A Reactionary Congress Applauds The Pope

| Educate!

Above photo: Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress urging lawmakers to take action on climate change, and sharing his views on the death penalty and immigration. (AP)

United States – The address by Pope Francis to a joint session of Congress Thursday morning was another milestone in the decay of democratic principles in the United States. Never has the separation of church and state, laid down in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, been so flagrantly trampled upon. (See “The Pope in America”)

The event was carried out with all the pomp and circumstance of a presidential State of the Union address, complete with Supreme Court justices in their robes and Pentagon brass in their uniforms, as well as the Obama cabinet, with House Speaker John Boehner and Vice President Joseph Biden seated on the platform behind the Pope side by side.

The speaker was not an elected public official, however, but the head of a religious institution, who was given an hour to expound on his policy preferences, justified quite openly on the basis of the particular religious doctrines he espouses. His audience of congressmen, senators and other high officials interrupted him repeatedly with applause and several standing ovations.

What qualifies Pope Francis to pronounce on what makes a good political leader? He presides over the Roman Catholic Church, one of the most reactionary institutions on the planet, for centuries the foremost enemy of science, reason and social progress.

Prior to his elevation to the papacy in 2013, he had a long career in Argentina, where the Catholic hierarchy embraced the bloodstained military junta that slaughtered tens of thousands between 1976 and 1983. During that period, Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was a leading clerical official in Buenos Aires.

The shameless and ignorant American media has transformed yesterday’s collaborator with a regime of torture and mass murder into today’s “People’s Pope”—the branding logo used by CNN for its nonstop coverage of the papal visit.

All five major networks broadcast the pope’s address live, and will provide round-the-clock coverage of his subsequent appearances in New York City and Philadelphia. No effort will be spared to spread religious claptrap and stultify public opinion.

Besides his remarks at the White House Wednesday and the Capitol Thursday, Francis will address the UN General Assembly on Friday and spend two days in Philadelphia, where the main event is the World Meeting of Families, a biennial event sponsored by the Catholic Church whose goal is to uphold “family values” against such modern “evils” as divorce, cohabitation and gay marriage.

Despite the efforts by the America media and the Obama administration to present Francis as liberal and progressive—the Nation magazine even declared him, in its cover story, a “radical pope”—the views elaborated by the pontiff are, in keeping with the role of the Catholic Church as an institution, deeply reactionary.

Francis issued an encyclical during the summer declaring climate change a reality and a major threat both to human civilization as a whole, and to the poor in particular. But he placed responsibility for the environmental crisis, not on the capitalist system and its drive to maximize private profit, but on industrial technology as such. He demanded, as he did again in his speech to Congress, that technology be “curbed” to limit the production of greenhouse gases.

This is pure Malthusianism—an updating of the reactionary doctrine of Thomas Malthus, an economist (and Protestant cleric) of the early 19th century, who declared that economic development inevitably produced overpopulation, with catastrophic consequences. The solution for Malthus, like the Pope—and many so-called environmentalists—is to turn the clock back and condemn much of humanity to a primitive subsistence life.

It is true that in his speech to Congress, as well as in other appearances in Washington, Francis voiced opinions on issues like the capital punishment and immigration that put him at odds not only with the Republican Party, but the Democrats as well. (Obama, for example, is a firm supporter of the death penalty).

This only provides another yardstick to measure how far to the right the official political spectrum in the United States has shifted. Even the representative of the Catholic Church finds himself on the “left,” at least some of the time, compared to official Washington.

But Francis was careful not to offend the US political establishment. He criticized capital punishment, but made no mention of the drone missile strikes—assassinations carried out by presidential order, without the sanction of any court or trial—which have become routine under the Obama administration.

He began his speech to Congress by praising the United States, in the most hackneyed jingoistic terms, as “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” How that squares with the reality of omnipresent NSA spying, police killings and a military establishment that regularly incinerates defenseless people with remotely controlled missiles and bombs, he did not bother to explain.

At most, as when he told Congress, “The people of this continent are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” Francis was warning the US ruling elite against going overboard in whipping up chauvinism and anti-immigrant sentiment, because this could discredit it internationally and make the conduct of US imperialist foreign policy more difficult.

In the course of his visit to the US capital, Francis made two calculated gestures to encourage the most reactionary forces in American society. The first was his public praise of the American bishops for their “courage” in handling the crisis over the exposure of rampant sexual abuse by priests, a declaration that outraged advocates for the victims.

The second was an unscheduled stop at the headquarters of the Little Sisters of the Poor. This was a clear political signal, because this religious order has been at the forefront of the reactionary campaign to deny contraceptive benefits under the Affordable Care Act, in the name of preserving the “religious liberty” of employers to impose their prejudices on their employees.

The author also recommends:

The Pope in America
[24 September 2015]

The “dirty war” Pope
[3 March 2013]

  • cruisersailor

    The low point for Congress was when they had Netanyahu speak.

