Littwin: The Bernie Sanders pope praises and rebukes Congress
September 26, 2015
Maybe the most telling moment of Pope Francis' address to Congress came when he finally got to abortion. This would be, at last, the Republicans' turn to glow in the papal light.
Sure, the pope had come to chide them — if in the gentlest of tones — on immigration, on climate change, on poverty, on political dysfunction, even, obliquely, on the Iran nuclear deal. Everyone knew what was coming. The pope had tipped his hand long before pulling up to the Capitol in his anti-Trumpmobile Fiat.
And so when the pope, while invoking the Golden Rule, finally preached that it is "our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," Republicans rose to their feet to applaud. Democrats had no choice but to follow. And if the pope didn't say abortion exactly, he had used the code words — "protect" and "life." It was clear what he meant.
But then came the next line: "This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty."
Yes, the death penalty. "Every life," he would say, "is sacred," as if to ensure that we saw the contradictions. It was that kind of speech.
And if the pope didn't come to score political points, he did come to tell his version of the story of what makes America great, and let's just say it's a narrative that not everyone embraces.
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No one questions the church's — or the pope's — views on abortion, of course. The church's recent role in the debate has overwhelmed its longstanding social-justice message. But the pope's speech, which skipped lightly over same-sex marriage and the other battles in the culture wars, made clear that he thinks a pro-life philosophy doesn't begin or end with abortion. It must have been only a sad coincidence — for those who hoped the pope's words had changed anything — that later in the day, the Senate would hold yet another futile vote on defunding Planned Parenthood.
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