Lookout! Worry About Pope Francis Address Congress. Worry!

Everyone’s predicting that the Republicans are going to get an earful when Pope Francis addresses Congress in September. I’m predicting it too, of course. But I also predict the Republicans are not the only ones who are going to get an earful. That was my immediate reaction when I saw the exchange between Black Lives Matter protesters and two of the Democratic presidential candidates at the Netroots conference (http://time.com/3963692/bernie-sanders-martin-omalley-black-lives-matter/).
Martin O’Malley seemed not to have been paying attention to the Black Lives Matter debate when he responded, “All lives matter.” We’ll just leave that to: he’s out of touch. More telling to me was Bernie Sanders’ response. When Black Lives Matter demonstrators challenged Bernie Sanders, Sanders got testy. He asserted his history of having engaged in activism for the black community, but attempted to shut down the messaging of the demonstrators. Sanders by effectively trying to dismiss the concerns of the demonstrators in the exchange seemed very arrogant.
I don’t think Sanders was being arrogant, though. Sanders has a very strong ideological politico-economic position. As far back as his days in college, Sanders believes that racial inequaltiy is a fruit, not a cause, of economic inequality; if you stay faithful to the social-democrat paradigm, you can uproot economic inequality, and, by doing so, uproot racial inequality. Sanders has argued that line for a very long time.
I have heard that same argument in scores of other places; most notably, at the Left Forum (http://www.leftforum.org/). I’ve attended that forum twice, and found it very annoying both times. Here you have a forum attended pretty much exclusively by left-wing activists; myself among them. Yet, somehow, you still have an incredible amount of inflamed infighting among those who attend the forum; folks challenging each other over who’s the true progressive. Evan the socialists who attend the forum fight with each other over whos the true socialist. Then you have those who are committed to very specific agendas arguing that others participating in the forum are not true progressives because others do not feel as strongly about their particular position or do not embrace the ideological paradigm behind their position. So, at times, the Left Forum breaks down into infighting between those whose primary concerns are economic justice vs racial justice vs lgbt justice vs disabled justice vs environmental justice vs animal-rights justice. It breaks down between between what progressive vision is more pure or what socialist vision is more pure. It gets really crazy. The root of the Left Forum’s breakdown rests in many people being more focused on ideological purity than they are about people.
That’s the same breakdown that occurred at the Netroots conference when Black Lives Matter demonstrators confronted the Democrat primary candidates. Which agenda is the more authentic agenda: economic justice or black-rights justice? Sanders’ response seemed arrogant, but it illustrates he’s more ideologically focused than people focused: a bad trait for a politician. That trait also won’t move the general electorate to get behind him.
Here’s why I think the Republicans are not the only ones who are going to get an earful from Pope Francis when he addresses Congress. Catholic social doctrine does not play in the world of politico-economic ideologies; in fact Catholic social doctrines holds that ideologies get in the way.. Catholic social doctrine addresses the matter of the proper relations between people and between a person and society. Yes, economic justice, racial justice and other questions of justice are involved in the question of Catholic social doctrine; and, as Pope Francis has emphasized in his latest encyclical, “Laudato Si,” so is the question of ecological justice. But Catholic social doctrine does not embrace particlular politico-economic ideologies. Moreover, as Pope Francis insists, embracing ideologies objectifies human persons.
So, here is my prediction. The Republican politicians and their supporters should be shaking in their boots in anticipation of addressing Congress. But Bernie Sanders and his supporters should be concerned too. [Sidenote: I think the likelihood of Sanders hearing and chaning course is greater than the likelihood of Republican politicians doing so. They’re motivated by different things.]