Pope Benedict stunned the world when he stepped down earlier this year. His successor, Pope Francis, has been shaking things up ever since. The first Jesuit to head the Vatican, Francis is renewing the Church’s focus on poverty and putting a new face forward. We find out more about the history of the Jesuits, the Holy See and consider the influence Francis is having on policy around the world, including the United States.

Guests

  • Fr Peter Folan, SJ associate pastor, Holy Trinity Catholic Church
  • John Carr director, Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University; Washington correspondent, America Magazine; former director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development; United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Francis Rooney former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (2005 - 2008); author, 'The Global Vatican: An Inside Look at the Catholic Church, World Politics, and the Extraordinary Relationship between the United States and the Holy See'; CEO, Rooney Holdings

Transcript

  • 12:06:39

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, we remember local broadcaster and long time quiz master of "It's Academic," Mac McGarry. But first, we consider the Pope, a man associated with many firsts. The first to take control of the Vatican while his predecessor was still living in 600 years. First from the Americas and the Jesuit order. And the first Pope in recent memory to eschew many of the ornate trappings of life at the Vatican.

  • 12:07:23

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThat last is especially important as he decries the idolatry of money, making clear his intention to focus much of his time, effort and attention on global challenges related to poverty and income inequality. Some see this as a shift in direction for the Catholic Church while others say he's doing what the Vatican has been and should be doing all along.

  • 12:07:46

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIHere to help us better understand the man, his mission and the influence it may have here and abroad is Father Peter Folan. He is a Jesuit Priest who serves as an Associate Pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church here in Washington, D.C. He also contributes to America Magazine and the Jesuit Post, a blog by young Jesuits. Father Peter Folan, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:10

    FR. PETER FOLAN SJKojo, good afternoon. Thank you for having me.

  • 12:08:13

    NNAMDIAlso in studio is John Carr. He directs the initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University. He is Washington Correspondent for America Magazine. John Carr previously served as Director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. John Carr, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:34

    MR. JOHN CARRGlad to be with you.

  • 12:08:35

    NNAMDIJoining us by phone from Naples, Florida is Francis Rooney. He is former US Ambassador to the Holy See and author of "The Global Vatican: An Inside Look at the Catholic Church, World Politics and the Extraordinary Relationship Between the United States and the Holy See." He's also the CEO of Rooney Holdings. Ambassador Rooney, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:58

    AMB. FRANCIS ROONEYWell, thank you very much for having me on.

  • 12:09:00

    NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, if you have questions or comments on this issue, give us a call at 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. You can shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. What do you make of the Pope's approach to poverty and income inequality, and how do you think it will embraced or rejected by policy makers here in the US? 800-433-8850. Father Folan, I'll start with you. Pope Francis is the first Pope to ever come to this position from the Jesuit order. What's different about the Jesuits and how does the Pope, in a way, personify the Jesuit mission?

  • 12:09:41

    SJI think that's a great question, and when I see the life of Pope Francis, just in these first nine months, I feel like I'm looking at a brother Jesuit. I guess there's a number of things I could mention. The one that really strikes me is this interior freedom that the Pope has to be himself. I would look at it as seeing his election, not so, I wasn't in the conclave, but I'd see his election, not so much as saying to Jorge Mario Bergolio, we need you to become the Pope.

  • 12:10:11

    SJAs opposed to saying, when we think who we want the Pope to be, what does the face of the Pope look like? It looked like that face, and that's one of the titles that we give for him. He's the vicar of Christ. So, I think that's what the Cardinals saw in him, and I think in these nine months, the world has seen somebody who's being himself.

  • 12:10:30

    NNAMDIJohn Carr, some say the Pope is rebranding the Church. Others say there's no real concrete change taking place, and it's his personality that people are noticing. What's your impression of Pope Francis thus far?

  • 12:10:44

    CARRWell, literally, from the first moment of his election, he made this concern for the poor and the vulnerable the centerpiece of his papacy. He tells the story on how as the votes were mounting up, his friend next to him gave him a hug and said, don't forget about the poor. And the Pope said, that's when I decided. I'll be Francis, the Saint of the Poor. So, it's not different. It was Pope Benedict who said three things make the Church the Church. Proclaiming the Gospel, celebrating the sacraments and standing with and caring for the poor.