  • John F. McMullen

    He, as the head of the Vatican State, deserved the same treatment as any head of state. As a moral force in the world, he deserved even greater treatment — he was not there attempting to convert anyone to Catholicism or even Christianity but, rather, a spokesman for the poor and disadvantaged. I’d love to hear the Dalai Lama address the same group. The criticism is reactionary.

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    The Pope certainly deserved similarly enthusiastic applause from the hypocrites populating the Temple of Mammon that Netanyahu got.

    He should have told them truth about their conduct, there by providing us the pleasure of watching their confusion. That would probably gain him martyrdom, since they would immediately start planning his assassination, so they could install another Ratzinger.

  • TecumsehUnfaced

    I’m sure they are having many lower ones that you don’t know about, and the prostitute media is certainly not going to tell us about.

  • kevinzeese

    Don’t all heads of state deserve criticism when they are wrong and support when they are right. Should the Pope be treated any differently? If so, why? He leads a church with a terrible history; a church that has a lot to make-up for. Thankfully, for the first time in my lifetime, there is a decent pope but even he is fallible.

  • Lisa Oldendorp

    “The views elaborated by the pontiff are… deeply reactionary” Really? You’d better go back and listen to some of his speeches again. Granted, he’s not on the far left as you see it, but he is far from reactionary. The Pope is also a diplomat and chose not to publicly excoriate America for some of our indefensible and immoral transgressions. Your attempt to politicize this visit is to misunderstand the Pontiff’s visit to America, which he stated himself, was not political in nature. Too bad you’re so close-minded to see the immense good that may come from this visit. Yes, let’s have more religious leaders remind our politicians of their moral and ethical obligations to ALL the people, not just the wealthy elite. For the record, I’m a Unitarian Universalist.

  • didactic1

    Maybe the author would have enough happier if they booed?

  • didactic1

    I love UUA because you can’t be defined.

  • Linda Jansen

    Kevin, if you read one of the linked articles at the bottom of the original, you wouldn’t label this Pope as “decent.”

    From the article (The “dirty war” Pope): “The excised statement included the pledge that the Church ‘in no way intends to take a critical position toward the action of the [Argentine] government,’ as its ‘failure would lead, with great probability, to Marxism.’ It declared the Catholic Church’s ‘understanding, adherence and acceptance’ in relation to the so-called “Proceso” that unleashed a reign of terror against Argentine working people.

    “This support was by no means platonic. The junta’s detention and torture centers were assigned priests, whose job it was, not to minister to those suffering torture and death, but to help the torturers and killers overcome any pangs of conscience. Using such biblical parables as ‘separating the wheat from the chafe,’ they assured those operating the so-called ‘death flights,’ in which political prisoners were drugged, stripped naked, bundled onto airplanes and thrown into the sea, that they were doing ‘God’s work.’ Others participated in the torture sessions and tried to use the rite of confession to extract information of use to the torturers.

    “This collaboration was supported from the Vatican on down. In 1981, on the eve of Argentina’s war with Britain over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, Pope John Paul II flew to Buenos Aires, appearing with the junta and kissing its then-chief, Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, while saying not a word about the tens of thousands who had been kidnapped, tortured and murdered.)”

  • DHFabian

    Related to this, I’ve certainly noticed how our liberal media have carefully side-stepped Pope Francis’ many talks about our (collective) responsibility to adequately aid the jobless poor, the disabled and the elderly. We’ve been through a very long era of liberals promoting middle class elitism and notably failing to address the actual consequences of our anti-poor policies.

  • DHFabian

    The pope was speaking in a nation with a terrible history — one that has (with this generation) reversed course on a century of progress on socioeconomic policies, with some very ugly consequences.

    That said, can Pope Francis be held responsible for all the evils through history that were committed in the name of the church? When church leaders actually have tried to address this, they were pushed aside as “hypocrites.” Churches are human-run organizations, prone to the same dark cultural impulses as society, itself.

  • DHFabian

    (It’s a common knee-jerk reaction against what some assume Christianity is about, and/or against religion in whole.) That said, I have no illusions that Pope Francis has any influence on the US. He does tend to stick close with what Jesus taught, and this isn’t compatible in a country where liberals promote middle class elitism and the rich worship wealth and the wealthy. That’s just the way it is.

    On responsibilities to all people: Americans can easily figure out that not everyone can work (health, etc.) and that there aren’t jobs for all. They can surely see the grave shortcomings in our deregulated corporate state. What is this generation’s response to our poverty crisis? Right.

  • DHFabian

    We aren’t all anti-Israel. The other perspective: Israel is a tiny country, the sole Jewish nation, surrounded by vast, oil rich Arab nations. Those Arab nations are all heavily armed by Russia, China and the US.