On Thursday morning, Pope Francis delivered an impassioned and inspiring speech to a notoriously divisive Congress that touched across party lines. Calling upon American politicians to reign in their responsibility to the country’s people, the pope made several heartfelt appeals that spoke to both Democrats and Republicans alike. The progressive pope’s speech moved many Congress members’ even driving House Speaker John Boehner to tears, and championed the religious leader as a liberal icon. Yet while his thoughts on climate change and immigration swayed to the left, his views on marriage and abortion took the usual Christian conservative route questioning whether the Pope can truly take on such a liberal crown.
The quotes below touch upon both conservative and progressive elements of the Pope’s speech, symbolizing him as either a champion of bipartisan unity or yet another cause for chaotic Congressional division.
The Pope advocated to not forget America is a country founded upon immigrants and to welcome them in instead of rejecting them thoughtlessly. He went as far to adhere to The Golden Rule in handling the refugee crisis.
"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."
But of course, using The Golden Rule to also apply to his anti-abortion stance:
Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
He furthered his hot-cold arguments by jumping straight into abolishing the death penalty:
"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...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."
And supporting capitalist values while combating climate change:
"It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable...
In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), 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.
But deploring that family life is being threatened, specifically alluding to the Church's teachings on same-sex marriage.
"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."
The Pope’s inspiring call-to-action received praise from both parties.
Surprisingly, some of Pope Francis’ controversial partisan talking points — whether they fall under Democrat or Republican — did not shift either party from rejecting his speech entirely.
In response to the speech’s spotlighted moment on immigration, Republican presidential candidate brushed off the liberal immigration position.
“I am the son of a Cuban immigrant and have long been a voice that America should not just welcome but celebrate legal immigrants,” Cruz told the New York Times. “That is entirely consistent with believing in the rule of law that we should secure the border and we should know who is coming into this country.”
And Republican representative of California David Nunes similarly shrugged away Pope Francis’ comments on climate change telling The Guardian, “Clearly he’s a believer in climate change, which is fine. Everyone is entitled to his beliefs.”
Some politicians were more vocal with their criticism of the Pope’s differing opinions.
“It sounded like he was talking about things that are generally uplifting,” Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said. “Life, environment, things that anyone should be able to agree with.”
But Carson hit on the pope’s left-leaning stance to the death penalty adding, “I think that’s a civil issue and as such I think the people in the region should make their own decisions.”
While Democratic senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont justified Pope Francis’ anti-abortion remarks that “he has a perfect right to that” belief, she added the hypocritical ignorance that comes with being pro-life, saying, “I wish that … some of those who want to cut off women’s health, cut off food to infants and children, who want to talk about how pro-life they are, realize life means after you’re born too.”
The pope is giving mixed signals as he sways between each party’s idealistic values. And unfortunately, as he has long been upheld as a progressive, his speech’s subtle, less noteworthy provocations reminds liberals to always read between the lines.