  • 12:11:21

    CARRThis is as old as the prophets and as clear as Matthew 25. But Pope Francis brings a passion to this, an urgency to this. Frankly, a bluntness to this. And I think it's because of who he is and where he comes from. Globalization and economics looks different from the slums of Argentina than it does from Germany or Poland, which is where our previous Holy Fathers came from.

  • 12:11:52

    NNAMDIWhat do you say to cynics, some of them maybe in the news media, who say, this looked, at least at first, like a Vatican P.R. campaign?

  • 12:12:01

    CARRThe first thing I would say is name the last successful Vatican P.R. campaign. I think it was pre-crusades. This is a man without an entourage who is himself, as Father said. He has a sense of freedom, so if you read this document, if you listen to him, this is his voice. This is not some handler of any kind. He is a nightmare for handlers and for security because of his passion for the poor.

  • 12:12:35

    CARRBecause he says what he thinks. How great is it to have a Pope who says what we don't need are sourpusses. What we don't need are Christians who are all Lent and no Easter. And talk about the joy of the Gospel. I don't know if that's rebranding or not, but it sure is a breath of fresh air.

  • 12:12:58

    NNAMDIAmbassador Rooney, the Vatican has long been a place of visual splendor with many trappings of wealth that the current Pope is eschewing and cracking down on some Bishops for abusing in a widely circulated story. What's your impression on what's happened so far, and what might soon?

  • 12:13:17

    ROONEYWell, related to that, as Dr. Carr said, about the new breadth that the Pope brings to the message of the poor and social mission of the Church, it's fantastic to have a Pope from the New World who can look at the Curia and the historic governance architecture of the church from a fresh perspective.

  • 12:13:37

    ROONEYAnd he's turned his sights on the Vatican Bank. He's turned his sights on the somewhat arcane governance structure, the last vestiges of the monarchical structure which has served the Holy See for many years. You know, as Cardinal Wuerl called for, they need more of an executive, Western style management structure to deal with the rapidity at which issues come before them nowadays.

  • 12:13:58

    ROONEYSo, I think that's really great. The other thing I think is that his candor and his openness, which I like to think is part Jesuit and part New World, may allow him to broaden and deepen the fundamental diplomatic message of the Holy See in a way that Pope Benedict's scholarly, philosophical orientation was more difficult for so many people to understand.

  • 12:14:23

    NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, the number here is 800-433-8850. If you're Catholic, which of the Pope's actions or exhortations have struck you the most? 800-433-8850, or you can send email to kojo@wamu.org. Father Folan, for many Catholics, social justice and poverty initiatives are a, if not the, central tenant of the faith. Can you give us a sense of where the church's missions related to poverty fit into the larger theological picture?

  • 12:14:53

    FOLANYeah, I think it would always be a mistake to look at that as just one portion of what we do, as in, we have the social justice thing, we have the liturgy thing, we have the scripture. And these are separate silos, as it were. And where do we rank them on our list? I think any real serious attempt at social justice has to have a liturgical element to it. Has to bring in the word of God to it. Has to have a prayerful element to it.

  • 12:15:14

    FOLANAnd so, I think seeing all of these things together, as I look at the Pope's life these months, he's weaving them into a whole. And I think certainly, the great deal of attention has been paid to so much of what he's been doing for social justice. And I think that's well done. But I don't think, in his mind, or in his actions, it's ever at the expense of the other dimensions of the Christian life.

  • 12:15:36

    NNAMDIFrom outside, a lot is being made of Pope Francis and how he has or might transform the Church. How does it feel from the inside?

  • 12:15:45

    FOLANWell, it's exciting. It's an exciting time to be Catholic, I think. For me, it's an exciting time to be a priest. I just got ordained in June, and it's a very exciting time to be a Jesuit. People are talking about the Pope. Before I came here, one of my jobs is to teach sixth graders religion at the Holy Trinity School. I had a class this morning, and I said, well, what should talk about? What's exciting? All these hands went up, which is probably because there was a quiz to come, and they wanted to waste some time.

