Shortly after assuming the papacy — or perhaps as he was headed to the swearing in — the Pope was given a tour. A Vatican steward opened the double doors of an enormous closet and gestured grandly to show his Holiness the raiments he would wear for the various holidays and occasions.  To which the Pope allegedly responded: “Close it up.  Take it away.  The circus is over.”

It’s not clear whether any of this actually happened.  It may be apocryphal.  But — as the conservative Catholic columnist friend who related it to me over Thanksgiving dinner and I agreed — it really doesn’t matter.  It’s true even if it didn’t happen.

This columnist and I agree on very little else, but we agree on this much: we love Pope Francis.  And everyone else at the table agreed.  A Pope who truly gets Christ’s teachings!

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One of the many things the columnist and I don’t agree on: Medicaid expansion.  My guess is that the Pope would come down on the side of the governors who are accepting Federal money to cover more low income people.  Likewise, that his Holiness would bridle at cutting food stamps for the hungry.  My conservative Catholic columnist friend, a vocal Republican . . . even while characterizing this Pope and all his recent predecessors as “socialists” . . . could not take that leap.  “Who can say where Pope Francis would, or Jesus would have, come out on these questions?”

My own view: any idiot can say.  But what do I know?  Religion and ideology both run deep, and seem to co-exist in happy self-contradiction when faith in both is strong enough.

UPDATE:  The Pope actually gives us a few more clues as to his thinking in this, his just-released, 224-page First Apostolic Exhortation.  As summarized here.  The official Vatican translation includes, for example:

54.  In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power . . . 

This is not to say the Pope — or Jesus — should have the last word on economic policy.  But in light of this 224-page treatise, I do think it’s hard to argue that “we can’t know” where the Pope (or, as I read the Bible, Jesus) would come down on expanding Medicaid or cutting food stamps — or, for that matter, raising the minimum wage, making it harder for the poor to vote, zeroing out the estate tax on billionheirs, and all the rest of it.

I mean: Seriously?

 

 

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