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Of Course the Pope is Political

President Barack Obama bids farewell to Pope Francis following a private audience at the Vatican, March 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

TPM’s Caitlin Macneal points to Fox News’ Shepard Smith calling out the far right crazies criticizing Pope Francis’ agenda:

“Oftentimes the pope is called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And you wonder who might be comfortable in Washington, D.C., today and how that may change tomorrow when the pope makes his speech in English before a joint meeting of Congress,” Hemmer said. “And, in all likelihood, an equal opportunity offender, he may leave a little bit for everyone to debate and squirm about.”

Smith responded to Hemmer by saying that “we are in a weird place in the world when the following things are considered political.” Smith then listed five issues both Pope Francis and President Obama have focused on.

“Caring for the marginalized and the poor — that’s now political. Advancing economic opportunity for all. Political? Serving as good stewards of the environment,” he said. “Protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom globally. Welcoming and … integrating immigrants and refugees globally. And that’s political?”

The Fox host proceeded to explain that the pope’s discussion on those issues should resonate with all Americans.

“I don’t know what we expect to hear from an organization’s leader like the pope of the Catholic Church, other than protect those who need help, bring in refugees who have no place because of war and violence and terrorism. These seem like universal truths that we should be good to others who have less than we do, that we should give shelter to those who don’t have it,” he said. “They’re the words of the pope, they’re the feelings of the president. And people who find themselves on the other side of that message should consult a mirror, it seems like. Because I think that’s what we’re supposed to do as a people, whatever your religion.”

I haven’t been a regular consumer of television news in more than a decade now but my impression of him is that Smith is one of the few old-time newsmen at a network that’s evolved into an outrage fest. From my recollection of him from the old days and what little I’ve seen of him in appearances on other shows, he strikes me as a decent fellow who’s trying to inject some sanity and common sense into a media environment that’s become quite shrill.

That said, he’s wrong here. Of course the pope’s pronouncements here are political. Smith is right that many of the general principles that Francis espouses are bedrock principles not only of Christianity and the other great religions but of Western civilization. But advocating for policy changes to implement those principles is, by definition, political.

In Harold Lasswell’s classic 1936 definition, politics is the process of deciding ”who gets what, when, how.”

Saying that the poor should be cared for, then, isn’t political; it’s a mere statement of principle. Saying that the United States government should tax the haves to redistribute it to the have-nots is political. Given that all Western societies fundamentally agree on that political principal–Lasswell’s “what”— politics comes down to the “when” and especially the “how.”

Even the most doctrinaire American conservatives agree that there should be some safety net for those who truly can’t support themselves and that we should levy some taxes. And even the most left-leaning Swedish socialists agree that there ought be incentives to allow those who contribute more to society to enjoy some perquisites over those who contribute least. The fight, then, is over how much redistribution of wealth, how much equality of outcome, what constitutes “contribution to society,” and similar issues.  Francis isn’t getting mired into the details of that but he’s implicitly saying that Western societies—and especially the United States—are erring too much on the side of the haves and doing too little for the have-nots. That’s politics.

Similarly, “political freedom” is an abstract principle and one that’s been a bedrock of the American ethos from the outset. But Francis’ call for a conscience exemption to the contraception mandate in the health-care law for the Little Sisters of the Poor and other Catholic charities is very much a political act. Ditto his admonition that changes in the law to recognize same-sex marriage threatens to undermine the family. What is that if not a statement of politics?

How is saying “climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation” not a political declaration? He’s specifically calling on politicians to pass laws that will reallocate resources.

And what could be more political than calling on the United States to be more open to economic migrants from Latin America and political refugees from around the world? There’s scarcely a more fundamental political question than who gets to live where.

While I don’t share his religious views or think his opinions on public policy are divinely inspired, I believe this pope’s heart is in the right place. We’d be a better people if we more fundamentally embraced his vision of mankind. But good men advocating doing good things through government policy are nonetheless engaging in politics. It’s not a swear word.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. An Interested Party says:

    It’s not a swear word.

    You need only to look at your fellow Republicans to figure out why “politics” (i.e. government) has become such a dirty word…

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 4

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Even the most doctrinaire American conservatives agree that there should be some safety net for those who truly can’t support themselves and that we should levy some taxes.

    Grover Norquist. He who wants Gov’t so small he can drown it in a bath tub.

