such a task “presupposes and requires the right to education—also for girls (excluded in certain places).” It’s unclear what that parenthetical of the pope’s really means—I’m working from an English transcript of a speech that was given in Spanish. It certainly seems like the multicultural version of “Who am I to judge?” But perhaps there’s a more charitable explanation.
Again, there is a rhetorical haze over the pope’s words, where it seems possible to intuit what he wants to say, but he is either unwilling or unable to talk clearly. Francis came out with a near-endorsement of Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement, though he couldn’t quite bring himself to say so explicitly:
The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.
But the most confusing part of the pope’s speech was the section on the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East. Here is what he had to say on that subject:
In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.
These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs.