Pope Francis’ views show tendency toward neither major political party

Mizzou Democrats spokeswoman Jordan Pellerito said she liked that the pope discussed a wide variety of political issues instead of just abortion.

Pope Francis has been making waves ever since his election in 2013. While his views do not deviate from church doctrine, he has expressed his tolerance and acceptance for all of humanity, a gesture not as openly stated by previous popes. He has demonstrated his love for the human race by visiting several countries worldwide, including the U.S. from Sept. 22 to 27.

Visiting New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., the pope spoke to Congress and the United Nations, making a number of statements that established himself as a politically attentive leader.

In general, Francis’ views are almost evenly dispersed along the spectrum between the nation’s two political parties. Both parties express desire to help the poor and homeless, a concept for which the pope advocated fervently.

His support of immigrant rights, stricter gun ownership laws, opposition to the death penalty and protection of the environment resemble the beliefs of the Democrats, while his abortion and same-sex marriage views match those of the Republicans. However, while he was in the U.S., the pope barely mentioned the latter two subjects.

Freshman Mary Mertes, a practicing Catholic and a member of the Mizzou College Republicans, said she agrees with the pope’s death penalty views.

“That just goes along with what the Catholic church teaches,” Mertes said. “To preserve life at all stages from birth to death.”

Father Joseph Minuth, associate pastor at St. Thomas More Parish and Newman Center, said the pope’s standpoint on the death penalty could influence political candidates, especially Republicans, since they are often Catholic. He also said that the pope’s call to protect the environment might bring the issue to the attention of Republican politicians.

Mertes said she thought that the pope’s comments regarding the environment supported his own views, rather than a set standard from the church.

“Climate change isn’t something that the church has a stance on,” Mertes said. “It’s a personal stance, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the Catholic church as a whole.”

Although the pope was careful not to touch on the issue of abortion during his visit, Mizzou College Democrats Communications Director Jordan Pellerito said his opposition to it was the only view she disagreed with.

“Most Catholic voters are one-issue voters,” Pellerito said. “I’m Catholic, but I’m also pro-choice. Most of the people in my church and most of the other Catholics I know are pro-life, and that’s the only issue they vote on. They don’t care about anything else.”

Mertes said she doubted that the pope’s statements could have much influence on the stances Catholic politicians will take in future elections.

“I don’t necessarily think that his opinions hold enough weight to sway candidates on (presidential candidates’) personal positions,” she said. “People can allow (his views) to influence them, but I don’t necessarily think people would change what they’re saying because of something that he said.”

Junior Madeline Slater alternatively said the pope’s statements convinced her that citizens should decide which candidate to support based on their own views rather than the parties with which they associate.

“A lot of people ... try to fit the church’s teachings into their political beliefs,” Slater said. “Hopefully (by visiting the U.S.), the pope has brought a feeling that you don’t have to completely separate your faith and your political beliefs.”

Slater also said that awareness of the pope’s political attentiveness can lead Catholic voters to make more informed decisions by looking at political issues in terms of what the church would or would not support.

“That doesn’t mean it’s going to make the decision any easier,” she said. “It might make it harder because now, all of a sudden, you have to really look at an issue rather than just aligning with one party or another.”

For Minuth, the pope’s most vital statement was more moral than political.

“The thing I found most important in what he said was that we need to stop demonizing the other person,” Minuth said. “That’s something we have a tendency to do, to say that all Republicans or all Democrats are evil. His message that no one’s perfect, that we’re all moving toward (being) perfect, was his most important message.”

Like Slater, Minuth said Catholics should let their faith influence their political views.

“We’re so concerned about separation of church and state,” he said. “As citizens of the United States, we shouldn’t be pushed out of the picture simply because we’re religious. I would say (the pope’s political attentiveness) emboldens us to use our values and to speak out about them.”

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