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Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium and the Catholic Vote

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For the last 30 years the religious right (both Protestant and Catholic) has been telling us that Christian values should influence the way we vote. What will they say now that Pope Francis has called 1.2 billion Roman Catholics to move beyond obsessions with sex -- abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage?

How will they respond to his demands in his recent Pastoral Exhortation (Evangelii Gaudium) to centralize instead issues of poverty and the huge income gaps between the haves and have-nots? How will they answer the pope's call to recognize the futility of directing billions towards a doomed "War on Terrorism" rather than correcting the structural injustices that cause such violence in the first place? What about his suggestion that those billions would be better invested in meeting human rights to food, health and education? (Yes, they are human rights according to the pope!)

All of that puts the Republicans and their fellow-travelers on the spot. After all, they have been the voting booth beneficiaries of obsession with sexual issues. They are the champion privatization, deregulated markets, and huge tax breaks for the rich. They oppose universal health care, investing money in public education, increasing the minimum wage, supporting labor unions, Food Stamp programs, and even Social Security financed by workers' own savings. Republicans are the "tough on terrorism" bunch who (unlike the pope) attribute such violence to "hatred of our freedom," rather than to blowback for the injustices of global capitalism.   

According to the pope, such right-wing attitudes represent the very causes not only of world hunger and poverty, but of violence and terrorism. Only by interfering in the out-workings of the free market -- by regulation (such as Glass-Steagal or the Tobin Tax), redirecting defense spending towards social programs (such as Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps), by increasing the minimum wage, and taxing the rich,   -- can such problems be solved.

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In other words, it's not possible this time to say "Oh, yes, we all know that good Catholics are expected to give generously to their favorite charities." That's not sufficient, Pope Francis asserts. No, the pope has faulted not lack of charitable giving, but the free enterprise system itself for causing the problems of global poverty and hunger as well as those of terrorism and war.

For years at election time, both the political and religious right has inundated us with directions about voting based on what the pope has identified as sexual obsessions.

It will be most interesting to observe any change in tone or direction in the upcoming general election.

Will we now be directed towards voting Democratic -- for Hillary? Or will our Christian "leaders" be even more heedful of Pope Francis' direction and urge voting instead for consumer protectionist Elizabeth Warren, for Socialist Bernie Sanders -- or the Green Party candidate?

In red state Kentucky, we await direction from Mitch McConnell and Lexington diocese's Bishop Gainer.

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Recently retired, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 36 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.Mike blogs (more...)

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Watch right-wingers start complaining about mixing... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Tuesday, Dec 3, 2013 at 9:00:01 PM
Will we now be directed towards voting Democratic ... by Charles Roll on Thursday, Dec 5, 2013 at 3:57:32 PM
Clinton will not be a candidate or even a substant... by Charles Roll on Thursday, Dec 5, 2013 at 4:07:03 PM
The only thing Mitch will have to offer is another... by Judy Swindler on Tuesday, Dec 3, 2013 at 9:07:02 PM
Finally the supposed "Christian values" of the Rep... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013 at 11:56:35 AM
My prayer for  and to Pope Frances: Speak mor... by Daniel Geery on Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013 at 1:59:48 PM
Pope Francis has called 1.2 billion Roman Catholic... by Charles Roll on Thursday, Dec 5, 2013 at 3:26:00 PM
My initial reaction to your "the pope's call to re... by Charles Roll on Thursday, Dec 5, 2013 at 3:28:56 PM
I rather like the idea of getting evangelized. I a... by Michael David Morrissey on Friday, Dec 6, 2013 at 10:30:42 AM
This is not what the pope's message is about, in m... by Alhamdu Yaro on Friday, Dec 6, 2013 at 7:28:42 AM
I for one really love Pope Francis's change in e... by Patrick Walker on Friday, Dec 6, 2013 at 1:32:01 PM