Liberal pundits are blasting Republicans with the words of Pope Francis
In his groundbreaking interview with the Jesuit magazine America, Pope Francis said this: “I have never been a right-winger.”
Consistent with that declaration, there have been lots of other things the pontiff has said that distinguish him from the right-wing Republicans who befoul the American political process. And the liberal punditry are more than eager to point them out:
Consider THIS, for example:
Pope Francis is a hit. In July, he drew three million people to Mass at Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach. A Pew Research Center poll released this month shows that 79 percent of Catholics have a favorable view of him, compared to only four percent who view him unfavorably.
It’s not only Catholics who approve. “Seldom has a religious leader been embraced so warmly across the Christian world, including by many evangelicals,” Timothy George, executive editor of Christianity Today, wrote earlier this summer.
And he may have won over a whole new crowd who have grown disillusioned with organized religion, after he chastised the Roman Catholic Church for being “obsessed” with abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. Francis’s remarks, published in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, have rocked the Catholic world.
“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” he said. “We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
The GOP could learn a few lessons from His Holiness.
To concerned Republicans (and especially Republican Catholics): No, the Pope isn’t advocating that priests start marrying gay couples in Catholic churches. In fact, for all the praise he has received from liberals, the Vatican’s official positions on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception are no different from when Pope Benedict XVI was running things.
But he is focusing heavily on problems that Catholics have traditionally cared about — namely, alleviating suffering and poverty — but which have fallen out of the spotlight due to a few divisive, hot-button issues.
Or consider THIS:
Pope Francis has made some remarkable and very encouraging statements of late, suggesting he is taking the Roman Catholic church away from a focus on rules, punishment and an inordinate focus on controlling people’s sexuality. Instead, Francis is talking more about what any religion should be about: love, inclusion and charity towards those who for whatever reason cannot manage things without some community help.
It’s a message that could well help the church bring back some of its disaffected members, and more importantly, draw in some young people who might be looking for spiritual guidance in their lives but have been put off by the previous pope’s railing against homosexuality, birth control and abortion. But Francis’ refreshing message might be wasted among rank-and-file Catholics. Where he could really do some good works is in the Republican party.
The Republican party was once a party of people who wanted smallish government and fiscal responsibility. But they were not opposed to any kind of government at all. They were not mean-spirited. They did not presume that they should get their own way, ignoring the thoughts and wishes of people who might not be exactly like them.
Unfortunately, the party now has a controlling (but still minority) element which is demanding those very things. They won’t negotiate with Democrats – on principle. They are willing to let the entire country descend into fiscal disaster if they don’t get their own way. They don’t want women to get birth control through their health care plans, let alone abortion. And on Thursday, they voted to slash $39 billion from SNAP, or food stamps. The overwhelming majority of those who get (or got) food stamps are in households with children, the elderly or the disabled. And this new breed of Republicans literally wants to take food out of their mouths.
On some level, the party leadership understands how out-of-touch they look. They commissioned a major study that made it quite clear that if the party doesn’t stop talking against gays and lesbians, the party will continue to shrink. Young people – even conservative young people – can’t fathom why, in the 21st century, anyone would bother hating or judging someone based simply on whom he or she loves.
Pope Francis gets that.
Or consider THIS:
Pope Benedict always seemed to be the Dick Cheney of pontiffs. The longtime Vatican insider and master of papal politicking was beloved by conservative theologians for reaffirming strict doctrine and famously arguing that a smaller church of more devout believers would be more desirable than what might be called a “big tent.”
In contrast, Pope Francis is the ultimate outsider, the first South American pontiff in centuries, reflecting and embracing the demographic changes transforming the Catholic Church. He is an unapologetic believer in building a big tent, telling the bishops in Rio, “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel … Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the periphery, with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church.” This is a pope who remembers what so many self-styled conservatives often forget: that the essence of evangelism is winning new converts.
Hammering home his inclusive vision, Pope Francis even said that even atheists might enter heaven through good works. “We must meet one another doing good,” he said. “‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.”