Francis could care less about American political parties or ideologies. He is not liberal or conservative. He is not Democrat or Republican. He is a Catholic. Whatever he says about politics, culture, or the economy stems from this identity.
Francis's visit has called attention to the tired, unimaginative, and intellectually stale way that Americans think about public life. Americans are captive to ideological categories like "Left: and "Right." They are captive to political parties that allow little original thought that does not conform to rigid and limited platforms.
It should thus not surprise us that so many Americans cannot make sense of Francis and his message. As a CNN priest-commentator said last night, when people like what the Pope is saying they describe him as a "spiritual leader," but when they disagree with his views they say he is "getting too political."
I can't wait until he gets to Congress on Thursday.
Pope Francis is pro-life and believes marriage is between and a man and a woman. He has called abortion a "sin," but he has also said that those who have committed this "sin" deserve forgiveness. He believes in climate change. He is a critic of capitalism. He sides with the poor over the rich.
When he talks about these things, he is not being "political." He is being Catholic. Catholicism is not just a religion--it is an all-encompassing way of making sense of the world that is informed by the teachings of the Bible and the traditional teachings of the church over the centuries.
Francis is not changing church teaching, he is merely emphasizing things about it that previous Popes have not.
I could go on and on, but I will let Emma Green continue. Here is a taste of her recent Atlantic.com article, "Pope Francis is Not Progressive--He is a Priest":
Specifically: Francis does not fit neatly into American categories. To understand him and his agenda, it’s more helpful to look at America through his eyes than to look at him through an American’s eyes, for even the most familiar U.S. issue may seem very different to this Argentinian Jesuit. As the pope makes his way from Cuba through Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, the American political spectrum is truly idiosyncratic. This is a country where a Democratic congressman can loudly oppose the death penalty on moral grounds, but can’t risk really opposing abortion; a Republican might care a lot about the poor, but woe unto her campaign coffers if she suggests raising taxes on the rich. “Francis, like all the other popes, like the Catholic Church, simply doesn’t land comfortably on either side of the political divide in the U.S.,” said Vincent Miller, a professor of theology at the University of Dayton. “But it’s not simply that on questions of sexuality and human life he agrees with Republicans and on questions of economics he agrees with Democrats. The whole system is so skewed.”
There is no doubt Francis is a reformer: He has cleaned up Church finances and reorganized the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s bureaucracy. In October, bishops will also gather in Rome for the second of two synods on the topic of family, which may yield changes in how the Church deals with married priests and divorcées. But as with anything in the Church, it’s reform in increments, always in continuity with what has come before. Francis’s style may be different from that of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the two popes who preceded him. But this pope has made painstaking efforts to show how his work is a continuation of theirs, rather than something totally new.