President Obama is using Pope Francis to foster wealth redistribution ideas in his speeches on the importance of reducing the gap between rich and poor.
Now that the President’s message of “Hope and Change” has drastically soured over his last few years in office, Obama is hoping the popular pontiff’s vitality will rub off on him. Michael Peppard, a professor of politics and the papacy at Fordham University, posits, “I think Obama probably wants to tap into some of the energy, and tap into some of it for his own message.”
Obama quoted Francis in a recent speech on fiscal policy this month: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?” Although the President has tangled with the Catholic Church on a variety of issues, most notably the contraceptive provisions in the Affordable Care Act, Obama now sees the Pope as an ally.
Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities, is distrustful of Obama embedding Francis’s words into his political speeches. “The danger I see in it is that the pope is not a politician,” he cautioned. “When the pope speaks, there’s a consistent teaching. And the danger would be other people pick and choose, ‘I like this, but I don’t like that.'”
Obama has employed a “pick and choose approach” when it comes to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Expressing values antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the President has announced his approval for gay marriage and is an advocate of abortion. However, Obama views Pope Francis as like-minded when it comes to social issues of immigration or increasing funding for welfare programs. In December, Obama told MSNBC that Francis was an “extraordinarily thoughtful and soulful messenger of peace and justice.”
Arguing that their religious freedom is being violated, U.S. Bishops have criticized the President and Obamacare for mandating that Catholic institutions include a contraceptive provision in the healthcare plans that they offer to their employees. This point of contention is a serious problem in improving the White House’s relationship with the Church.