Jeb Bush is a Roman Catholic. And so, as for many conservative Catholics, Pope Francis’ visit was a bit uncomfortable. But it shouldn’t have been. Liberal Catholics have a long tradition treating the pope with a certain amount of skepticism. But conservative Catholics are the authoritarians. The pope is the guy who dictates what the church is. The conservative Catholics should fall in line. They are certainly the first to say so when the pope says something that they agree with. But not now. And truthfully, not ever when it meant believing something they didn’t want to. If anything, conservative Catholics were even more upset with Vatican II in the mid-1960s.
But that doesn’t make me any more understanding of the obvious hypocrisy. As soon as Pope Francis started saying liberal-sounding things, I started hearing conservatives making excuses. Basically it was some variation on, “I turn to the pope for religious guidance, not political guidance.” But that’s clearly not true. They were more than willing to turn to the pope for political support when it came to abortion or homosexuality. It’s just that they’ve decided that those are religious, whereas things in the Bible about greed and the environment are political. Clearly, I think they ought to do what the liberals do and just admit that they take what they like from the pope and leave the rest.
A recent quote from Jeb Bush really blew my mind, however. In relationship to the pope’s position on global warming, Bush said, “He’s not a scientist, he’s a religious leader.” This goes along with the new Republican line on global warming, “I’m not a scientist.” Bush uses this line himself, “I’m a skeptic. I’m not a scientist. I think the science has been politicized.” So he can’t take advice from the pope because he’s not a scientist. But he can’t take advice from scientists, because the science has been politicized. And that leave him only to trust what he just wants to believe.
This is the modern world in a nutshell: no one in public life is ever expected to suffer for their beliefs. So Bush can go around talking to Latino Catholics about his Catholicism, but that doesn’t mean that it has any effect whatsoever on his thinking. So he could demagogue the Terri Schiavo case because of his faith, but he doesn’t even need to consider a rethink of his anti-environment, pro-oil policies, because it is outside his faith. His faith is defined by his political desires.
This is why it really is different for liberals. We may like it that Pope Francis seems to be on our side on the issues of poverty and global warming. But we never claimed these or any other positions were based on our religious principles. Well, most of us anyway. There are people like Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, who are liberal, anti-abortion Catholics. But note that she actually lets the religion guide her politics, not the other way around. And that is exactly what Jeb Bush and almost all of the Republicans do. They use their religion in the most depraved, sacrilegious way to do the bidding of their politics.
Bush is right: Pope Francis is not a scientist. And neither are the people he listens to for “advice” on global warming. So given that being a scientist isn’t a prerequisite for his taking advice, why doesn’t he listen to Pope Francis? Oh, that’s right: because it isn’t what he wants to believe; it isn’t useful for his political goals; and most of all, because he’s a hypocrite.