Although I am not a Catholic, I survived Catholic school, where I learned a thing or two about a pope or two. So, I can say with all sincerity that the new pope is dope. My papal-span is like an arc, beginning with Pius XII, who was sometimes referred to as "Hitler's Pope," and ending with Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Ratzinger Jr. of the Hitler Youth and the Nazi infantry. The resigned pope's father, Joseph Ratzinger Sr., was a member of the Nazi "Order-Police," under the control of the SS, an inconvenient fact that was whitewashed from Pope Benedict's Wikipedia bio. I guess Benedict took his red Prada shoes into retirement since the current pope, Francis I, would never tolerate such a display of personal vanity. In his short tenure as Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis has given the faithful so much change and hope for the future, he should be called the Barack Obama of Catholicism.
Pope Francis was born on December 17, 1936. I believe that any pope who shares my birthday must be destined for greatness. Now I have someone to brag about who was born on the same day as I was besides such Catholic luminaries as Manny Pacquiao, Bob Guccione, and Chris Matthews. It's no coincidence that the new pope took the name Francis. Born in Buenos Aires, which has one of the largest concentrations of poor people of any major city, the new pope is named for Francis of Assisi, mostly known for his concern for the well-being of the poor. Pope Francis has stated that he will remain in the Vatican guesthouse rather than live in the Apostolic Palace. Most startling of all was the manifesto written by the pope last August and released last week. The "apostolic exhortation" is called The Joy of the Gospel, and though it was written as instruction for priests and pastoral workers, Vatican correspondent John L. Allen wrote that the work "amounts to Francis' 'I Have a Dream' speech.'" While adhering to basic Catholic tenets, Francis' populist views, according to Charles Camosy of Fordham University, "would likely be considered too liberal for a prime-time speaking slot at the 2016 DNC."
Of course, Americans of a certain political bent have rejected the pope's message as leftist propaganda. Famous Christian thinker Sarah Palin reared her ugly head to declare the pope was far too liberal. Other politicians have had so many running commentaries that differ with the pontiff, I thought it might be fun to compare some quotes:
"Justice requires ... mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income." — Pope Francis
"I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we'll all be better off. It's known as redistribution. It's never been a characteristic of America." — Mitt Romney
"It is vital that government leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education, and health care." — Pope Francis
"And what is Obamacare? It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to ... slave states." — New Hampshire state representative Bill O'Brien
"The Church has no wish to hold back the marvelous progress of science. On the contrary, she rejoices and even delights in acknowledging the enormous potential that God has given to the human mind." — Pope Francis
"All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory — all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." — Georgia representative Paul Broun
"Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape." — Pope Francis
"You can't help those who simply will not be helped. One problem that we've had, even in the best of times, is people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice." — Ronald Reagan
"I exhort all countries to a generous openness which, rather than fearing the loss of local identity, will prove capable of creating new forms of cultural synthesis." — Pope Francis
"Just build the damn fence." — Senator John McCain
It's so refreshing to hear the pope say, "We have to state ... that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor." This stuff is enough to make a free-market capitalist's head explode. "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor." Uh oh. The pontiff just took out the entire Republican Congressional Caucus. Pope Francis' message appears to be resonating. His favorability rating among Catholics is almost 80 percent, and lapsed members are returning to their churches with a renewed commitment. It's incredible what one dedicated man can do to restore faith to a disillusioned people. Just ask Jesus.
Randy Haspel writes the "Born-Again Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.