A feature article in the Wall Street Journal points out what has been increasingly obvious for two years: That Pope Francis is not just the leader of the Catholic Church, but also the “improbable standard-bearer for many progressives around the world.”
From the paper:
With conservative and nationalist forces on the rise in many places and with figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande on their way out, many on the left—from socialists in Latin America to environmentalists in Europe—are looking to the 80-year-old pontiff for leadership.
“Pope Francis really inspires a lot of people to want to fight. I’m pretty sure if he weren’t the face of the Catholic Church, he’d be out in the street with us,” said Bleu Rainer, an activist in the “Fight for $15” minimum-wage movement in Tampa, Fla., who traveled to Rome last month for an international meeting of grass-roots activists addressed by the pope. “He reinforces our issues and makes them moral issues.”
Francis has made no secret of his liberal leanings. His controversial tenure as pontiff has been colored with comments that endorse open borders, embrace homosexuality, and warn about the dangers of climate change. These remarks have made him a darling of the American media while rankling conservative Catholics who think the Pope should stick to the Church’s teachings and leave politics to the secular world.
Part of this narrative is exaggeration: Francis isn’t quite as much of a radical leftist as conservatives sometimes fear, nor is he the second-coming of Karl Marx as some radical leftists want to believe. He has not changed official church policy on gay marriage, abortion, or any other significant cultural issue. He preaches a Christ-like message of universal compassion that should not be confused with the statist aims of the Democratic Party.
That said, the image of Pope Francis as a force for the leftist cause is not altogether imaginary, either. When he’s out there campaigning against fossil fuels, condemning free market capitalism, and blasting countries that don’t let every refugee on the planet through their borders, he’s stepping beyond his religious messaging.
In the U.S., a slight majority of Catholic voters broke for Donald Trump. By taking veiled shots at The Wall and suggesting that Trump “is not a Christian,” Francis is unnecessarily dividing believers.
“The global left clearly see an opportunity to appropriate the prestige of the papacy for their causes,” Acton Institute’s Samuel Gregg told the Wall Street Journal. “That introduces polarization in the church about issues that Catholics are free to disagree about.”
We won’t presume to tell Pope Francis what is proper for a man in his position to say. But we do hope that he’ll think about what kind of people he’s emboldening – intentionally or not – with some of his rhetoric. The history of socialism and communism is one of oppression, war, and genocide.
Let’s learn from that history.