If Pope Francis were a U.S. congressman, his district would be in Sarah Palin’s crosshairs.
In a recent interview with CNN, the former governor of Alaska and vice-presidential candidate admits she hasn’t done her “homework” on Pope Francis, and insists that she isn’t going to trust what she hears about him in the media. Still, she says that she’s currently “taken aback” by the new Pope.
“He’s had some statements that to me sound kind of liberal, has taken me aback, has kind of surprised me. There again, unless I really dig deep into what his messaging is, and do my own homework, I’m not going to just trust what I hear in the media,” Palin said.
Palin, one must assume, is referring to how in a widely read September interview, Pope Francis declared that the Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with such issues as abortion and gay marriage, and has used his papacy to instead refocus the Church on issues like poverty and hunger. He’s also criticized “savage capitalism” and has called on governments to use their power to protect citizens from market forces.
“Imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good,” Francis said in May.
Thus, it’s no surprise that Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are no longer politically aligned with the Vatican.
But Palin’s statement trivializes an issue important to 75 million U.S. Catholics.
While a large majority of U.S. Catholics (68 percent) agree that the Church is too focused on issues like abortion and contraception, there are a significant number who have done their “homework” on Pope Francis and are nonetheless disenchanted by his narrative.
Matt C. Abbott, a Catholic columnist for conservative website Renew America, told Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: “For orthodox and conservative Catholics the last few months have been a rollercoaster ride,” adding, “I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters.”
As Goodstein reports, there are plenty of U.S. Catholics who, like Abbott, study Catholic social teaching, work in the pro-life movement and struggle with the Pope’s views. “It seems he’s focusing on bringing back the left that’s fallen away, but what about the conservatives?” Bridget Kurt, a hospice community educator, told Goodstein. “Even when it was discouraging working in pro-life, you always felt like Mother Teresa was on your side and the popes were encouraging you. Now I feel kind of thrown under the bus.”
Sarah Palin’s rambling statement about media bias and Pope Francis, however, does nothing but undermine U.S. Catholics who are genuinely struggling with a significant moment in Church history, and have made the effort to inform themselves before speaking out.