  • 12:16:09

    FOLANBut they all had substantive things to say. And these are all, pretty much, Catholic children, who say it's impressive that the Pope doesn't live in the big house. It's impressive that the Pope wants to forgive people. It's impressive that the Pope kisses children. And I think that this is something that's exciting from the inside, as well. And it feels different, not in a comparative way, to say it's better. It's different, and it's exciting.

  • 12:16:32

    NNAMDIJohn Carr, in speaking out against trickle down economics, the Pope provoked accusations of Marxism from some on the right. This weekend, the Pope himself clarified. For those wondering, stating that the Marxist ideology is wrong. Is that perception, which was perpetuated by radio host Rush Limbaugh here in the US, an early folly in an attempt to politicize the Pope's actions?

  • 12:16:57

    CARRWell, I don't want to pick a fight with Rush Limbaugh. He's bigger than I am. But, if he thinks Pope Francis is a Marxist, he doesn't know much about Marx. He doesn't know much about Jesus. And he doesn't know anything about Pope Francis. This is a leader, who, as a Jesuit Provincial, spoke out against Marxist elements of -- some elements of Liberation Theology. So having done so, he feels perfectly comfortable talking about the excesses, and in some cases, the structure of unfettered capitalism.

  • 12:17:33

    CARRHe looks at everything, including the economy from the bottom up. And that's really different. Those are not the priorities of the Senate Finance Committee. Or the newspapers. Or many of us. So, he speaks and acts like Jesus. That's why he's considered so authentic. I woke up early, when he went to Assisi , and I was hoping to get a great speech about poverty or something on the environment. And I watched, and he walked into a room with 100 very disabled children and adults.

  • 12:18:13

    CARRAnd the Pope went from wheelchair to wheelchair, stroking their hands, touching their face, talking to them. They couldn't talk to him. Every single one. And, most times, we know what happens. Somebody walks in, they say hello to a couple people, and they give a speech. And then they leave. This Pope walks and talks like Jesus. And that's why we're paying attention.

  • 12:18:38

    NNAMDIWell, I found it fascinating that he said, Marxism is wrong, but I have known many Marxists, and they're very good and fine people. So that he's not attempting to strike any passionate arguments with people who don't necessarily happen to feel the same way that he does.

  • 12:18:55

    CARRMark Shields has a wonderful line. He says, you can tell the health of an organization by whether they're looking for converts or heretics. Pope Francis is looking for converts.

  • 12:19:09

    FOLANAnd I see the same thing when I hear him make this sort of a comment about Marxism. I see again the SJ that's after his name to indicate that he is a Jesuit. This great Jesuit concept of finding God in all things. In other words, the potential to hear God's voice in all different people, all different situations, is always there, if only we'd pay attention to it. And, in fact, it's often in those places where you would think you would be least likely to find it, that you'll find it in abundance.

  • 12:19:34

    NNAMDIIn addition to which, Ambassador Rooney, I see it as a very, well, diplomatic statement.

  • 12:19:41

    ROONEYWell, you know, as I understand what's been said, you know, it squares with exactly what Church teaching's been before, the economic theory. You know, going back to Vatican Two and before, that individuals have the right to private property and the fruits of their own labor, which are fundamentally free enterprise concepts, as long as there's fairness and equal opportunity for all. And, you know, the pope comes from an area of the world which is replete with crony capitalism, basically an oligopoly and all kinds of problems with land rights and using the state to manipulate people out of their property.

  • 12:20:23

    ROONEYAnd those kind of things undermine any kind of effort for real democracy anyway. So I see what he's trying to -- what he's talking about and the abuses of free enterprise system that need to be corrected offer the surest way to create an economic opportunity which is linked to real human dignity, which is linked to rising people out of poverty and creating the kind of stability for a real democracy in Latin America, as opposed to a pencil whip series of elections.

