As CNN reported on Tuesday, Pope Francis, perhaps the most left-wing pontiff in the history of the Catholic Church, has touched down in Washington for his first trip to the United States. His arrival comes on the heels of a visit to Cuba, a communist country that has oppressed people of faith for decades. The pope will not only be greeted by President Obama and large, adoring crowds but criticism by conservatives for his attacks on capitalism and even modern technology, such as air conditioning.
Thomas Sowell, an economist, took the pope to task for blaming poverty and income inequality on capitalism. He noted the remarkable progress that Americans have enjoyed in the past century, because of capitalism and the advance of technology.
“In 1900, only 3 percent of American homes had electric lights but more than 99 percent had them before the end of the century. Infant mortality rates were 165 per thousand in 1900 and 7 per thousand by 1997. By 2001, most Americans living below the official poverty line had central air conditioning, a motor vehicle, cable television with multiple TV sets, and other amenities.
“A scholar specializing in the study of Latin America said that the official poverty level in the United States is the upper middle class in Mexico. The much criticized market economy of the United States has done far more for the poor than the ideology of the left.”
George Will was even blunter in his assessment.
“Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony. With a convert’s indiscriminate zeal, he embraces ideas impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary. They would devastate the poor on whose behalf he purports to speak — if his policy prescriptions were not as implausible as his social diagnoses are shrill.”
Will and other pundits usually reserve such language to left-wing politicians, say Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama. In a way, Pope Francis seems to be the polar opposite of Pope John Paul II, whose growing up in Poland informed a disgust for communism and other ideologies that the current pope finds attractive. Francis seems to have absorbed the Peronist ideology of his native Argentina and has taken it on as his own. He is to his predecessor much as President Obama is to President Ronald Reagan.
Pope Francis renders much aid and comfort to the left with his socialistic and deep environmentalist views. Of course his admirers on the left still reject traditional Catholic doctrine on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Will’s final verdict is devastating,
“He stands against modernity, rationality, science and, ultimately, the spontaneous creativity of open societies in which people and their desires are not problems but precious resources. Americans cannot simultaneously honor him and celebrate their nation’s premises.”
That fact presents a grave conundrum for people who are both conservative and Catholic.