George Stephanopoulos, the former Clinton White House staffer-turned-ABC News anchor, challenged Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on This Week Sunday morning by playing “the Pope card”: “You don’t think he’d Pope would endorse your budget, do you?” he asked the House Budget Committee chair. Stephanopoulos was referring to Pope Francis’s recent comments about inequality in his first encyclical, which was widely hailed by the left.
Ryan responded that “popes don’t endorse budgets,” but he also could have pointed out the blatant hypocrisy of Stephanopoulos’s gambit. The use of the Pope by the media and the left is completely contradictory: on the one hand, they reject the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, abortion, and birth control; on the other hand, they embrace its aspirations to economic equality and to assisting the poor, selectively invoking religious faith.
It was Stephanopoulos who first introduced the topic of birth control to the 2012 presidential elections, when he blindsided Mitt Romney with a question about restricting it–a prelude to the Obama campaign’s hyperfocus on the topic as part of its “war on women” campaign to demonize Republicans. The Pope would certainly not have endorsed Stephanopoulos’s position–neither Francis nor his “conservative” predecessor Benedict XVI.
Journalists are not priests. And there is nothing wrong with people emphasizing different aspects of religion. The problem comes when the media use religion a cudgel against Republicans–and only Republicans: they are extremists for holding conservative social views, hypocrites for falling short of their own moral standards, and heretics for believing in free enterprise. Democrats, by contrast, are usually left free to cite religion at will.