POLITICS

Why Conservative Catholics Should Chill About The Pope

"Francis is a big liberal on economic issues and a social conservative."
If Francis is trying to "guilt people into leftist policies," he's not the first pope on that mission.
If Francis is trying to "guilt people into leftist policies," he's not the first pope on that mission.

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) grabbed himself a moment in the media spotlight by declaring that he would boycott the pope's address to Congress because of its focus on climate change. Pope Francis' climate discussion "has adopted all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into 'climate justice' and is being presented to guilt people into leftist policies," Gosar wrote on Townhall.com.

But Gosar's pontiff-pouting is excessive. Though his writings and comments on climate change, homosexuality and income inequality have earned him a reputation as "the liberal pope," Francis isn't much different than his two immediate predecessors, journalist Tim Carney argued on HuffPost's "So That Happened" podcast.

"If the pope got to vote in Congress and they got a voting scorecard, Francis would have looked like Benedict and John Paul," said Carney, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a columnist for the Washington Examiner. "John Paul and Benedict would have been big liberals on economic issues and social conservatives, and Francis is a big liberal on economic issues and a social conservative."

Carney argued in a lengthy Examiner story that Pope Francis' apparent liberalism results more from a shift in emphasis than from any actual policy changes coming out of the Vatican.

The Roman Catholic Church might be well known for its opposition to birth control and abortion, but the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops typically stakes out liberal positions when it lobbies on issues like unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance. These efforts usually fail to make news.

As for Francis' recent letter giving all Catholic priests the discretion to absolve the "sin of abortion," Carney said that U.S. bishops had already delegated such discretion to priests.

"It was more of a symbolic action, and more about emphasis and tone than about any actual church policy in the U.S.," Carney said. "But that symbolic action, that emphasis and tone, that's important. That's the biggest difference with this pope."

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