1. Pope Admonishes Obama for Attacks on Religious Liberty
If his first public words on U.S. soil indicate the pope’s most pressing concern, then it is clear Francis is troubled by the way our country is diminishing religious expression. Minutes after landing in the United States, Pope Francis opened his speech at the White House with a bold assertion. He called attacks on religious liberty “unjust discrimination” and said religious freedom is “one of America’s most precious possessions.”
2. Pope Admonishes Congress for Political Gridlock
In his congressional address, Francis repeatedly called for a “renewal of that spirit of cooperation.” He denounced a culture that tends to politicize social issues, which polarizes policymakers. He even went so far as to call these sorts of political shenanigans un-American, reminding us that demonizing others for political or personal gain “is something which you, as a people, reject.”
3. Pope Celebrates the American Dream
The waterworks started early for House Speaker John Boehner, when Pope Francis opened his congressional address with a greeting to “the land of the free and home of the brave.” But the pontiff’s admiration for the American Dream did not end there. He talked about America as the hope of much of the world, “the land of dreams,” going as far as to speak on behalf of oppressed people around the world: “For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation.”
4. Pope Denounces Government Overreach
In his speech before Congress, the pope demonstrated a nuanced understanding of liberty when he suggested that all freedoms are related, and the decline of any of these results in the deterioration of them all.
“A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom, and individual freedoms.” It is important to note that Pope Francis wants to eschew all ideology (including ones that call for massive government interventions). In fact, while Francis was in Cuba, he urged Cubans to “put humanity before ideology,” a pointed jab at Communism and all collectivist ideologies.
5. Pope Praises American Federalism
Unless you are Catholic, you might have missed Pope Francis’s repeated use of the term “subsidiarity.” This word encapsulates all that is good and right about American federalism. Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority. Pope Francis clearly understands the dangers of centralized authoritarian governments and, in the American context, reaffirms the church’s endorsement of policies that reduce the power of the federal government.
6. Pope Affirms Merits of the Free Market
No, this is not the great Onion headline about the power of Oreo cookies. Francis called business and commercial activity a “noble vocation.” He even went so far as to praise the American “spirit of enterprise,” a nod to the good the free market can do for society, provided that the citizenry is moored by sound principles.
7. Pope Equates Planned Parenthood to State-Sponsored Execution
Some pro-lifers are probably dissatisfied with Pope Francis’s comments about the sacredness of life during the congressional address. Although he did affirm his staunch pro-life position when he exhorted Americans to “protect and defend life at every stage of its development,” he immediately shifted the focus to capital punishment. Note that Pope Francis effectively equated abortion to state-sponsored execution, which is covert way to reaffirm his pro-life views.. If there is any question as to his position on abortion, just read his remarks to the U.S. bishops yesterday.
8. Pope Encourages Obamacare Opponents
Pope Francis visited the Little Sisters of the Poor, demonstrating his solidarity with one of the foremost opponents of Obamacare’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that all employers buy contraception for employees, even those that work as abortifacients.
9. Pope Calls for Honest Debate on Climate Change
Pope Francis called for open “dialogue” 12 times during his congressional address. If the move to prosecute “climate deniers” using RICO laws is any indication, the last thing the Left wants is an open and honest debate about climate change. But Pope Francis encouraged everyone to participate in the deliberation: “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
10. Pope Laments Redefinition of Marriage
Pope Francis concluded his congressional address by grieving the loss of traditional family values. In no uncertain terms he declared that human flourishing would be diminished because of the redefinition of the family: “Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.”
Pope Francis’s pastoral sensibility and gentle demeanor continue to make him one of the most popular figures in the world. It ought to be the hope of many Christians and conservatives that this popularity encourages his admirers—many of whom are leftists or openly skeptical of religion—to reexamine the moral foundations of the man for whom they have such regard. I think they might find a new appreciation for traditional, Christian orthodoxy.