, Salem, MA


December 9, 2013

Column: The pope — what he says, how he says it


I tried to make this point a few months ago, when the pontiff was first elected. Many readers wrote back with an almost fanatical need to tell me, “He’s ours now, Christine, just deal with it!” I felt a bit like what I imagine Czechoslovakia experienced when Hitler annexed the Sudetenland.

I don’t doubt that many liberals feel particularly heartened by a Catholic leader who seems to affirm their own squishy positions on social issues simply because he eschews the more tendentious or critical tones of his predecessors. But if they took the time to read what he’s really saying and not merely latch onto the tone he uses when saying it, they’d know that he rejects their stands on abortion, gay marriage, birth control and female priests.

On the other hand, I have some news for Rush Limbaugh and the increasingly defensive conservatives who miss John Paul II: This pope, who understands what it means to live under a totalitarian regime, is not a Marxist. I broke with Rush years ago, realizing that his shtick was primarily packaged for its entertainment value. He’s a brilliant marketing specialist, himself being the only product on the shelves, but his rhetoric does more damage to the conservative movement than Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the pink-sneakered blonde from Texas combined. I wish he would just shut up.

No, Rush, the pope is not a communist. Simply because he decries the effects of unchecked capitalism and believes that there is an obligation to minister to the poor does not signify his transformation into a sacred Sandinista. As my friend Dan Cirucci noted a few days ago, “Every day the church clothes, feeds, houses and educates more people than any other organization of its type anywhere in the world. . . . All of the good which the church does would not be possible without the economic engine of capitalism.”

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