I was listening to Al Kresta on the local Catholic radio station yesterday, while running errands. A caller commented on Pope Francis’ call for peace and his criticism of any American attack on Syria. He marveled that the pope was getting so much attention from the secular media, calling it “unprecedented”.
When John Paul II, in 2003, made similar comments about the looming American bombing and invasion of Iraq he got every bit as much attention as Francis. The secular media took notice.
What is different this time is that politically conservative Catholics are paying attention, even enthusing about the antiwar efforts of this pope, and participated with zeal in the fasting and prayer that the pope called for on the 7th.
I am really, really trying not to be cynical about this, but cannot help but wonder: if this was Mitt Romney’s war, and not Barack Obama’s would they be behind the pope? Or would it be like in 2003, when the chorus on the right dismissed the pope’s opinion as “just his prudential judgement”?
That always puzzled me. No one is claiming that the pope was exercising infallibility when he criticized American foreign policy, but why would anyone think that the prudential judgement of Donald Rumsfeld or Michael Novak carried more weight than that of the pope? After all, the John Paul was a wise man, with a responsibility that extended to the whole world, whose concerns trumped nationalism, who had farflung personal contacts across the globe. Even apart from his religious role as the bishop of Rome, just humanly he would seem more trustworthy, less likely to be blinded by political interests, than the likes of Bush & company.
But it is different this time, and I suppose we should simply be grateful.
Not that the sudden zeal for peace on the Catholic right is the only thing that seems odd: the Republican right in general suddenly seems hesitant about warmaking, for the first time in memory. Not all of them, of course; some are calling for an attack on Iran as well, but Mitch McConnell yesterday announced his opposition to force.
These days the strangest voices are calling for peace, and even stranger ones are calling for war: welcome to 2013, where every day is Opposite Day.