Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, demonstrated intersectional awareness and shared that knowledge with a mass audience, last week. Argentine-born Pope Francis toured three cities in the United States of America reminding us that he, too, is an American.
This religious leader proved himself to be a skillful orator, a social worker, and a professor. Addressing the short-comings of clergy, the Pope focused on the sanctity of family-life and seemingly ordered high-ranking religious leaders to get out from behind the protective walls of the church and into the homes of believers in order to positively impact families. This suggests that those with power and influence do not need to horde their talents, nor exclude others from receiving their wisdom. Instead, they must put themselves “out there” to join the lay community and the religious community beyond the sacred ivy-covered walls.
Regarding homelessness, the Pope urged people to consider how one becomes homeless and then to actively listen to those unfortunate, disenfranchised souls suffering from lack of opportunities and lack of access to good people who want to spend time helping them cultivate opportunities. The Pope urged audiences to create communities that positively impact the lives of Others. Being a cultural studies scholar, I naturally thought of the tendency to exclude minority women from certain cultural practices common to mainstream culture.
What stood out to me from watching this visit on television, was the Pope’s willingness to critically interrogate the causes of many social problems that impact diverse members of the American family. I considered my own position as a minority-woman located in a remote geographical space comprised of leaders with normative mating values that do not always take into consideration the needs of the Other.
I am not Catholic. I have attended Catholic mass once, however. I also have many fulfilling relationships with friends who were raised Catholic, or who consider themselves to be “culturally Catholic”. Although I do not know the intricacies of the faith, I, like many women, have questions about marriage, family, and economics that the Catholic Church (and other faiths) address. I wonder how the concept of family life applies to me, personally, a black woman whose early peer relationships were mostly with white men.
I wonder if part of the Pope’s ecumenical strategy is to reach out to people just like me, women of color who spend part of the year living in urban spaces (Los Angeles) and part of the year living in non-urban communities (Appalachia) with little opportunity to build capital holdings.
Scholars at colleges and universities where cultural studies is taught, particularly scholars at Claremont Graduate University who study race/ethnicity and religion/theology, might consider adding Pope Francis’ recent speeches to the curricula. Professors ought to share insights and inspire conversation on the Pope’s recent visit.
In the meantime, below, I share my own research questions for consideration. They are:
Is it the case that we are witnessing a change in the way the Catholic Church practices conversion and educational outreach? How do global economic conditions impact the Pope’s message on topics such as marriage, annulment, prison reform, and climate change? Can minority lay people play a role in the Catholic Church?
Further study of Pope Francis’ speeches in the United States would make for an excellent addition to the curriculum in the Cultural Studies program at Claremont Graduate University.