Congress Won’t Congratulate New Pope

Pope FrancisEvery Saturday, Steve Benen over at Maddow Blog does a nice roundup of religious news (focused on, but not exclusive to, its relationship with politics), This Week in God. The format is always the same: there is a feature story and then a bunch of short paragraphs about single news items. It is often fun and always informative. Steve Benen is a legend in the world of liberal blogging, but I actually find this little feature to be his greatest service to the world.

This week, he focused on a story that is actually not new to me: the continued difficulty of the House to pass its de rigueur “Congratulations on being named Pope!” resolution. You see, there’s never been a problem before. The widespread priest sexual abuse scandal that broke primary under Pope John Paul II, did not cause the House to balk at congratulating Cardinal Ratzinger on his election to Pope Benedict XVI. But what’s a bit (Okay, a lot!) of child rape between men? Am I right?! Anyway, congratulations to the Pope was a formal thing and it didn’t mean that Congress approved of everything about the Catholic Church or the Pope.

But somehow, it was different when Cardinal Bergoglio was elected to be Pope Francis. You see, he immediately started in with all that Jesus stuff with that nonsense of “he who is without sin” and humility and caring about the poor. Many members of the House will have none of it. Turning a blind eye to child rape is one thing, but expressing liberal ideas is quite another. This new Pope seems so, well, liberal. It’s like he’s actually read the New Testament!

Remember when Jesus quoted God (They were apparently inseparable!) saying, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me”? Neither can much of the House of Representatives. And the resistance to the Congressional Congrats! card is coming almost exclusively from the supposedly pro-God party. Of the 221 co-sponsors of the House bill, 202 are Democrats. Now you might think, “No problem, a bill only needs 218 votes to pass.” But you must remember the Hastert “Rule”: votes are only allowed if the majority of the Majority wants it. That requires 118 Republicans, and since only 19 of them signed on to sponsor the bill, it’s pretty certain that there aren’t 118 Republicans who are willing to congratulate the new Pope.

So the bill was sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where it could very well die. Benen explained the situation:

The unnamed Republican, who supports the resolution, said GOP lawmakers have complained that Pope Francis is “sounding like Obama” because he “talks about equality.” What’s more, the Pope has blasted “trickle-down economics,” rhetoric that many conservatives consider “politically charged.”

A Religion News Service report added, “[N]early half of all simple resolutions introduced in the last two years were passed, so it’s notable that one praising Pope Francis couldn’t even make it out of committee in this Congress.”

Ain’t that just like the Republicans? Religion is only real if it allows them to hate on the people they want to hate on. But they are right: what the Pope has said is politically charged. Everything every Pope has ever said is politically charged. My biggest complaint about John Paul II was the fact that he was forcefully telling the people of Africa that they shouldn’t use condoms. Of course, the Republicans wouldn’t see that as political, because it doesn’t get in the way of what they see as the purpose of politics: to take money from the lower classes and give it to the rich. But there could be no more political act than promoting a pandemic. Or allowing child rape to continue.

I have hope that after the midterm elections, the House will allow a vote on the resolution to congratulate Pope Francis. But that probably just shows what a terrible optimist I am.

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