You have to be somewhat amused at the response of the “devout Catholics” among the GOP presidential candidates to the things that Pope Francis has been saying. Men who have made appeals to the religious right for decades for support based on their “deeply religious” belief in the “sanctity of life” or the “sanctity of marriage” (among other social issues), are now in the uncomfortable position of distancing themselves from the teachings of the Pope. Here are a few exquisite examples:
Capitalism. The Pope has said that unbridled Capitalism is evil and the cause of mush suffering and injustice in societies. The big boys in the Conservative movement really didn’t like that. Even George Will, the “devoutly Catholic” apologist for Conservatives went apoplectic, suggesting that Pope Francis was radically altering Catholic teaching. In fact, Francis has been giving a more moderate tone to Catholic teaching on Capitalism. Consider for example, the words of Pope Leo XIII in his 1891 Encyclical that the right to hold private property does not exceed the right of the poor to take it to survive. Or the similar teachings of Popes John XXIII or Pope Paul VI.
Immigration. The Pope’s words are a direct rebuke to both the tone and policy of Conservatives regarding immigration. His invoking the historical fact of our origin as a nation of immigrants, the “Golden Rule” and admonition to think of immigrants and refugees not as numbers but as human beings with needs and dreams (a.k.a. “Dreamers”) is quite a contrast to the rhetoric of those devout Catholic right-wing politicians.
Climate Change. Forget about the comments of Bush, Santorum and others that the Pope should leave climate change to the scientists, especially since the issue has long been resolved in the scientific community. How does the Pope not have a right to teach on creation? Why shouldn’t they also leave climate change to the scientists? They want to say that the Pope should not address policy on climate change, even though the Church has been teaching about the responsibility of Christians to protect the environment since at least 1225 (see teachings of St. Francis adopted by Pope Gregory IX).
Those are just a few examples, but what is interesting to me is that the Pope’s reaching on climate change and the duty of Christians has been attacked by these devout Catholics as not a teaching of infallibility. Infallibility has been declared on doctrinal issues very rarely in history. In fact, the teachings on abortion, birth control, celibacy and women ordination are all teachings declared the same way as climate change (i.e. an Encyclical). So, I suppose if hypocrites like Santorum or Bush want to say they are not obligated to follow the teachings on Climate Change, they are also telling their base that they have a similar option on abortion rights. I doubt we will hear those comments.
Now, I am not a Catholic [my children are though], but it does seem to me that one of the more interesting aspects of Pope Francis is that he has exposed the hypocrisy of right wing Catholic Conservatives in the GOP. That’s what happens when a genuine faith is present among the false prophets.