Pope Francis Comes To Washington

A look at what to expect from the pope ahead of his visit to DC.

A Look At What To Expect From The Pope Ahead Of His Visit To DC

Pope Francis’s much-anticipated (and first ever!) trip to the United States is almost upon us. Since his installation in 2013, Pope Francis has made waves with his calls to action on political issues from climate change to income inequality. Today, in anticipation of the pope’s visit, the Center for American Progress hosted an event with Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and panelists John Gehring, Rudy López, and Shantha Ready Alonso to discuss what to expect from the pope’s visit. Check out video of the event here.

During his visit the pope is expected to address economic inequality, one of the issues about which he has been very outspoken. Pope Francis is one of the worldwide leaders in speaking out against the harms of economic inequality, which he declares “is the root of all evil.” He has even gone as far as to say that “working towards a just distribution” of income is a “moral obligation” for all and a “commandment” for Christians. Despite his role as the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis’s teachings on economic inequality are not heeded by all political leaders in the United States. Notably, GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio do not appear to align with the leader of the Catholic Church on economic issues.

Both Bush and Rubio have expressed their allegiance to the pope and the importance of their Catholic faith in their lives. Bush has been open about the prominent role his Catholic faith has played in his life and has said, “as a public leader, one’s faith should guide you.” He even called Pope Francis “the most extraordinary leader” and said he believes Christian faith is the “moral vocabulary we all use in America.” Despite this rhetoric, Bush’s policy positions—especially on economic inequality—clearly diverge from Pope Francis’s teachings. This should come as no surprise given Bush has declared, “I don’t go to Mass for economic policy.” Though Pope Francis states “trickle-down theories” have “never been confirmed by facts” and have led to a “globalization of indifference,” Bush just released a trickle-down tax plan. His proposal would be a huge boost to the wealthy and cost the country $3.4 trillion—or $45,946 for each child under 18, thus widening the income gap.

Marco Rubio has also said “I follow [Pope Francis] 100 percent” on doctrinal and theological matters, yet he goes against the pope’s commandment to work towards a just distribution. Rubio opposes an increase the federal minimum wage, despite the fact that the decline of the minimum wage’s real value contributes to the rise in inequality. Additionally, Rubio’s tax plan would likely increase income inequality, with the wealthiest experiencing an after-tax income increase of 11.5% and the middle class only receiving an after-tax income increase of 1.7%.

BOTTOM LINE: While the pope is expected to address key issues like climate change and immigration during his visit, the main focus of his tenure so far has been addressing economic inequality and lack of access to opportunity. Yet even as GOP candidates espouse their beliefs in the Catholic faith and the pope, in reality, their policies widen the opportunity gap and increase inequality, coming in direct conflict with Pope Francis’s message.

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