    As to Shep Smith, I have never watched FOX News but have long been impressed by his lone voice of sanity in the asylum. Not sure how he hangs onto it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  3. SKI says:

    Because they are using “political” as a shorthand for “partisan”.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  4. gVOR08 says:

    Even the most doctrinaire American conservatives agree that there should be some safety net for those who truly can’t support themselves…

    I got an email this morning from a conservative friend. Contra your claim about doctrinaire conservatives, he criticized the Pope for advocating for the poor. He believes all charity should be private. He believes the government should have no role, no safety net. I doubt he’s alone in this opinion. Thanks for this post, I cut and pasted Smith’s comment into my reply to him. (I refrained from mentioning that Smith is wrong. I agree with you, this stuff is political, as are most things. And Smith is a twit.)

    For conservatives nothing is really about what it’s about. For my friend, helping the poor isn’t really about helping the poor, it’s about his personal virtue. An attitude I’ve seen expressed by many other conservatives.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 0

  5. Lenoxus says:

    Thank you, James! It always bugs me when politicians accuse one another of “playing politics” with an issue, usually contrasted with “common sense solutions”. Look, if you’re a politician, then “politics” is your job description. You don’t get to pretend that your position is so manifestly correct that your opponents are just being perverse, like teenagers acting out for attention or something. (Unless you have evidence of such, of course. Sometimes politicians really do take an opposing side for its own sake, but usually the convictions are genuine.)

    It’s just a variation of status quo bias (change is political, not changing is not political) and/or an inability to see outside oneself. The first reason may be why we hear this slightly more often from conservatives than liberals, but I’ve heard Obama use that language against Republicans a few times.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Tony W says:

    Somebody wise once told me that what many people call “politics”, true leaders call “doing business”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. James Joyner says:

    @SKI: But even in that sense, these are issues that divide along party lines.

    @gVOR08: @OzarkHillbilly: I’m sure there are individual Republicans who want no government-funded safety net at all. But I can’t think of an influential elected leader who doesn’t want some sort of assistance for the severely disabled, for example, or for widows and orphans. After that, it’s just haggling over price.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  8. KM says:

    Considering the Pope is the Head of State for a foreign nation, almost anything he says short of a Yo Mamma joke is political. That’s why he’s getting the reception he is – he’s a foreign leader as well as a religious one. Francis is exercising the power of both of his positions when he speaks to give them the weight they deserve.

    Politics are an integral part of life when more then one person is involved. It’s always been that way; in animals we call it pack dynamics. Calling something political like its a dirty word says more about the speaker then it does the subject.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I can’t think of an influential elected leader who doesn’t want some sort of assistance for the severely disabled, for example, or for widows and orphans.

    Heh. And I can’t think of a single Republican who does not demonize programs designed to help those very same people as “giveaways”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Grumpy Realist says:

    Considering the role the Holy Roman Catholic Church had in Western history…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  11. Mu says:

    I think the problem with a lot of the “conservative wing” is religious motivation. If I pay taxes to help the poor, I’m not accumulating the all import Jesus points in my personal judgement file that I would get if I’m donating the same amount to charity. And I’m not entitled to the everlasting gratitude of those I give to, and I can’t make sure that only the deserving (by my standards) poor get some of my money, heaven beware I’m feeding a muslim or an atheist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  12. An Interested Party says:

    But I can’t think of an influential elected leader who doesn’t want some sort of assistance for the severely disabled, for example, or for widows and orphans.

    Humph…everyone else, you’re on your own…perhaps some of these conservatives think that disadvantaged people should pray for help rather than looking to the government…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  13. KM says:

    @James:

    But I can’t think of an influential elected leader who doesn’t want some sort of assistance for the severely disabled, for example, or for widows and orphans. After that, it’s just haggling over price deciding who counts as worthy.

    Sorry James, but it’s true. Cute euphemisms can’t soften the fact that cold, hard determinations about whether someone counts as “worth helping” is what’s happening. It’s not even a bad thing, per se – obviously we have to realistic limits in order for the programs to work effectively. The problem becomes when personal peccadilloes and bias because the source of denial instead of true financial or material need. When there’s an almost obsessive need to punish the poor for being poor, it’s stopped being about helping and starts being about control. That’s where the “charity should be private” bit stems from; that way, they can screw over whomever they feel is undeserving.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  14. bill says:

    basically the msm will cherry pick some things the pope is “for” that they also agree on;
    -global warming stuff
    -feeding the “poor” (g/l figuring out what “poor” is in America vs. the 3rd world)
    -being against the death penalty

    they’ll do as much as possible to avoid anything he says about abortion or “morality”.

