Not Obama’s Pope



Francis remained faithful to his previous message while visiting the United States without mentioning the issue trifecta of contraception, abortion and gay marriage. However, the pope rejects Obama’s progressive social policy.

America’s presidential primary campaign is a perverse contest of outdoing one another: who’s the ultimate underdog? Donald Trump leads the field having once been Washington’s greatest outcast, but now commands a juggernaut of donors who can’t wait to give him money. Carly Fiorina’s political experience is limited to a crushing defeat in the 2010 election for one of California’s seats in the U.S. Senate, unless you also count her failure in the merger of Compaq and Hewlett-Packard as a political achievement. The neurosurgeon Ben Carson, on the other hand, demonstrates with bad moves (regarding his invocation that a Muslim can never be president) and reckless crisis management how green behind the ears he is in the business of politics.

On the left is the “Democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders, who is a superb outsider. He doesn’t even commit himself to the party from which he seeks the nomination in the primary elections. He has only granted Democrats a reprieve from his “independent” conduct by reciprocating during votes on major items in the Senate. Of course, Hillary Clinton needs to sell her position as the mother of all outsiders: “I cannot imagine anyone being more of an outsider than the first woman president,” Clinton has said.

Papal Appeals in the Middle of an Election Campaign

Good idea. Perhaps it will even help the pope, since Francis has demonstrated a flair for being a real outsider in America. After his appearance in Congress, he left the suits to their sheltered fate and ate lunch with the homeless. He didn’t have to go far from the Capitol to do so. After his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, he met with refugee and migrant children in Harlem. This Sunday, he visited inmates in a Philadelphia prison. One in four of all detained people in the world are held in an American prison. Despite few exceptions to a consensus that the rule of law which generates such a situation damages the nation, the world waits on a change in policy.

Francis’ appeal for a “renewal of that spirit of cooperation” created a hurricane on Twitter for campaigners. The likelihood that America’s politicians will take the humane gestures of the pope to heart is poor, even though these are gestures that the politicians themselves boast about loudly. The ideological spectacle could be observed from the beginning of the pope’s visit. Conservatives hoped the head of the Catholic Church would remind the left of the importance of traditional family. The left looked forward to the pope being a critic of capitalism, especially with him being Francis, patron of migrants; and especially with him being Francis, protector of the climate. Bipartisan applause for the pope was limited to the beginning when he bowed before “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Cheers from the Democrats

When Francis called for illegal immigrants to be treated “with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated,” only Democrats jumped up to applaud. Even the reference to “the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity” resulted in applause from only half of the room. The Republicans were on board only when the pope called “to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

However, Republicans had to quickly sit back down because instead of taking on abortion, Francis began to rail against the death penalty. The pope’s discussion of “religious freedom” proceeded similarly. For America’s conservatives, that phrase is code for the feelings that many Christians have against being required to issue marriage certificates or to bake wedding cakes for homosexuals. Francis was indeed referring to the guise of religious extremism in the world and made it clear that Christians aren’t immune either. So is he actually “Obama’s Pope”?

Nonsense. Francis rejects the progressive social policy of the president. He merely stayed true to his previous message and didn’t tie himself to an obsession with the trifecta of contraception, abortion and gay marriage. The lack of balance alone toward party politics in his speech to Congress proves that the political correctness of church leaders has been shorn little. Conservative Americans deemed the guest from the Vatican to be somewhere between benign and patronizing. In the same vein, one simply cannot consider Francis to be angry. It’s the same way that one would talk about children who find adorable ways to defy their parents.

It is fitting that this week in Washington ended with the resignation of Republican John Boehner. On the same day, following his long-awaited meeting with the pope, the Catholic representative announced his resignation as the speaker of the house effective at the end of October. Boehner knows that the categorical intransigence that has transformed his position of power into a position of impotence won’t improve in the foreseeable future. At least the problem of the week isn’t any particular party’s fault.

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