Francis and Bernie


Has Pope Francis just effectively endorsed Bernie Sanders by inviting him to the Vatican on the eve of the NY primary?  One could make a case that Pope Francis is trying to boost Sanders’ chances.

The two men are on the same page, at least on issues of economic justice. Each in his own way is challenging established orthodoxy, and each can go only so far. Pope Francis can call for greater compassion toward gays and lesbians, but he isn’t about to endorse gay marriage, not that he would want to. Bernie Sanders can call for single-payer health care and tuition-free public colleges and universities, but he isn’t about to call for worker control of the means of production, not that he would want to. Clearly, when they meet, they will find much common ground. Here is how I imagine their conversation could go.

PF: Welcome, Mr. Sanders, to the Vatican

BS: Thank you, Your Holiness, but please, call me Bernie.

PF: Thanks, Bernie. Call me Francis.

BS: I have to tell you that I’m a big fan of yours, Francis.

PF: And I have to tell you that I am feeling the bern, Bernie. And I hope I can give you a bit of a boost in NY.

BS: Your inviting me here can’t hurt, Francis. But I’m afraid that the same people who like you are the ones who are most likely to vote for me anyway.

PF: I could make it a mortal sin to vote for Hillary. Just kidding.

BS: Could you say something about her taking money from Beelzebub?

PF: You’re kidding, right?

BS: No.

PF: Well, unbridled capitalism is the dung of the Devil

BS: Speaking of the Devil, you did a number on Trump when you were in Mexico.

PF: My advisers tell me I only helped Trump with evangelicals who think I’m the anti-Christ.

BS: There are a lot of nut cases in America.

PF: Don’t forget that Italians voted for Berlusconi!

BS: Here’s an interesting question, Francis. We’re both old men, but our biggest fans are young kids. Ever wondered why?

PF: I can tell what’s going on in the church, Bernie. Older Catholics have a lot invested in the old ways. Faithful Catholics followed the rules, had too many kids, stuck it out with horrible spouses, disowned gay sons and daughters, and took some solace in the idea that atheists who didn’t follow the rules were going to Hell. Now I’m telling them they don’t have to breed like rabbits (I actually said that), we shouldn’t judge gays, we should welcome divorced and remarried Catholics into parish life, and God loves atheists. All this sits better with the young who see a future than with the old who cherish the past.

BS: It’s a similar situation with American politics. Older Americans fervently believed that they had a realistic shot at becoming rich. There was no working class in America. Many believe they can’t make it now only because their money is being given away to the undeserving poor in the form of welfare. There is little social solidarity among older, especially white, Americans. They oppose universal health care because they hate the idea of some Latino or African American getting well on their nickel. They support tax breaks for the super-rich because they identify with the super-rich. Socialism equals communism equals no chance of getting rich. Socialism evokes the old USSR.

Most of this doesn’t resonate with young Americans, who know very well that far from getting rich, they may never pay off student debts. For them socialism evokes Sweden, not the former USSR, and they are becoming increasingly sick of the racism and worship of money.

PF: So we put our hope in the young and look to the future. Hillary has asked to meet with me, but I don’t think I can fit it into my schedule.

BS: Thanks, Francis.

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