Thursday, May 14, 2015

And He's Not Even The Polish Pope

They say even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Obversely, even a well-functioning automobile or appliance sometimes malfunctions. And so it is that

The Vatican announced Wednesday that it would soon sign a treaty that includes recognition of the “state of Palestine,” lending significant symbolic weight to an intensifying Palestinianpush for international support for sovereignty that bypasses the paralyzed negotiations with Israel.

Palestinian leaders celebrated the Holy See’s endorsement as particularly important, given the international stature of Pope Francis. For Israelis, it was an emotional blow, since Francis has deep relationships with Jews dating back decades, and Christians are critical backers of their enterprise.

“The Vatican is not just a state. The Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide, including Palestinians, and has vast moral significance,” said Husam Zomlot, a senior Palestinian foreign-affairs official.

Correction, Mr. Zomlot: The Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics worldwide, including Palestinians, but in Palestine only those of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Rite categories, which would exclude the more numerous Eastern Orthodox and "Oriental" Orthodox Catholics, as well as a few Protestants.

Fortunately, there is a US House of Representatives, a chamber whose representation reflects population size because each district is home to an almost identical number of people (which also gives rise to gerrymandering, which admittedly is a problem).  Some of those are districts whose population is fairly homogenous, economically, ethnically, or religiously.

Presumably that holds true for Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, who stated "I'm surprised that the pope would recognize Palestine when they're still haters who want to eliminate Israel off the map and don't recognize Israel. The Pope is the head of his religion and he makes those calls for himself, but I represent 700,000 people from East Texas and a vast majority agree with me."

Fortunately they do, and Gohmert is a splendid example of the stopped clock being right occasionally.  Competition comes from Stephen Duncan, representing a district (presumably heavily Protestant) in South Carolina, who remarked “I’m disappointed.  Now the Pope is legitimizing a Palestinian state without requiring those who get recognition to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

That is the crux of the problem, and a fairly obvious one at that, and these guys deserve some credit for criticizing the most prominent Christian leader of the world and most prominent leader of the most popular religion, Christianity, in the USA. This does not come without its peril.

Even in areas in which Catholics are very much outnumbered, that takes a little courage. It becomes clear when hearing Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), a Roman Catholic who also disagrees with Pope Francis on Israel, who hopes when the latter comes to Washington he

focuses on issues [where] he can make a difference — the "non-negotiables"— like abortion, same sex marriage and the like...  

How do you deal with a poverty problem? There’s not a Catholic [fix], contrary to the arguments of certain economists that work at the Vatican.  But there’s a Catholic view on life, on marriage, on the rights of parents and education. So I hope he sticks to this.

I feel your pain, Tim. I wish the Pope would stick to issues to which moral authority is applicable- greed, economic inequality, poverty, and the like- rather than international affairs. Alas, that would be a sort of "cafeteria politics," not unlike the "cafeteria Catholicism" many conservatives criticize.

And it's a little late for Repub politicians to question a religious leader's involvement in politics. A few months ago CNN reported

The wooing of white evangelical and born again Christian voters by potential presidential candidates has been an ongoing process that began soon after President Barack Obama won a second term in 2012. In the past six months alone, Marco Rubio spoke at South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan's "Faith and Freedom" fundraiser; Jindal, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Huckabee addressed the Iowa Family Leader Summit; and Ben Carson was the keynote speaker at the Family Leader's annual fundraising dinner.

And that was before Scott Walker announced his plans to meet with Christian conservatives in Washington, D.C., before Ted Cruz announced his presidential candidacy at the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and before John Ellis Bush on Saturday makes his pitch at Liberty to entangle the right's brand of Christianity more thoroughly with State. (That's the guy the media affectionately calls "JEB," who supposedly stood out as a Republican standing against theocracy.)

Wherever Pope Francis goes, he reminds us, as Charles Pierce does, that "the Gospels are not the 2012 Republican Party platform." It may be a bumpy ride because on the way there, he will get some things wrong, as he has with the Middle East. However, as George Peppard as Banacek once said in a whole different context, "a twisting road will take you to Warsaw- but you won't be bored."

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