A Pope And A Republican Walk Into A Bar . . .
I grew up in a blue-collar steel-town in the Rust Belt, schooled by nuns, during the papacy of “The Good Pope” of Vatican II—John XXIII, and the presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the first Catholic President of the United States. It doesn’t get more Catholic than that.
Those were the days, my friend . . . change was in the air. And little Catholic school girls, like myself, were growing into natural liberals. We were the children of American Dreamers and veterans who had fought to make the world safe for Democracy. Nothing would hold us back from making the world a better place for all God’s children to live.
So, imagine my surprise when, as a young adult, it became increasingly clear to me that the Church that had been partially responsible for shaping my political beliefs was becoming more and more conservative—and Republican, as I watched.
As time went by and Americans actually talked about issues like abortion, contraception and same sex-marriage, the clergy, anxious to protect their own social policy agenda from the attack of modernity, found natural allies in the GOP’s growing base on the Religious Right.
It was a marriage made in heaven. Mature, hard-working, mostly white people with conservative social and economic values were welcome under the GOP Big Top.
Today, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind how the Roman Catholic clergy of America lines up politically. Cardinal Dolan regularly appears on Fox News to chat with Bill O’Reilly and shared his thoughts on the Meaning of Christmas—a not insubstantial topic on the Right these days—on the Christmas Eve episode of Fox & Friends.
One of the reasons that Cardinal Dolan particularly interests me is that Dolan and I were born in the same year, into similar circumstances and yet, here he is, culture warrior, apologist for George W. Bush, burier of Church treasure lest sexual abuse victims win it in court settlements, and staunch ally in the Republican campaign to kill Obamacare.
But oh, how the mighty have fallen and now Dolan, who was himself a candidate to succeed Pope Benedict into the papacy, has been demoted by the Unpope, Francis, who has swiftly been labeled a Marxist [of all things] for noting that:
Catholics have concentrated officiously on condemning abortion, contraception, and homosexual acts, while neglecting the greater need for tenderness, mercy and compassion and the obligation to assist the poor and the needy.
That will never do . . . and, evidently, it strikes uncomfortably close to home for American Republican politicians who have to handle Catholics gingerly because they represent a large, sometimes unpredictable swing vote in US elections. Certainly these disturbing new vibes were not wasted on the Brothers Koch who have been moved to lavish a very large donation on Catholic University of America to keep the relationship sweet.
Even more entertaining are the extemporaneous reactions of Catholic Republican politicians to the new “rock star” pope who managed to be chosen Person of the Year by both TIME magazine and The Advocate, a gay rights magazine. Between encouraging nursing mothers to breastfeed in public, bragging that some of his best friends are Marxists, and blasting “trickle-down” economics as an:
opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, [that] expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.
Pope Francis is forcing Republicans to wonder “how do you solve a problem like il Papa?” before he has the world in his thrall and completely de-emphasizes all of those painstakingly constructed “red meat” issues that conservatives hold dear.
One Fox News correspondent has already called the new pope “The Catholic Church’s Obama” to which he appended “God help us!” [teehee]
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) said:
He’s entitled to his opinion, but I think we should look carefully at what he’s saying. It’s easy to draw I think what could be mistaken, superficial conclusions from some of the things that he said. I think he’s a wonderful leader for the church.
Wait a minute! was that Pat Toomey arguing for a separation of church and state?
But my absolute favorite is this little gem tossed off by the exalted House Budget Wonkeroo, Paul Ryan, in which he convincingly demonstrates how little he actually knows about his favorite topic:
The guy is from Argentina, they haven’t had real capitalism in Argentina. They have crony capitalism in Argentina. They don’t have a true free enterprise system.
Now that’s a howler! I’m assuming that Ryan truly believes that Americans “have a true free enterprise system” when, actually, the history of the United States is a history of the triumph of crony capitalism:
Public money and support were essential to creating the nation’s infrastructure in the decades before the Civil War. State and federal funds helped build every major turnpike, canal, bridge, dock, and railroad line. As the historian Steve Fraser writes in The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History, all these enterprises were thus “quasi-public creations … Governments granted them franchises, incorporated them, lent them money, invested in them, provided them with tax exemptions and subsidies and land grants, and even, at times, shared in their management.” And where would Sears and Roebuck or the publishers of books and magazines have been without the postal system? The efficient and egalitarian federal mail knit American manufacturers and consumers into a continental market.
The private sector that Republicans love so much and hold up as a model for all the world to copy became large and prosperous through the financial, legal, even regulatory favors of their “cronies” in government.