Sep 29, 2015

September 28, 2015: Boycotting the Pope, Savaging the Pontiff, A Hopeless Apologist

Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz) announced, ahead of the visit by Pope Francis to Washington, that he intended to ‘boycott’ the Pope’s scheduled address to a joint session of Congress.  The ideologically driven Congressman said he would welcome an address about conventional moral issues, but when the Pope chooses to “act like a leftist politician” by addressing climate change and human exploitation “then he can expect to be treated like one”; with all the scorn and contempt usually visited upon the heads of those who dare deviate from the duly approved ideological imperative. 

Gosar is not alone.  “Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) – who, like Gosar, is Roman Catholic – sat down with Politico this week to flesh out his expectations for the papal address.


‘I’m hopeful that Pope Francis will speak to these two issues: One is the church’s unfailing and steadfast opposition to abortion, the position that life begins at the moment of conception and it ends at natural death, and the dignity of every human person. That’s a position of the Roman Catholic Church that’s really unassailable and I’m hopeful that that position will be reiterated from the floor of Congress next week. I’m looking forward to that.


Second component that is so strong among the Catholic Church is the position of marriage, and it being between a man and a woman.’

Or put another way, Steve King is “looking forward” to his church leader telling Steve King how correct Steve King is. The pope, the argument goes, should stay in the GOP’s lane: there are moral crises, as defined by Republicans that warrant Pope Francis’ concern. Nothing else need be mentioned.” (1)

Declaring threats to the natural world merely, in a word, ‘political’, the GOP has taken the position that morality, a commodity wholly owned by the Republican National Committee, is a limited set of values revolving around the nuclear family and sexual behaviors.  All else, in their view, is ‘mere politics’.  And, since they have been about the business for at least two generations of doing their level best to reduce political life to the lowest intellectual and cultural denominator, the term has taken a pejorative meaning.  To contend, by these lights, that an issue is ‘merely political’ is a way of dismissing it out of hand. 


“In the culture-war debates”, writes Steve Benen for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s blog, “the right routinely argues that policymakers should heed the appeals from religious leaders.  More generally, conservatives express alarm about the left trying to push voices from the faith community ‘out of the public square’.  It’s the religious leaders, the GOP argues, that should help guide public debate”.  Unless, of course, one expands the discussion of morality and virtue beyond the narrow confines of Republican understanding.  Then one risks being ignored.  Representatives Gosar and King were hardly alone.  Three members of the United States Supreme Court, all Roman Catholics, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito likewise skipped the event.  It’s always best, when one has singular possession of truth, not risk such certainties by exposing them to alternative points of view. Justice is indeed not only blind, so it seems, but ignorant.

But the Pope, in coming to Washington, risked not only being ignored but being vilified.   The wrong-wing echo chamber that is Faux News and Talk radio went ape-shit crazy.  Wrong-Wing talk show host and beacon of malignant ignorance Michael Savage had this lead-in to the Pope’s visit.


“He [Pope Francis] has been selected - hand-selected - by the New World Order. He is the first non-European pope in twelve hundred years. The same people who gave us Obama gave us this pope. The same people who gave us Obama and the pope are giving the world a good beating. He is from an area where Marxist theory was used to rule over the people. The pope is a danger to the world. Yes, I'll be very clear on that. He knows about as much about weather as my -- well, let's put it to you this way. The only thing the pope knows about meteorology is that when it rains his highly-paid aides in the Vatican take out umbrellas and open them for him. The man knows nothing about climate. And for a religious man to do this is incomprehensible. How the Catholic people can put up with this, I don't know. And by the way, if he hates capitalism so much and wealthy people so much, I think the pope ought to begin with an example by selling off some of the great art in the Vatican.

And I think this pope, this deceiver -- what do you think because someone wears a holy robe, they're holy? Are you people nuts? How many imams are terrorists? Oh, you're willing to go along with that, aren't you?


Well, the pope is a Marxist. I stand by those words. He is a wolf in pope's clothing, he is an eco-wolf in pope's clothing. He is a stealth Marxist in religious garb.


The man sounds like the false prophet in Revelation. He sounds just like the false prophet in Revelation -- an ecumenical spiritual figure directing mankind to worship the Antichrist. The man is a false prophet. How could you buy this garbage? How in the world can you buy this? The world is cooling off, and the man is pushing this to attack capitalism?


This is unbelievable to me. We are living in global tyranny right now. We are living in global tyranny where the Big Lie is told over and over again. [Cumulus Media Networks, The Savage Nation6/16/15, via Rightwing Watch]” (2)

Such savage treatment was hardly confined to “The Savage Nation”.  Rush Limbaugh, demonstrating in one breath that he knows as little about Marxism and Catholicism as he does about birth control said “that if it weren’t for capitalism, I don’t know where the Catholic Church would be” , concluding “this is pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope.”.  In one foul breath the Icon of Ignorance conflates Catholicism with Marxism by simply overlooking the mere historical fact that Catholicism predates by nearly two millennium the advent of both Adam Smith and Karl Marx. 

From Limbaugh down the corridors of the conservative echo-chamber the voices of greed, gluttony and avarice pontificate.  Faux News’ Brian Kilmeade dutifully weighed in with the observation that the Pope “doesn’t like Capitalism” and “should stay home”.  Faux News’ “Senior Judicial Analyst” Andrew Napolitano “called Pope Francis a "communist" and a "Marxist" for linking the European refugee crisis to global poverty.”  Similarly, the often erudite and always wrong mainstream conservative columnist George F. Will observed:


“Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony. With a convert's indiscriminate zeal, he embraces ideas impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary. They would devastate the poor on whose behalf he purports to speak -- if his policy prescriptions were not as implausible as his social diagnoses are shrill.” (3)

Never mind, George, that given that half the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day, how the poor are so currently well off as to be ‘devastated’ by the Pope’s remedies.  Calling the Pope’s ideas demonstrably false and deeply reactionary is yet another vacuous characterization lacking even a feeble attempt at documenting falsehood or reaction.  In any case it’s rich coming from an established oracle of the status quo to disparage anyone for being ‘reactionary’.   George Will is the quintessential reactionary.

But George Will, whatever his shortcomings, and they are many, is a gentleman sitting at the bar in this den of thieves.  Will, with an air of pompous condescension, simply choses to dismiss the Pope saying:


“He stands against modernity, rationality, science and, ultimately, the spontaneous creativity of open societies in which people and their desires are not problems but precious resources. Americans cannot simultaneously honor him and celebrate their nation's premises.” (4)

It is not only comfortable but profitable to pander to the desires of the masses, regardless of the global consequences.  Conversely it is unprofitable and unpopular to make your audience uncomfortable, best stick to the “tried and true”, the platitudes and bromides of spent dreams.  Such are the scribbling of an old political hack, a hopeless apologist for a fast-fading order. 



(1)  Benen, Steve.  “GOP to Pope: Stick to Religious Issues (as defined by the GOP).  9/22/15




(3)  Ibid.


(4)  Ibid.

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