  • 12:20:52

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we will be continuing this conversation about Pope Francis, the Catholic church, poverty and policy. But if you're interested in joining the conversation and have already called, stay on the line, we will get to your calls. If you'd like to call, the number is 800-433-8850. Why do you think poverty and income inequality are such a divisive policy issue? 800-433-8850. You can also send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:23:20

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about the Catholic church, poverty and policy in general, and Pope Francis in particular. We're talking with Father Peter Folan. He's a Jesuit priest who serves as an associate pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church here in Washington. He also contributes to America magazine and the Jesuit Post, a blog by young Jesuits. John Carr directs the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University and is Washington correspondent for America magazine.

  • 12:23:48

    NNAMDIHe previously served as director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. And Francis Rooney joins us by phone from Naples, FL. He's former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and author of the book, "The Global Vatican: An Inside Look at the Catholic Church, World Politics, and the Extraordinary Relationship between the United States and the Holy See."

  • 12:24:09

    NNAMDIHe's also the CEO of Rooney Holdings. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. I'll go directly to the phone where Richard in Great Falls, VA awaits us. Richard, you're on the air, go ahead please.

  • 12:24:22

    RICHARDThank you, Kojo. Yeah, my question was that back in the spring, I believe, Cardinal Dolan, when he was in Chicago was lauded by the Vatican for diverting, I think, over $50 million in funds to protect them from being awarded to the sexually abused boys. Is this consistent with the pope's policy?

  • 12:24:45

    NNAMDIJohn Carr?

  • 12:24:46

    CARRWell, no. I think the situation is a lot more complicated than the caller suggests. The question is, what resources of the church are available to pay settlements for the terrible crime and sin and heartrending tragedy of clerical sexual abuse, which has haunted the church for these last decades. The Holy Father has set-up a new commission to try and make sure that the policies, the strictest policies in the world are worldwide.

  • 12:25:22

    CARRAnd I think you'll find him very impatient and frankly angry about the misuse of the priesthood and the misuse of money. The Pope is very tough on clericalism. And frankly the worst, worst, worst aspect of clericalism was protecting people who abused their ministry and abused young people.

  • 12:25:48

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. Let me go to Howard in Washington, D.C. Howard, you are on the air, go ahead please.

  • 12:25:59

    HOWARDThank you very much. I think this is a very important show, because I think the church has something important to say about economic policy and we don't often hear from it, which brings me to my two questions. One is there were actually some encyclicals done on economics by John Paul II and the conference of -- the bishops held conferences and spoke about it. But yet when Pope Benedict XVI issued his encyclical, there was nothing done about it.

  • 12:26:24

    HOWARDThere were no conferences. And now I wonder what the conference is going to do with this latest from Pope Francis. And second question I have is that I've looked at statements that have been made by the conference on trade policy. And although it is laudable that they have advocated on behalf the poor around the world, eventually -- you note as the American Conference of Bishops, they don't say anything about American workers. And I'm wondering what they think about that? What do they think about the plight of the American workers that face competition from overseas?

  • 12:26:57

    NNAMDIJohn, Fr. Peter, do you know anything about this?

  • 12:27:00

    FOLANWell, I worked at the Bishops Conference for a long time and there was a good deal of work done to defend the dignity, work and the rights of workers. Frankly, it was hard to break through in the media. Kojo is doing us all a service by focusing on poverty and economics, instead of sex, which seems to be the obsession not only of the church, as the Pope said, but of the media. But there is a lot of good work that goes on, including focus on trade and its impact on American workers.

  • 12:27:33

    FOLANBut it has trouble breaking through. I think we'll see whether this in fact changes the priorities of the conference and whether it changes the way the conference is covered. One of the things that the conference has been a leader on is something called the Circle of Protection, which is a group of Christian leaders that has gone to the president and the Republican leadership and said, in all these budget negotiations and the hard choices, put the poor first. Don't balance the budget on the back of the poor. That doesn't get a lot of attention, but it's made a difference.

  • 12:28:10

    NNAMDIAmbassador Rooney, often we see the Vatican through a strictly religious lens. But the Vatican City state, the world's smallest country maintains diplomatic relations with more than 175 others, including the U.S. How is serving as ambassador to the Holy See both different from and similar to being ambassador to, say, France or Nigeria?

