On Thursday, Pope Francis spoke before a Joint Session of Congress, where he explicitly lectured Americans on illegal immigration, redistribution of income, the death penalty, and climate change, but made only veiled references to abortion and same-sex marriage. It is no wonder President Obama was so happy to see the Pope in Washington, D.C.
The Pope began his address by telling legislators that he is a “son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.” He did not mention what responsibility other countries in our hemisphere carry for their own citizens.
The Pope continued that Congressional authority sprang from the need to pursue the “common good,” adding, “legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”
In Constitutional terms, this is plainly untrue. Legislative authority does not spring from care for the people, but from the consent of the people and non-violation of their rights.
Every dictatorship in history has justified its authority on the basis of care for people, but in the American vision, the people are not children to be led by the hand or cared for, but to be protected from encroachment upon their God-given freedoms.
After giving a well-stated, meaningful reflection on Moses’ role in the Bible – both patriarch and conduit for God – the Pope moved on to an appeal to the poor, the elderly, and youth, citing specifically Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
The Pope characterized Lincoln’s legacy thusly: “Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.” Actually, Lincoln’s legacy wasn’t cooperation: it was fighting the evil of slavery through force of arms. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died to fight slavery. Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, not the Great Conciliator.
But in the name of Lincoln, the Pope then soft-pedaled the fight against radical Islam:
Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind.
Well, no. There are some forms of religion that are more prone to extremism and violence than others, and this form of religious multiculturalism is odd coming from the leader of the world’s most powerful proselytizing religious institution. He continued:
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. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place…. Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice.
Obviously, we have to avoid engaging in evil acts. But labeling the distinction between good and evil “simple reductionism” runs directly counter to the dictates of morality. Lincoln would have found this appalling, because Lincoln did not preach moral relativism.
As Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address, while justifying the bloodiest war in American history, “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just – a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”
The Pope then jumped into pushing wealth redistributionism:
We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.
Later on, he continued:
If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.
Nonsense. If politics serves individuals, it serves individual freedom. Redefining the “service of the human person” as the “compelling need to live as one” is both a linguistic and moral perversion. Mao would have agreed with the Pope on this one.
This veiled call for socialistic government economic intervention then gave way to a completely incorrect interpretation of American politics: “The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States.”
No, actually. Cooperation is not the general spirit of American politics, nor has it ever been. American politics has been based around the notion that contentious debates regarding policy generally end in gridlock, preserving freedom by preventing an ever-growing government. But the Pope seems to be reading from President Obama’s hymnal, in which government is simply a word for what we all do together.
Pope Francis made a veiled reference to religious freedom without referring explicitly to either Obamacare or the latest legislative attempts to destroy religious businesses on behalf of homosexual marriage (“It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard”), then moved quickly onto illegal immigration, where he proceeded to relate America’s treatment of immigrants to original American settlers’ treatment of Native Americans:
In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.
Dissecting this logic requires a neurosurgeon. Apparently, the Pope believes that America’s original immigrants mistreated the natives, and that the current native-born of America thus ought to welcome illegal immigrants. This, to be sure, makes no sense, but it certainly places the onus on Americans instead of those breaking American law. The Pope continued along these lines:
Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Opposing illegal immigration is not matter of discarding “whatever proves troublesome.” It is a matter of preserving a country with values worth preserving, and doing so by either assimilating new immigrants or limiting immigrants to those who wish to assimilate.
The Pope’s only reference to abortion came next: “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
This, you would think, would lead to a full-scale attack on America’s disgusting abortion culture, funded and promulgated by Democrats sitting in front of the Pope. But no. That veiled reference was it. And the Pope used the veiled reference to swivel not to abortion but to the death penalty.
Yes, the death penalty.
The Pope was far more interested in lecturing federal legislators about saving the 35 murderers executed in the United States under state law in 2014 than the million innocent unborn children killed every year in the United States under federal auspices:
This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.
Would he tackle abortion now? Not a chance. The Pope again launched into a broadside against capitalism, praising Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement before adding, “I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty… It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth.”
But the Pope did not attribute the global rise in living standards to the power of capitalism. Instead, he called for its tremendous limitation on behalf of global warming:
In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps,” and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies…
No courageous actions and strategies to fight abortion or same-sex marriage. But the war on the air conditioner proceeds apace.
And, it turns out, the war for pacifism:
When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism.
Given that no other major international deals regarding armed conflict have been signed in the recent past, this must be a coded reference to President Obama’s Iran deal, which the Pope supported.
Finally, at long last, the Pope’s more conservative supporters must have been excited to hear him speak about the family as he transitioned into a discussion of his upcoming appearance at the World Meeting of Families:
It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. 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.
Did this lead to a discussion of traditional marriage? It did not. The Pope instead redirected to a vague statement about “the young,” whom he says are trapped in a “hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair” rather than starting families. Given that the Justices of the Supreme Court attended the speech, it would have been an opportune moment to say something about Justice Kennedy, a Catholic, writing glorification of homosexual relationships into the Constitution. Alas, the Pope continued not to speak truth to power, instead opting for leftist tropes that will please the media and do little to redirect the nation’s moral conversation.
For years now, Pope Francis’ more conservative defenders have stated that his words have been consistently misinterpreted by the media. There’s truth to that. But there was no way to misinterpret his speech today, delivered in plain English to an adoring left.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.