    meanwhile in mecca-

    http://news.yahoo.com/saudi-arabia-says-150-pilgrims-dead-hajj-stampede-083631457.html

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 21

  15. C. Clavin says:

    More of that weak-ass “both sides do it” crap.
    It’s political because Republicans claim the mantle of religiosity while being deeply non-religious. The bible doesn’t say that taking care of those in need is about how much and when. It says you take care of them.
    Republicans…James’ party…is only about taking care of the wealthiest amongst us. You make me laugh…do you think for a minute that any influential Republican would give one penny to the poor the sick the elderly if they could get away with not giving them anything?
    Paul Ryan who thinks that gutting social services is doing the poor and the sick and the elderly a favor?
    Gadzooks, man…are you fwcking delusional???

    If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  16. Tillman says:

    @bill: yes, because that other crap he talks about, as a religious leader, won’t be framed in terms of morality.

    His stance against the death penalty is part of the consistent life ethic, for instance, which also puts him against abortion. It’s a principle, like what conservatives claim to stand for.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 0

  17. C. Clavin says:

    @bill:
    Bill…stepping up with the Republican nut-job talking points.
    Cutting and pasting his opinions direct from Steve Israel.
    Which makes you both maroons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  18. Franklin says:

    @bill:

    they’ll do as much as possible to avoid anything he says about abortion or “morality”.

    Slate is considered liberal media, right? Then I guess you’re wrong, as usual:
    Francis isn’t liberal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  19. al-Ameda says:

    Yes it is political, and that has been true in the Vatican for many centuries.

    It is noteworthy that my conservative friends had no problem whatsoever when Pope John Paul II was purging church leadership, in America and elsewhere, of liberal priests, bishops and cardinals, all the while covering up the biggest church scandal in history – the molestation, by priests and other church officials, of children.

    I’m old enough to remember the general feeling of hope and optimism that prevailed when John the XXIII become pope, and I now feel the same sense of good will and optimism. I hope it’s here to stay for a while, the church and parishioners need Francis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  20. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    @SKI: But even in that sense, these are issues that divide along party lines.

    I think you missed SKI’s point. When people use ‘political’ to mean ‘partisan’, they are implicitly saying that it is not about the issues at all — it’s about which team wins. And that’s the destructive reality of our time: that much of the behavior of politicians is completely divorced from any consideration of what would be best for the country, but is instead driven solely by consideration of which team will go up in the standings polls, or whose re-election prospects will be helped/harmed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  21. SKI says:

    @James Joyner: they do but the existence shouldn’t. We should be able to agree that water is wet. Where we should disagree is how to clean up the spill, not whether it exists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  22. Franklin says:

    @bill:

    meanwhile in mecca-
    http://news.yahoo.com/saudi-arabia-says-150-pilgrims-dead-hajj-stampede-083631457.html

    I’m still trying to figure out what this has to do with the rest of your post, or with this thread, or with anything. Does reporting on a stampede make the media liberal for some reason? Do you want me to give you a list of soccer stampedes?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  23. mantis says:

    When did “politics” become a dirty word?

    Sometime in the 16th century, when the word was coined.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  24. Gustopher says:

    @Franklin: I’m pretty sure he is trying to contrast the crowds of well behaved Christians flocking to see the Pope with the crowds of filthy Muslims flocking to Mecca — so wild, so out of control, so uncivilized that they crush themselves. Those Muslims must be like animals, lacking a well functioning and efficient government that is competent at crowd control.

    At least, that’s what I read from bill’s digression.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @Lenoxus:

    Sometimes politicians really do take an opposing side for its own sake, but usually the convictions are genuine.

    I’m afraid I have to disagree. Perhaps I’m overly cynical, but I don’t think most politicians give much thought to policy. They spend all their time raising money, not analyzing policy. They’re mostly trained as lawyers, they’re used to the idea of defending whichever side they happen to be assigned. They know what they’re tribe believes and wants. But mostly they know what their clients, their donors and lobbyists, want. Their convictions may be indeed be genuine and deeply felt, but they are mostly not based on a dispassionate analysis of the evidence. (I have deep passionate feelings for my paycheck too.)

