David Gibson, reporter for the Religious News Service and blogger at dotCommonweal writes about similarities between Pope Francis and the late Archbishop of Chicago, Joseph Cardinal Bernadin:
While there is no indication that Francis knows the writings of Bernardin, who died in 1996, many say the pope’s remarks repeatedly evoke Bernardin’s signature teachings on the “consistent ethic of life” – the view that church doctrine champions the poor and vulnerable from womb to tomb – and on finding “common ground” to heal divisions in the church.
The "seamless garment" approach takes its name from the robe of Jesus which soldiers cast lots for after the Crucifixion because it was woven in one piece, the idea being that several life issues such as economic justice, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, and militarism are linked by the common belief that all human life is sacred. Given the more ecumenical name of "consistent life ethic", it has been linked to such people as Fr. Daniel Berrigan, Nobel Laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Sr. Helen Prejean, and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Francis, for example, repeatedly stresses economic justice and care for the poor as priorities for Catholics, and he warned that the church has become “obsessed” with a few issues, such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality, and needs a “new balance.”If American Catholic political thought moves in this direction, President Barack Obama is well-positioned to help build a bridge. He cites the influence of Cardinal Bernadin, who he met in his early job working as a community organizer for an effort supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
The new pope has also sought to steer the hierarchy away from conservative politics and toward a broad-based view of Catholicism “that is not just top-down but also horizontal” — focused on dialogue in the church and with the wider world.
“The point that (Bernardin’s) consistent ethic makes is exactly the same point that Pope Francis is making – let’s look at the whole picture and not just focus almost exclusively on three or so issues,” said Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M., who had been close friends with Bernardin since the 1970s.
I believe there is place for a SG/CLE wing of the Democratic Party, despite those who cringe at the idea of religious beliefs influencing political thought or who dislike anyone who disagree with some part of standard liberal dogma. Pope Francis and the direction he seems to be taking the Church in could enable efforts to build that wing.