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US/ Garnett (Notre Dame): Who has a "Pope Francis Problem"? Not only Republicans . . .

March Fri 22, 2013

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Michael Perry posted my friend Charlie Camosy's recent op-ed suggesting that "Republicans have a Pope Francis Problem." Indeed, they do (along with several other problems!). But, of course, so do the Democrats, and so do most of us. The Pope -- like his predecessors, and like the Church, and like Christ -- proposes an understanding of the human person and of human community that does not map neatly onto or cohere with any major camp in American politics.

Many Catholics who lean to the left politically tell a story in which "the Democrats are so close to being Catholic -- after all, unlike the Republicans, they care about the poor, and the environment, and equality, and are communitarian rather than individualistic -- if only they would moderate their stance on abortion", but this story strikes me more as wishful thinking than accurate description. It is not plausible, even if it is comforting for some, to regard the Democratic Party as a force for human dignity, the common good, and solidarity (in Charlie's words, for "social justice and nonviolence").

To say this, obviously, is not to say that the Republican Party is such a force. I'm pretty sure Charlie and I agree that, in many respects and on a number of issues, the policies promoted by the GOP are not, all things considered, thoughtful applications of Catholic Social Doctrine. But if the Republicans have a "Pope Francis Problem", then the Democrats -- the party of "no" on school choice and education reform, the party of Planned Parenthood, the party of irresponsible borrowing and spending, and the party that is stingily statist when it comes to religious freedom -- do, too.

More than a little bit of the post-(papal) election commentary I've read has included almost-gleeful assertions that Pope Francis is making "conservatives" nervous or mad, as if the fact that a Pope's election irritates one's political opponents is a, or the, reason to like that Pope. But, putting aside a few nutty commenters on traditionalist blogs, I've heard from "conservatives" nothing but enthusiastic words of thanksgiving and welcome regarding Pope Francis - as it should be. He seems (like his predecessors) wonderful, a real gift. Is this because the Pope -- or, for that matter, the Gospel -- doesn't challenge many American "conservatives'" political premises and positions? Of course not! But it would involve not hearing the Pope very well for American "liberals" to imagine that his words about (for example) "protecting" creation constitutes endorsement of the Democratic platform (or even of that platform-minus-abortion-rights).

First appeared in Mirror of Justice



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