    …that power of accurate observation which is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it… G. B. Shaw.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  26. Stan says:

    “Even the most doctrinaire American conservatives agree that there should be some safety net for those who truly can’t support themselves…”

    I grew up in the most conservative county in Wisconsin. Based on my memories of life there in the 40’s and early 50’s it seems to me that the glue binding Republicans to their party is a strong feeling of resentment that their tax dollars are going for welfare payments to immoral women, loafers, and thugs, a disproportionate number of whom are African-American.

    Judging from online comments in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel during Scott Walker’s many anti-union crusades and from my visits back to Wisconsin for class reunions, attitudes haven’t changed all that much. As everybody knows, globalization, technological innovations, a change in the attitude of employers as to how the economic pie should be split, and (maybe) too much immigration from low wage countries have been devastating to working class Americans. I see no recognition of this in the American conservative press. If James’s party wins big in 2016 the Affordable Care Act along with Medicaid expansion is a goner and the wealthy will get big tax breaks, to be paid for with cuts in benefits or by increased indebtedness. So I’m taking his comment about conservative support for the safety net with many grains of salt.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  27. DrDaveT says:

    @Franklin: Great link; thanks.

    It’s a category error to try to classify Francis as either liberal or conservative. (Or, I would argue, progressive or radical.) What he is, is a revivalist, in the ancient tradition of Christian revivalists. His message is that the Church has lost focus on the important things. This should not make American liberals happy, because the important things in Catholic theology align badly with the important things in secular liberal philosophy. There are a few short-term areas of common interest, like poverty and pollution, but the motivations are completely different, and will inevitably diverge. And a re-invigorated Catholic Church is vastly worse for the liberal agenda than a lukewarm, passive Catholic Church.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  28. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    some sort of assistance for the severely disabled, for example, or for widows and orphans. After that, it’s just haggling over price.

    Sure, with the Republicans version of “haggling over price” being endless cuts to funding. A number of years ago, Republicans in Sacramento wanted to make cuts which included money for wheelchairs for the poorest disabled folks in the state. I recall you insisting that “no one is talking about cutting wheelchair benefits”.

    Actually, that was exactly what they were talking about, among many other cuts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  29. Mu says:

    People keep overlooking that the key word in “liberal pope” is not liberal but pope. The pope is bound by doctrine pronounced as infallible by his predecessors, he cannot have a “heavenly inspiration” a la Mormon president and the blacks and overturn dogma. You can’t get much more conservative as an organization with a 2000 year of history; even someone part of the liberal wing of the organization isn’t going to be a revolutionary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  30. C. Clavin says:

    @anjin-san:
    James does seem like a smart guy.
    A smart guy with an ideological blind spot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  31. C. Clavin says:

    I see that the Pope blew off lunch with Congress to be with the homeless at a local shelter.
    What a partisan hack!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Sheer snobbery on his part: he chose to spend his time with a more intelligent and less morally-compromised cross-section of humanity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  33. Rafer Janders says:

    @anjin-san:

    A number of years ago, Republicans in Sacramento wanted to make cuts which included money for wheelchairs for the poorest disabled folks in the state. I recall you insisting that “no one is talking about cutting wheelchair benefits”. Actually, that was exactly what they were talking about, among many other cuts

    See, that’s one of the problems with discussing the Republican agenda: some parts of it are so cartoonishly evil that you can’t convince ordinary people of good will that a major political party is actually proposing such things in all seriousness, so instead of denouncing the GOP, they wind up denouncing you for lying to them (i.e. accurately reporting) about what the GOP is up to.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  34. gVOR08 says:

    @Rafer Janders: Rather like Reagan’s reputation benefiting from the general public’s unwillingness to believe the Reagan administration would do anything as evil and stupid as what they actually did in Iran-Contra.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  35. M. Bouffant says:

    @James Joyner: “Widows & orphans?” It’s no longer 1850, women can work outside the home now, you know, & needn’t throw themselves & their children on their husband’s funeral pyre so as not to be a burden to society if he dies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  36. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I can’t think of an influential elected leader who doesn’t want some sort of assistance for the severely disabled, for example, or for widows and orphans.

    Here was Newt Gingrich’s plan to take care of poor children: repeal the child labor laws so the kids can work as school janitors.

    You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine,” Mr. Gingrich said. “You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I’ve tried for years to have a very simple model. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  37. Tyrell says:

    I do not disagree with what the pope is saying, but I would like to hear him talk about Jesus more.
    He is, after all, the leader of the Christian Church.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  38. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:

    I believe he is attempting to display genuine Christianity which – rare as it is among Christians – nevertheless is about Jesus. Ye shall know them by their fruits (actions.)

