Pope Francis was in DC these past couple of days, and the news cycle could talk about nothing else. Literally. I resigned myself to turning TV news off for good and focusing on foreign media and the Wall Street Journal. Traffic was a bear, so I took an admin day in which I sat around the house all day in my pajamas, blogged, and marveled from my balcony at the beautiful day we were having!
I keep wondering if the area was such a nightmare for a papal visit, how the hell does anyone think DC could handle the 2024 Olympics?
But back to the Pope. The visit has, of course, caused numerous discussions about the nature of the Pope’s political views. Is he a socialist? Is he a communist? Should he be using the Catholic Church as his own, personal bully pulpit from which to pressure national governments to implement his leftist agenda? Blah blah blah.
I’m hardly a Catholic, and I’m not religious. So maybe looking at said Pope from the outside, so to speak, I can offer my somewhat more objective opinion.
In his historic address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis urged the politicians to cooperate and exercise basic kindness to others – especially those in dire need of it – immigrants, the poor, and the earth. The political tone was unmistakable: allow immigrants from Latin America to take advantage of the opportunities America offers, take steps to avert “the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity,” share those fruits of capitalist labor…
I wouldn’t mind the message so much if he stuck to delivering it to the people, rather than to those who hold the monopoly on government force. Of course, we need to be kind to others! Hell, the United States is a hugely charitable nation! Inherently there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s a difference in giving to the poor and asking the government to take tax dollars by force (and if you don’t think that taxation is force, try not paying your taxes. See: Al Capone.) To quote Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” the quality of mercy is not strained. You don’t force charity at the point of a government gun, because then it ceases to be charity and becomes just another redistributionist scheme. There’s no virtue in forcing others to give what you think they should give at the point of a government gun.
Kind words. Bad policy.
Immigration made this country what it is today. I am an immigrant, as is everyone in my family. We came here in search of opportunities, and we found them. I have no problem with immigration per se. But there needs to be justice, and there needs to be security. There is no justice in telling illegal aliens, “Since your very first act in the country you claim to love was to violate its immigration laws, we’ll reward you with amnesty!” Sorry, but no! We all understand there are people escaping some pretty horrific abuses out there. We also get there are folks out there seeking economic opportunities they would never find in their own countries. These are all valid reasons for wanting to come to the United States. But to allow those who have entered here illegally to remain, while plenty of immigrants wait for permission is not fair. While the stories may tug at the heart strings, justice is blind for a reason, and using said emotionalist rhetoric as well as the influence of the church to push for injustice is just plain wrong.
Emotional kindness. Bad policy.
And then there’s the environmentalist stuff. Look, no one is denying that conserving resources, finding cleaner technologies, and working for a cleaner planet is a good thing, but to claim that humans cause global warming and to impose onerous government regulations on them that will make their lives more difficult is not kind, and it’s not responsible. It’s one thing to promote a clean planet and urge each person to take responsibility for it, but it’s quite another to urge the government to force people to do so, like these scientists, who recently began urging the Obama Administration to prosecute skeptics using the RICO Act. Many cite the Pope’s alleged Master’s Degree in chemistry as some kind of evidence of his authority on global warming.
Well… a) he doesn’t have a Master’s in chemistry. He was a “chemical technician,” who has degrees in theology and philosophy, and b) even if he did have a degree in chemistry, which he does not, that would not denote expertise in environmental sciences.
Dr. Patrick Moore, formerly of Greenpeace, does have degrees in both ecology and forest biology, and he claims many of the claims regarding climate change are hysteria. A number of other scientists say the IPCC projections on climate change cannot be accurate, including botanist David Bellamy, the former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology Judith Curry, and MIT professor of atmospheric sciences Richard Lindzen. Still more scientists argue that climate change is natural vice man-made – actual scientists such as University of Manchester professor emeritus of chemical thermodynamics Leslie Woodcock, UVA’s Fred Singer, and University of Ottawa environmental geochemist Jan Veizer.
In other words, despite what radical progs like to claim, the science is far from settled, and for the Pope to use the influence of the church to push destructive environmental policies in national legislatures based on scientific evidence that is still being examined and blaming “unbridled” capitalism for the destruction of the environment is blatantly policy prescriptive and dishonest.
Yes, I have policy disagreements with the Pope, and he absolutely has the right to his opinion. That said, going out and pressuring governments to adopt his opinions as policy should be disturbing to all those separation of church and state advocates, who rightfully say that religion and politics must be kept separate.
The Pope seems like a kind man. He’s a tireless advocate for charity, for tolerance, for ending suffering – these are all noble goals and his public advocacy has brought many people I personally know back to the church. My problem is not his views. Kindness, tolerance, generosity, charity are all virtues to be admired. But there’s no virtue in using government force to force those principles on others. There’s no virtue in disingenuously using the emotional power of the church to compel politicians to impose his views on the country.
Government force is not charity, and it’s not a virtue. It’s force.
And despite the Pope’s quite obviously good intentions, in the end the nature of force does not change, and using a very powerful spiritual tool to club politicians over the head in order to coerce them into using government authority over the citizens is not moral or kind. It’s authoritarian.
I don’t think the Pope is a communist. He has good intentions, but he doesn’t consider the nature of government or the consequences of his advocacy. He just wants to do good.