I prefer to listen to what people have to say over listening to what news reporters have to say about what people have to say.

I read Pope Francis’ recent encyclical online and generally turned off the radio commentary about it. Likewise, I listened to his address to Congress, but then I started hearing the news summaries on MPBN.

I heard the pope use nuanced language. For instance, he referred to the importance of “the family.” But in the reporting, his simple statements were interpreted in terms of the code words of partisan political debate.

I heard reporters utter words and phrases like “family values” and “abortion” and “gay marriage” in combination with condescending explanatory phrases like “… in apparent reference to … .”

Francis obviously understands that words can be used as wedges, splitting people into shouting political parties and warring nations. He has the wisdom (which some of his predecessors have lacked) to avoid creating unnecessary wedges.

He does speak his mind and is clear about his guiding principles. But he understands that in the complex worlds of politics and diplomacy and human psychology, there’s more to it than that.

What one carefully refrains from saying can create the space that allows people to get off their soapboxes and find common ground. Our national political debate is lacking of such wisdom in the extreme.

Joe Seale