For the unborn, the poor, the rich, and the condemned equally, it is a church of sacrifice, of the Golden Rule, and of a unity of spirit.
In other words, the exact opposite of American politics.
Watching every level of commentary from Facebook posts, blog posts, news stories, and television coverage has been incredibly frustrating for me. Though the Pope himself has powerfully sought to disassociate his causes from the grimy politics of today, both the right and the left of this country have sought to claim him (and condemn him) while willfully ignoring the history and message of the Church.
Pope Francis calls for compassion for immigrants, mercy for the poor, and respect for human life from natural beginning to natural end. These are things the Church has always stood for. I was taught these values by the Benedictine monks at The Portsmouth Abbey School whence I graduated in 1999.
The right attacks the Pope as some Peronist socialist while the left embraces his call for immigration reform and climate change. Yet, willfully ignored by the left and embraced by the right is the Pope’s steadfast belief in the right to life and the institution of traditional marriage, views the right are increasingly frustrated that the American media will not cover with the same breathless enthusiasm as climate change, economic inequality, and immigration.
The fact is the Catholic Church does not fit the current divides in American politics. What is frustrating is watching people breathlessly embrace The People’s Pope’s message, but only the parts that make them feel good.
The Church has never changed in its doctrine and I have found myself quite frustrated with the embrace of Francis while ignoring the fact that he isn’t any different from previous Popes, and in fact Francis is perhaps the Church’s best messengers of its true faith since the early papacy of John Paul II.
Francis is neither a liberal nor a conservative. He is not Obama’s Pope. He is still Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Catholic priest serving the souls of his pastoral mission. American politicians’ continued failure to understand this also constitutes a failure to understand the Church. Pope Francis isn’t in America to fight for anything more than the salvation of all souls. Picking and choosing his views for our own political purposes continues this country’s failure to fully understand Catholicism.
His views don’t come from politics, it comes from his core mission of bringing salvation to our souls and ensuring our rise to Heaven. He doesn’t want to solve income inequality to help elect Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren any more than he wants to protect the unborn to lift up the careers of Ted Cruz or Ben Carson. He is seeking to save souls and bring salvation to all.
The Pope is not an American politician and for those attempting to pigeonhole his (and the Church’s) views in that dichotomy are doing him a disservice. The Church has never changed, and I encourage anyone who finds his message appealing to look up Mass times of their local parish this Sunday and see that Pope Francis’s message isn’t unique in the Catholic Church.
It IS the Catholic Church.