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  39. DrDaveT says:

    @DrDaveT:
    I hadn’t seen this article at Vox when I posted my earlier comment, but it makes some of the same points in the context of the canonization of Father Junipero Serra.

    Francis is a fundamentalist Pope (as opposed to a conservative Pope). When he’s getting back to basic on scriptures relating to the treatment of the poor and needy, that’s a good thing. For most other issues dear to progressives… not so much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. anjin-san says:

    @Tyrell:

    I would like to hear him talk about Jesus more

    Do you really think Jesus would care how much people talk about him? After all, talk is cheap. I suspect he would care more that they try and live their lives in accordance with what he taught – something that is actually kind of difficult.

    I think the Pope is doing a fine job at the latter…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  41. An Interested Party says:

    …someone part of the liberal wing of the organization isn’t going to be a revolutionary.

    That’s quite a shame, as the individual that organization is based on was quite revolutionary…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  42. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    I do not disagree with what the pope is saying, but I would like to hear him talk about Jesus more.
    He is, after all, the leader of the Christian Church.

    Not sure what you’re getting at?
    He (Pope Francis) is not just giving lip service to Jesus, he’s actually going out into the field and among the people, doing good works, and encouraging others to do the same. What’s non-Jesus about that?

    When I was young and going through the catechisms and lessons to prepare for Confirmation, we were instructed in the stories of Jesus – the story of the loaves and fishes to feed the masses, and so many others – the good works and the humanity of Jesus is what was so appealing. I believe that Pope Francis is acting entirely in that spirit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  43. Just Me says:

    @gVOR08:

    I think the “everything must be privately funded” small government position is pure libertarian. And not conservative. It’s this kind of thinking that makes me claim to be conservative with libertarian leanings (I think libertarians are right on some issues like legalization of drugs but they are off the reservation when it comes to full on safety net cutting).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. gVOR08 says:

    @Just Me: The last many years have convinced me that there is no satisfactory political definition of “conservative”. I have come to believe it’s nothing more than, “Things should be run by and for the best people, and the best people are people like me.” People who feel like that are a wide swath from Evangelicals to atheist libertarians, culture warriors to socially liberal fiscally conservative bankers, neocons to isolationists. The label “conservative” can be thrown over a wide range of groups, each of whom seems to want to throw the rest out of the tent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  45. DrDaveT says:

    @Just Me:

    I think libertarians are right on some issues like legalization of drugs but they are off the reservation when it comes to full on safety net cutting.

    I would suggest, then, that you actually think libertarians are fundamentally wrong about everything, but accidentally right about some specific things. The criteria you use to decide where the government has a legitimate role are not the same as the (singular) criterion used by libertarians.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  46. Lenoxus says:

    @Gustopher: It doesn’t even make sense as a slam against Islam. “Ideological inspiration for terrorism” is one thing, but “Bad at logisitics to the point of fatality” isn’t a conventional anti-Muslim attack at all.

    And if there had been a similar incident in the papal visit, would anyone be saying about such a tragedy “Really makes you think twice about the value of Catholicism, doesn’t it?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  47. Lenoxus says:

    @Mu: That’s all true, but he’s also ostensibly infallible. I’ve often wondered what would happen if, say, he just declared ex cathedra that women could be priests. Would the Church declare him not longer fit and overrule him, or what? I’ve never seen devout Catholics answer that with anything other than “It would never happen” (precisely because the pope is infallible, you see).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  48. michael reynolds says:

    @gVOR08:

    Precisely. “Conservative” is just another word for “Solipsistic.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  49. Andre Kenji says:

    As I pointed out the Catholic Church is relevant in Latin America because they are liberal in economic issues while being relatively Conservative on Social issues. That´s why there is no official death penalty in Latin America and abortion on demand is very rare.

    Pope Francis knows that. He is from Argentina. Most Right Wing Catholics in the US have more in common with Evangelicals than with Catholics. Take a look at Santorum or Marco Rubio: they couldn´t name their favorite Saint.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  50. DrDaveT says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Take a look at Santorum or Marco Rubio: they couldn´t name their favorite Saint.

    Hey, I was raised Southern Baptist, but even I know that the best saints are St. Jude and St. Dismas…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    I would like to hear him talk about Jesus more.

