Pope claims he isn't 'leftish'

Pope Francis told journalists before he landed in America on Monday that people are mistaken if they think he's a liberal.

The Hill:

Some people might say some things sounded slightly more left-ish, but that would be a mistake of interpretation,” Francis said aboard his flight from Cuba to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

“It is I who follows the church ... my doctrine on all this ... on economic imperialism, is that of the social doctrine of the church," Francis added,according to Time

Francis arrived to cheers and chants welcoming him to the U.S. when he landed outside Washington, D.C., where he will address a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday, with speculation running rampant about what he might discuss. 

The pope shook hands with President Obama, the first lady and their daughters, as well as the vice president and his wife after he landed. 

The first pope from Latin America has publicly supported issues including preventing climate change, income inequality and ending the U.S. embargo with Cuba, a goal of the Obama administration.

But conservatives are also looking forward to what he may say on social issues such as abortion during his visit to the U.S., at a time when the topic has risen to the fore in a debate over public funding for Planned Parenthood.

Francis said aboard the flight Tuesday that he plans to speak in general terms about "bilateral relations and multinational relations as a sign of progress."

The pope is correct – up to a point. Every modern pope has condemned the "excesses" of capitalism to varying degrees.  But this has nothing to do with ideology.  Rather, the pope's vision is informed by Church doctrine and traditional Catholic beliefs.  Each man in turn who has worn the shoes of the fisherman advocates for the poorest, the most helpless among us.  In the case of Francis, his views are also shaped by his own experiences.  The crony capitalism practiced in most of Latin America is obscene when it comes to a few powerful families controlling the entire economy.  The pope knows no other economic system, and seeing the poor of Argentina being forced to live in cardboard boxes on garbage dumps has informed his views on what he thinks is capitalism.

John Paul II also railed against what he called capitalism's "inhumanity."  He issued an encyclical in 1991 condemning both capitalism and communism and called for reform of both.  Francis has used his critique of capitalism to focus attention on the plight of the poor – which is well within his mandate as the spiritual leader of a billion Catholics.

Liberals who believe the pope is too conservative because he opposes abortion and gay marriage also miss the point.  The pope stands up for the dignity of humans and the sanctity of life not because he's a right-winger, but because that has been doctrine for 2,000 years. 

Both right and left would do well to listen to what Francis has to say without seeing him through an ideological prism.  Better to connect his words to the teachings of his church, which is in keeping with the ancient traditions going back to St. Peter.

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