Congressional Republicans invited Pope Benedict XVI to address Congress a while ago. Boy, do they wish they could rescind that invitation now that the much more progressive Pope Francis is gearing up to come to Washington on Sept. 24.
The pope’s encyclical on climate change in June was a groundbreaking document and the call to arms the environmental movement has been longing for. Photo credit: Shutterstock
The people’s Pope has been on a tear lately, one week suggesting that women who have had abortions might be forgiven, the next week saying there might be room in the church for divorced people and fast-tracking the annulment process.
All this forgiveness seems downright un-Christian to the conservative right, both here and Vatican observers say, within the church hierarchy where a culture war and conservative backlash is brewing. What has conservatives in such a tizzy? The Pope had already implied that atheists who live a moral life might find a way into heaven and declined to pass judgment on gay people (literally, he said, “Who am I to judge?”). This forgiving, inclusive and compassionate church is not the one conservatives signed up for.
Let’s review some of the more “radical” things the progressive pontiff has said and done just in the last few months that have set the right-wing’s blood boiling anew.
1. Pope Francis said it is our moral duty to address climate change.
The Pope’s encyclical on climate change in June was a groundbreaking document and the call to arms the environmental movement has been longing for. It told the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics—and everyone else for that matter—that it is our moral duty to save the Earth from this ongoing manmade destruction. The encyclical helped close the gap between science and religion and pointed out that the world’s most vulnerable citizens suffer the brunt of climate instability. It also called out capitalism, consumerism and greed as primary culprits for the Earth’s destruction.
Sure enough, the encyclical was taken as sacrilege among prominent Republican Catholics here at home, including Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum, who suggested the Pope leave science to the scientists, which of course, is precisely what he did. Conservatives like Jeb Bush did not appreciate the swipe at his one true religion, capitalism. “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my Pope,” he told his supporters at the time.
Climate change has amazingly and depressingly become the most contentious issue in America, more so than abortion, according to recent polling from the Carsey Institute. At least the Pope is on the correct side of this inexplicably polarizing issue.
2. Pope Francis said women who have had abortions can be absolved of their “sin.”
The Pope did not go quite so far as to suggest that abortion is not a mortal sin, but he did go where no Pope has gone before when he recently announced a year of mercy (starting this December) during which women who have had abortions can seek and be granted absolution. Repentance is, however, a prerequisite. It’s not a full-on feminist victory or anything, but it is a tiny step.
That did not go over well among our rabid anti-abortion (and it seems, anti-forgiveness) wing like Huckabee, Cruz, Santorum and Walker, for starters. And once again, Jeb Bush found himself disagreeing with and even lecturing the leader of his faith, suggesting that if anyone deserves mercy, it isn’t those sinful women, it’s the “unborn.” Bush did like the sound of repentant women, though and gave lip service to being pro-mercy.