    It’s pretty clear that what he was saying yesterday is that Republicans are not Christian in their actions. Talking more about Jesus is going to make that worse…not better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  52. Lenoxus says:

    @anjin-san:

    Do you really think Jesus would care how much people talk about him?

    Jesus may not, but a lot a Christians do think in popularity-contest terms (cf “bigger than Jesus” and subsequent freakout).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  53. Lenoxus says:

    @Andre Kenji: At the same time as conservative Catholics becoming quasi-protestant, conservative Protestants have become quasi-Catholics in their atitudes on issues like abortion and birth control. It’s like the Christian Right said “let’s combine the repressive sexual morality of the mother church with the faith-not-works coldheartedness of its descendant sects — surely God will consider us the most Christian Christians ever!”

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  54. Andre Kenji says:

    @Lenoxus: Maybe it´s because I´m a Brazilian, but I don´t think that the Catholic Church is sexually repressive. The opposition to abortion in Latin America is rooted on the idea that fetuses are babies and that babies should not be killed, not that sex is bad (Some municipalities in Brazil tried to ban the morning after pill because it was thought that was abortive, but it´s still widely available, including in the Public Healthcare system).

    But I see Conservative Catholics in Europe and in Latin America talking about their devotion to the Church as a institution and to the Virgin Mary. Rick Santorum would be excoriated by Evangelicals if he went to pray in Fatima. It would be easy for Catholic Republicans to pander appeal to Hispanics by referring to Our Lady of Guadalupe, but Evangelicals would never accept that.

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  55. Joe says:

    @Tyrell:

    I do not disagree with what the pope is saying, but I would like to hear him talk about Jesus more.

    Whenever I hear someone say this, I hear “let’s talk about a person who lived 2,000 years ago and how wonderful he was, so we don’t talk about me here, now and how I should be responding to that message. Yup, he sure was great. . . Yup, he sure helped people.”

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  56. grumpy realist says:

    @M. Bouffant: Dearie–have you ever tried to find a non-minimam wage job (sufficient to support both you and your child) with a 15-year old college degree (or none at all) and no job experience?

    I guess you’d just prefer them to sit out on the sidewalk and beg for money, hmmm?

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  57. grumpy realist says:

    @Lenoxus: Actually, I seem to remember that there has been only one statement in history that any pope has made pronouncing ex cathedra. They’re very careful about the use of that power, because it has the possibility of making the Church a total laughing stock (can you imagine if they had used it about geocentricism?) and they damn well know it.

    Actually, imagining what any of the Renaissance Popes would have done with the Doctrine of Infallibility is quite a trip. We would probably have seen the Reformation explosion happen much earlier.

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  58. Pinky says:

    @grumpy realist: The teaching of papal infallibility is way older than the Renaissance. It was clearly defined during the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), and since then it’s been invoked once, for the definition of the Assumption of Mary. It’s always been recognized to apply to matters of faith and morals, so it wouldn’t have been invoked for something like geocentrism.

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  59. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:

    The teaching of papal infallibility is way older than the Renaissance. It was clearly defined during the First Vatican Council (1869-1870)

    It doesn’t much matter, but the Italian Renaissance began about 400 years before that.

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  60. Grewgills says:

    @Grewgills:
    Oops, fat fingers 500 years

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  61. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: Three unrelated sentences, each of which addressed things that Grumpy raised. I could have done them with dashes, I guess.

    – The teaching of papal infallibility is way older than the Renaissance. Church writings as far back as they go show primacy given to the pope. St. Augustine famously said, “Rome has spoken, the matter is closed” in the 400’s. The Councils of the Church also cite the authority of the pope. It has a long history.

    – It was clearly defined during the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), and since then it’s been invoked once, for the definition of the Assumption of Mary. The definition of the Immaculate Conception occurred earlier, but followed the same conditions. Infallibility is generally held to apply when the pope speaks ex cathedra, or when the pope and the bishops speak in unison. Denzinger is generally considered to be the authoritative collection of all Church doctrines and dogmas.

    – It’s always been recognized to apply to matters of faith and morals, so it wouldn’t have been invoked for something like geocentrism. A pope couldn’t speak infallibly about a matter of science. So it’s wrong to say that the Renaissance popes would have gone nuts with infallibility, because they didn’t.

    Still a little disjointed, but I hope it’s clearer.

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  62. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    I see what you were saying. It was the construction that had me confused. I found it a bit of an odd apparent slip given your knowledge of catholicism. We disagree on a lot, but we are probably closest to agreement when matters of the church come up.

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