December 29, 2013

From this Sunday's State of the Union on CNN, host Candy Crowley asked her guests for a list of their top political moments of the year, and both Neera Tanden from the Center for American Progress and CNN's S.E. Cupp included Pope Francis on their lists.

When asked about it, Cupp took the opportunity to reiterate some of what she wrote in a recent column for the New York Daily News, where she warned liberals not to get too excited about Pope Francis' progressive economic message and did her best to try to convince conservative readers that the pope is just like those "limited government" Republicans. Cupp seems to miss the forest for the trees, but I assume that's a feature and not a bug. Like most on the right, she'd really rather not hear his larger message about what unfettered greed has done to society.

Here was her response to Crowley this Sunday on CNN.

CUPP: Yes. It was a big year for the pope. He was "Time's" person of the year or whatever currency that has. And, I think there were some iconic moments. The pope selfie was an iconic moment. The pope taking pictures with disfigured parishioners really spoke to the chasm that the pope is trying to close between the Vatican and laity.

And I know liberals are real excited about what they perceive as a progressive message coming from this pope. But his goal with the church in limiting his authority is actually considerably conservative. He wants to make a smaller church, a church with a small "c." A church that is of the people. It's a really interesting year for the Vatican and interesting to see how what he does shapes Catholicism for Americans and South Americans and Catholics around the world.

And it just gets worse in her column:

Pope Francis made news in 2013 by calling for a more inclusive and tolerant church, language that many liberals think signals a new, left-leaning philosophy.

But in addition to his thoughts on gay rights and women, pundits on the secular left (suddenly very enthusiastic about something a Pope has said) claim his economic messages laid out in the recently-released Evangelii Gaudium proclamation are a rejection of conservative economic policies.

Not so fast.

While Pope Francis does criticize "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," the pontiff wasn't necessarily condemning free market economics. Instead, he was condemning the "sacrilized" belief that free markets alone will solve social injustices the world over.

Well, sure. In certain countries, government corruption, sectarian violence and human rights abuses require far more than a free market economic makeover by F.A. Hayek. And though Western fiscal conservatives frequently shorthand "free markets" as a genuine salve for most problems, I know few who, when pressed, would insist that there isn't a need for other kinds of social safety nets — including, not coincidentally, those delivered through faith-based initiatives.

But it's his larger message of returning power to the people, decentralizing the church and limiting its authority that should please any good conservative.

Here's why:

On Limited Government

Pope Francis writes of the need for the Church to reevaluate its many precepts, which were "effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness." He quotes Thomas Aquinas, who pointed out that the precepts which Christ enumerated were "very few," and Saint Augustine, who noted that subsequent precepts enjoined by the church should be invoked with moderation, "so as not to burden the lives of the faithful."

Conservative critics of burdensome regulation, heavy-handed legislature, and a fealty to laws both arcane and archaic will recognize the Pope's call for reform in the church as similar to conservative calls for limiting the size and scope of government. Just as Christ's precepts were few, so were the Founding Fathers'.

The Pope is pointed: "I do not want a church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures." If you've ever watched C-SPAN, that sounds alarmingly familiar.

So don't worry your pretty little heads conservatives. The pope is just like you -- and sadly, there's more where that came from in the column. It really is something to watch the lengths they'll go to in order to justify their views on trickle-down economics and unfettered capitalism.

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