Thursday, July 23, 2015

The current Pope talks about a wide range of things, shocking American conservatives

This is not surprising at all.

For most of my adult life, Catholicism has been associated in the American public's mind with a particular brand of social conservatism. During that time, the American church has mostly taken public stances on only two political issues: abortion and gay rights. Officially the church has long been anti-poverty, pro-labor, and anti-death penalty, and it opposed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But if you just followed American politics you would never know it. Under Jean-Paul II and Benedict, the American Catholic church seemed determine to make itself seem like a branch of the Christian right. American Bishops talked about denying Catholic politicians communion because they were pro-choice. But I don't recall any ever floating the idea of denying communion to a politician who was pro-death penalty, even though both the Church's position on abortion and the death penalty stem from the same "pro-life" philosophy.

Pope Francis has not changed the official Catholic position on very many issues. What he has done is talk publicly about the church's position on a wider variety of topics than the American public is used to hearing. For the first time since the late 1970s, there is a Pope who is not presenting himself in the U.S. as Pat Robertson in fancier clothes.

(semi-related posts from my archives: 1 2 3)