Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bernie Sanders and the Pope chatted briefly at the Vatican: What do you suppose they talked about?

Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis met briefly in Rome last weekend. What do you think they talked about? Do you suppose Bernie stole a line from Fiddler on the Roof and said something like, "You're a good man, Your Holiness. It's too bad you're not a Jew."

Probably not. Their meeting was very brief, dignified and perfectly appropriate. No photo ops, no press releases, no sound bites from the Pontiff.  The two may have spoken briefly about social justice. As Bernie said later, in response to a reporter's question, "I conveyed to [Pope Francis] my great admiration for the extraordinary work that he is doing all over the world in demanding that morality be part of the economy." And they may have said a few words about climate change, about which they hold very similar views.

Pope Francis himself played down his fleeting encounter with Bernie and Jane, saying that their exchange was merely a sign of good manners:
When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more. This is good manners. It's called good manners and not getting mixed up in politics. If anyone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, they should see a psychiatrist.
Of course, Bernie and Pope Francis disagree on some things: same-sex marriage and abortion, in particular. But that did not prevent the two from greeting each other with respect and courtesy. 

Perhaps this brief meeting between Bernie and the Pope provides a model for how Catholics and our nation's political leaders should interact. It is now quite clear that the United States is not a Christian society; it is a postmodern society. By and large, our nation has rejected Catholic values concerning the dignity of life and the sacred nature of the family. As Catholics we must accept this fact.

But our nation's political elites should at least treat Catholics and our Catholic faith with respect--as Bernie did when he bumped into Pope Francis last weekend. During the last eight years, President Obama has barely concealed his contempt for the Catholic Church and the basic tenets of our Catholic religion.

But Bernie, by interacting respectfully with Pope Francis, implicitly signaled his respect for American Catholics and for our faith. And he also acknowledged areas of agreement between his progressive values and our Catholic values. 

This is all Catholics can ask of a presidential candidate, but we are at least entitled to that. Unfortunately, if Hillary is elected President, we can expected to be treated with the same dismissive contempt that Barrack Obama showed us. And that is one of the reasons I voted for Bernie in the Louisiana Democratic Primary.

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