The Pope & the GOP

September 22, 2015

What an exciting time to be in Washington DC. Pope Francis arrives today in Washington, as he makes his first visit to the United States. He will meet with President Obama at the White House tomorrow, and will deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday.  Rumor is the speech will touch on topics Pope Francis has made his priority; poverty, world peace and climate change. His bold approach to refocusing the Catholic Church’s priorities on these issues has hit a nerve around the globe. His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, focused much of his time on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, which alienated much of the American population. However, while Francis is still holding the same positions as his predecessor when it comes to these issues, he has decided that they should not be the focus of the Church in today’s society. This has made Pope Francis an extremely popular figure, and has re-energized Catholicism across the United States. Rather Pope Francis has focused on the issues that are most urgent for Catholics, and all people, the ones that Jesus focused on in the bible. Nowhere does Jesus mention that gay men and women should not be allowed to get married. Nor does he mention that abortion is a sin. Jesus focused his time on helping the downtrodden in society, the poor and the sick. He opposed violence and war. He believed in the science of his time, and was open minded to change. Jesus Christ worked to better the world in which he lived, in the ways that he could. Right now, that is what Pope Francis is doing with his power as head of the Catholic Church. He is basing his Papacy in the works and teachings of Christ, not the dogma of the Church. And this shift has the Republican Party in fits.

For a long time, the GOP could rely on the Catholic Church to reinforce their conservative dogma. When it comes to controlling women’s bodies through withholding contraception and making an abortion as difficult to obtain as possible, the Catholic Church was there to support them. The very conservative positions on sex and women’s health held by the Church mirrored the very conservative positions of the Republican Party. However, this Pope has decided that he doesn’t want to spend his time pontificating on women’s health and gay marriage. He refocused the Church on Christ’s work with the poor, the needy, the sick, the hungry, and all those whom society has left behind. This shift dealt a devastating blow to the Republican Party.

When it comes to issues regarding poverty or healthcare for the needy, the GOP is decidedly against helping. We keep hearing that people just need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” to get out of poverty. We keep hearing that the poor are in their position because of some sort of moral failing. Pope Francis recognizes the inherent wrongness in these positions. How is the person working 2 jobs to support their family, and still living paycheck to paycheck, not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps? How is someone who is living paycheck to paycheck, working multiple jobs, and still finding time to volunteer at their child’s school, or donating to their church, or helping to feed the homeless some sort of immoral person? These are the questions this Pope is asking. These are the questions the Republicans cannot answer. These questions are why the Republicans are scared of Pope Francis.

When Republicans complain that the Pope is being too “political” it as an absurd argument. The teachings of Jesus were inherently political at the time. He was standing against the Roman occupation of Judea, as well as the corruption of the Temple in Jerusalem. Both of these institutions were massive political machines at the time, and Jesus stood in opposition to them both. His teachings, sermons, and actions were extremely political. As his message increased in popularity, the powers that be became afraid of his challenge to their authority; and we all know how the story goes from there. When politicians run for office by wrapping themselves in flag and bible, they are making their religion political. When these politicians enact policies and take positions that stand in direct opposition of Jesus’ teachings in the bible, they deserve to be called out. And that is what Pope Francis is doing. He sees the damages and ills done to society by extreme poverty. He sees how the devastating effects of Climate Change will decimate the poorer communities of the world. He sees how important it is that all people have access to healthcare, regardless of income. He sees the ills of the world, and takes the approach that Jesus did, by challenging the powers that be that stand to gain from the status quo. The Pope’s job is inherently political. However, to Republicans, it only becomes “political” when the Pope is talking about issues in a way they do not like.

Pope Francis has brought to light the inherent immorality and blatant elitism that thrives in the Republican Party. The GOP relied on the Church as some sort of moral pillar to give their draconian positions legitimacy. The Church was seen as an infallible moral institution. When it came to abortion and gay marriage, the GOP would hold up the Church as their moral safeguard. Now that the Pope is calling into question the GOP’s positions on poverty, healthcare, climate change, gun safety, and so much more, they can no longer rely on the Church as a moral safeguard. They can’t go out there and say “The Church is right on abortion because they have a longstanding history of morality,” while simultaneously saying, “The Church is wrong on climate change and the Pope needs to stop talking politics.” The double standard there is too glaring. You can’t use the Church as some sort of infallible institution on certain issues, and then say they are wrong on others. Pope Francis has taken the Church in a direction that Jesus would be proud of. He is standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. He is challenging the status quo of our society, and those in power are quaking in their shoes.


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