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Marriage as a Matter of Social Justice

By W. Bradford Wilcox

Could Pope Francis’ message bridge the divide between the progressive concern for inequality and the conservative focus on families?

Pope Francis’s commitment to social justice could not have been clearer in his whirlwind trip to Washington this week. In his address to Congress, he said: “The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.” The pope’s evident concern for the poor and immigrants, not to mention his stands on workers’ rights, income inequality, and the environment, have won him plaudits from the left.

Speaking at The White House, President Obama himself heralded the pope for putting the “least of these” at the forefront of the nation’s attention: “You remind us that in the eyes of God our measure as individuals, and our measure as a society, is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture’s call to lift up the poor and the marginalized — to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity — because we are all made in the image of God.”On Saturday, however, as he heads toward the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Francis’s message is likely to prove more amenable to the right. That’s because he also promised that he would be proclaiming the “Gospel of the Family” during his visit to the City of Brotherly Love this weekend. And judging by the pope’s previous pronouncements on marriage and family life, his message there will prove more appealing to conservatives.At a meeting of religious leaders in Rome last year, for instance, Francis sounded a lot like his family-centered predecessor, John Paul II. He said the “truth about marriage” is that it’s a “permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity, and fruitful love [that] responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.” He called the family a fundamental pillar of social life that serves as “the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.” Francis also decried the “culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment.”

Most provocatively, Francis made the case that his progressive commitment to the poor and the vulnerable is connected to his concerns about the health of marriage and family life, as he … Continue reading in The Atlantic