1/3 of the members of Congress identify themselves as Roman Catholic. That is 33% of our representatives, in a nation that is only about 22% Catholic. In fact, despite a history of confrontation between Protestants (the overwhelming majority) and Catholics in America, today our two groups get along well enough that Catholics are generally treated no different than any other Christian sect. The makeup of our government bears out this truth. So, while a visit by a sitting pontiff will always be highly anticipated, it become even more so when 1 out of every 3 members of Congress sees him as the “representative of Christ on Earth”.
While he may be greatly respected by our civil leaders, he is also viewed as a highly polarizing figure. In the Bloomberg View, Margaret Carlson argued that Congressional Republicans would be tuning out half of what the Pope had planned to say. She’s not wrong, but she left out the fact that Catholic Democrats would also be tuning out about half of what the pontiff had to say. The difference? The GOP would be tuning out the pope’s opinion on matters of politics, economics and science… while Catholic Democrats would be tuning out the Pope on matters of faith and morality.
Isn’t one of these obviously a bigger deal than the other?
The pope isn’t an authority on economics – he’s a lifelong socialist activist, a result of having grown up in Peronist Argentina. (Also see here and here.) The pope isn’t an authority on science – as a Jesuit he has always been very concerned with the poor, and he personally believes that climate change will unevenly impact the poor…which is why he speaks on climate change. The pope isn’t an authority on politics – he grew up in an Argentina rife with corruption, so his entire political worldview is as affected by that as it is by his faith. When he considers the American government it is through the corrupt lens of Argentina’s history.
On the other hand, when it comes to the matters of faith that Catholic Democrats ignore, like abortion, gay marriage and religious freedom, the Pope speaks with far more authority. On these issues he is the voice of the Roman Catholic Church — over 1 billion people strong — and yet… Democrat Catholics still ignore him.
On Thursday, he delivered a speech/sermon to Congress, and the question is which of America’s Catholic politicians will actually react accordingly to what the Pope had to say? If I had to venture a guess… I’d say none.
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