Pope Francis and American politics

A British publication, The Guardian, believes Pope Francis endorsed “Democrat policy preferences” during his recent visit to the U.S. But that was before it was revealed Francis had met secretly with controversial Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis and urged her to “stay strong.” Left-wing media had a collective coronary.

Ms. Davis is the county clerk who spent several days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The liberal Huffington Post said the Pope “played us for fools” by meeting with Ms. Davis, adding Francis “undermined the goodwill of his trip.”

A Reno newspaper last Sunday published dueling op-ed columns about which major party benefited the most from the papal visit. Liberal Democrats Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan praised the Pope for his “frank criticism of much of the core of U.S. society: capitalism, consumerism, war and the failure to confront climate change,” and for “forging a new, progressive path.”

Ultra-conservative academic Dr. Thomas Sowell countered by branding Pope Francis as “part of a larger trend of the rise of the political left among Catholic intellectuals (who) blithely throw around the phrase ‘the poor,’ and blame poverty on what other people are doing, or not doing, to or for ‘the poor.’”

Although I admire the pope for championing the poor, I question his argument capitalism is to blame for income disparities in the U.S. and around the world. Because, as Sowell argued, capitalism has a much better track record than socialism or any other economic system for creating wealth and jobs.

“The much-criticized market economy of the United States has done far more for the poor than the ideology of the left,” Sowell continued. “Pope Francis’ own native Argentina was once among the leading economies of the world, before it was ruined by the kind of ideological notions he is now promoting around the world.”

Ms. Goodman and Moynihan endorsed the pope’s criticism of capitalism, quoting his recent encyclical on climate change, which charged capitalism “accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings.” But Sowell noted that “by 2001 most Americans living below the official poverty line had central air conditioning, a motor vehicle, cable television with multiple TV sets, and other amenities,” thanks to capitalism.

During his speeches in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., Democrats cheered when the pope advocated “open borders” immigration policies. “To enter the United States from the border with Mexico would be a beautiful gesture of brotherhood and support for immigrants,” he said. Of course he made no mention of drug traffickers and violent felons who pollute the pool of illegal immigrants to the U.S.

On the other hand, Republicans were pleased when Francis championed family values and the sanctity of life. He stressed the importance of families and said life begins at conception, a clear repudiation of Planned Parenthood and the abortion on demand crowd.

Some native Americans complained when the pope canonized Father Junipero Serra, who built a string of California missions and converted thousands of Indians to Catholicism in the 18th century. Valentin Lopez, chair of The Amah Musin Tribal Band, charged “more than 150,000 California Indians died under the system that Father Serra developed. The Indians were a slave labor force for the missions.” Pope Francis and the Church sided with Father Serra.

On balance, Francis had a successful first visit to the U.S. He proved to be a man of the people who’s willing to deal with tough issues like immigration and the abuse of children within the Catholic Church. I wish him well.

Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.


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