On Tuesday, the Catholic Church released Pope Francis’ first major piece of writing of his papacy. The text, called an Apostolic Exhortation, reveals the pontiff’s concern with the rapid growth of inequality, and the role of modern capitalism.
Comparing capitalism to “tyranny,” the pope emphasized equality and helping the poor — also noting that ethics are far removed from the current financial system.
Several conservative Catholic politicians — many of whom claim to rigidly follow the Bible and its teachings — have taken positions that run almost exactly opposite to the Pope’s advice. Here are five examples of those who are explicitly acting against their religious leader’s recommendations in his Apostolic Exhortation.
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#58: “A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. …The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.”
Did you get that, Paul Ryan?
The Republican representative and chair of the House Budget Committee is all about “financial reform,” but of a different kind. Reform, according to Ryan – who was raised Catholic — should not help those lazy, entitled poor people; instead, it should focus on taking back federal money wasted on families who face eviction, food insecurity, and overwhelming medical costs.
The Wisconsin representative – who once said that a safety net for lower-class Americans is “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency” – now says he is committed to fighting poverty. His initiatives include “promoting volunteerism and encouraging work through existing federal programs, including the tax code,” according to an op-ed he wrote for the Washington Post. But his policy platform still stands in direct opposition to Pope Francis’ message.
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#53: “Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.”
Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Budget Committee and a Catholic, supports fellow Republican colleague’s Paul Ryan’s budget proposal and the $5 billion nationwide cuts to the federal food stamp aid that was part of President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package.
Trying to explain and justify cutting aid to millions of Americans throughout the country, Senator Ayotte argues: “Obviously, in terms of the stimulus, it was meant to be a stimulus. So, I don’t think that anyone when they voted for it thought that we would have to sustain that level going forward.”
The economy has still not fully recovered – an argument the GOP likes to make when it is convenient – and millions of Americans depend on food stamps to provide the bare minimum for their children. It is a burden that plagues families, as well as a burden that Ayotte – who has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, among other proposals to fight inequality — is apparently exhausted by having to “sustain.”
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#52: “We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries.”
Tell that to Senator David Vitter (R-LA), who is unrelenting in his fight against the Affordable Care Act, which will help millions of Americans obtain health care coverage.
The Catholic legislator has spent months obsessing over how horrible health care reform is, claiming that approximately 90,000 people from his state will be negatively impacted by the implementation of the law. But if Vitter really cared about his constituents, perhaps he would “praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare,” and lobby his state to accept the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. After all, Louisiana has one of the nation’s highest rates of poverty, and huge numbers of uninsured citizens.
#55: “The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.”
Just one of many politicians who idolize money, Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette (R) is known for his close relationships with large corporations. In fact, he is a great example of the corporatism the Pope warns against.
Along with recently joining a business owner’s lawsuit over an abortion-related portion of the Affordable Care Act – all in the name of “religious freedom” – Schuette usually takes the side of big corporations and always has a reason why.
One of Schuette’s ongoing lawsuits, for example, targets the Environmental Protection Agency, because Schuette is more concerned that regulating greenhouse gas emissions – regulations that benefit the environment and Michigan residents – will cut into corporate profits.
Just forget about the environment and people’s health; it’s all about the corporate profits.
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#56: “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few.”
Kansas governor Sam Brownback is front and center among Catholic Republicans who have perpetuated the widening gap between the poor and the wealthy.
Back in 2010, Brownback campaigned for the governor’s mansion by vowing to reduce child poverty. However, since he took office, the rate of child poverty grew from 13.6 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2012.
Despite expressing support for measures intended to support the poor in his state, the conservative governor has implemented policies that do the very opposite. He has cut thousands of children from the welfare rolls, eliminated tax rebates for food and rent, cut taxes for the rich and raised them for the poor.
In September, he then announced that changes to food stamp rules would kick 20,000 unemployed Americans in Kansas from the program – because that is exactly what people desperate for a job and food need most.
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