September 24, 2015

I'm not a Catholic, but I've been following Pope Francis' visit closely, mostly because I really admire anyone who passes up a lunch with Congressmen to dine with the homeless, who isn't afraid to use the terms "climate change" and "immigration" in a speech to the White House, who is unafraid to use gentle words of encouragement to get the American bishops to do the right thing, and who genuinely seems to love people with his whole heart and soul.

Even if you're not religious or even Christian, there is something profoundly moving about watching him interact with children and those in need.

The right wing, on the other hand, is apoplectic. I half expect to see another "You lie!" moment during his address to Congress because the right-wing diehards are so utterly wanton, bereft of all capacity to care about anyone but themselves.

The same is true of Fox News, but they trotted Shep Smith out to pretend they're balanced. Oh, and fair. I agree with Shep and appreciate him saying what he did, but let's be honest. He's not Bill O'Reilly, and they actually listen to Bill O'Reilly, Hannity, and the other hate talkers on the air.

Still, Shep got his licks in.

BILL HEMMER: Oftentimes the pope is called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And you wonder who might be comfortable in Washington, D.C., today and how that may change tomorrow when the pope makes his speech in English before a joint meeting of Congress. And, in all likelihood, an equal opportunity offender, he may leave a little bit for everyone to debate and squirm about. Or he may not. Because his words in Cuba did not go to the political. Perhaps his actions did, as I mentioned a meeting with Fidel Castro, but not his words, Shepard.

SHEPARD SMITH: I don't know -- I think we are in a weird place in the world when the following things are considered political. Five things, I'm going to tick them off. These are the five things that were on his and our president's agenda. Caring for the marginalized and the poor -- that's now political. Advancing economic opportunity for all. Political? Serving as good stewards of the environment. Protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom globally. Welcoming [and] integrating immigrants and refugees globally. And that's political? I mean, I don't know what we expect to hear from an organization's leader like the Pope of the Catholic Church, other than protect those who need help, bring in refuges who have no place because of war and violence and terrorism. These seem like universal truths that we should be good to others who have less than we do, that we should give shelter to those who don't have it. I think these were the teachings in the Bible of Jesus. They're the words of the pope, they're the feelings of the president. And people who find themselves on the other side of that message should consult a mirror, it seems like. Because I think that's what we're supposed to do as a people, whatever your religion. I mean, it seems to me and I think to probably, as Bill O'Reilly would put it, most clear-thinking Americans -- that that's how we're supposed to roll.

Kudos to Shep, but let's be honest. Fox News cannot have a conscience. He's their token voice so they don't appear to be completely wanton, but when you put him on at noon when no one is watching, does anyone care what he says?

Expect right wing insanity to increase over the next few days. Today we have his speech to Congress. That won't be pretty. Then Pope Francis makes his way to the United Nations and holds mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday, and on to Philly on Saturday. His message will not change. It will simply be amplified, which will mean some real work on the part of Fox News to undo this for people.

Just as reinforcement, consider Bob Cesca's words of wisdom here:

Maybe Christie hasn’t been to catechism in a while, but when the Pope issues an encyclical, it’s absolutely a religious matter, instructing faithful Catholics to, in this case, honor God’s teachings by not completely decimating the planet, rendering it uninhabitable. The Pope wasn’t firing off a position memo for consideration by The New York Times editorial board. Everything the Pope says and writes is deeply couched in the religious teachings of Catholicism. Furthermore, it’s true that the encyclical on the environment didn’t carry with it the weight of infallibility. But I nit-pick. It’s more than obvious that Christie is simply pandering to yokels who know nothing about the Vatican.

That notwithstanding, if people of faith have no choice but to accept everything their particular religion teaches, including a 2,000-plus year old view of homosexuality (which didn’t exist as a concept in ancient times) or a completely nonexistent biblical view on contraception and abortion, then why not the Pope’s detailed, deeply-religious and completely modern remarks about climate?


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