  • 12:28:34

    ROONEYWell, Kojo, in many ways, it's the same as serving in a secular, bilateral mission because the fundamental duties to which the president assigns an ambassador are to conduct routine diplomatic interchange with the host country on areas of agreement, to leverage areas in agreement or bridge over disagreements, as well as to promote American values.

  • 12:28:57

    ROONEYWhich in my case in Rome was an opportunity to speak a lot about our melting pot, our unique tradition of citizenship, which is earned citizenship and about the First Amendment which has a totally different perspective than what the European experience has been. On the other hand, being focused on a few fundamental issues that pertain to human dignity, inalienable rights and, you know, religious freedom and the suffering of the people around the world, the Holy See applies these few issues in every country and every place in the world.

  • 12:29:32

    ROONEYSo it's not topically deep but it's broad. And, for example, with the president we've sat down with the secretary of state. We discussed 15 different countries where the United States and the Holy See were actively involved in either working together to promote a shared value or where we have slightly difference of opinion, but by and large a similar objective and hope for outcome.

  • 12:29:56

    NNAMDIYou have noted that there was an alignment of values between the Holy See and the George W. Bush administration. As Pope Francis calls for less of a focus on social issues, no changes, but less -- I think his word was obsession. Do you think the political dynamics between the parties will changed, either subtly or substantially?

  • 12:30:18

    ROONEYWell, there's no doubt that the social issues have been -- had dominated a lot of the discussion, but they really don't have a lot to do with the diplomatic symmetries and opportunities between the United States and the Holy See, you know. We have ongoing programs in trafficking, to combat trafficking against persons, to deploy the PEPFAR funds in Africa, to combat bad governments like in Zimbabwe or in Venezuela.

  • 12:30:48

    ROONEYAnd in those fundamental principles that the Holy See's diplomacy is based on the same ones that the United States was founded on, you know, inalienable rights of men, the concept of the inherent human dignity of each person and religious freedom. So as such, you know, we're natural partners for the Holy See. That's really why I wrote the book, is to try and broaden understanding of why the Holy See is such a valuable asset to the United States diplomatically in trying to promote what should be basically shared foreign policy objectives.

  • 12:31:23

    NNAMDIThe book is called, "The Global Vatican." John Carr?

  • 12:31:26

    CARRAmbassador Rooney has emphasized the areas of agreement and common ground, in which there are many. It would be important to point out, there have been substantial differences. For example, the Vatican strongly opposed the Iraq War. And sent a cardinal to meet with the president to beg him not to go to war. And sadly, all the things that John Paul predicted have come true, including the terrible situation on the Christian community in Iraq.

  • 12:31:59

    CARRI wish that the president and our Congress had listened to the warnings of Pope John Paul II and the Catholic bishops. So there'll be areas of agreement and areas of sharp disagreement. But it's built on the principle that dialogue is a better way of moving forward than isolation.

  • 12:32:19

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here is Rebecca in Columbia, MD. Rebecca, your turn. Hi, Rebecca, are you there? I hear Rebecca, but Rebecca doesn't hear me. Rebecca...

  • 12:32:31

    REBECCAHi, I am here. Sorry about that.

  • 12:32:34

    NNAMDIGo right ahead.

  • 12:32:35

    REBECCAHi, I'm really interested in the show today. I am actually an atheist and just on principle from church's separation standpoint, I very much oppose our diplomatic relations with the Holy See. That said, I have been super impressed with this pope and his dedication to the fundamental teachings of Jesus with regards to poor people and those who've been marginalized. I find him very genuine and I'm really pleased to see it. So I just wanted to share that perspective.

  • 12:33:12

    NNAMDIFather Peter Folan, it gets back to what you were talking about earlier.

  • 12:33:15

    FOLANYeah, and I'm grateful for that comment. And I think it's an indication of the pope's broad appeal. But I also think it's an indication of the broad appeal of the gospel, that there's no cultural or temporal idiom in which the gospel doesn't make sense. And so the way it takes root and will strike the human heart is one that should be uplifting, one that should be supported. And I think this pope has done a great job of showing that. And people are listening, even Time magazine is listening. They made him person of the year.

  • 12:33:42

    NNAMDIJohn, one of the -- oh, please go ahead, Ambassador Rooney.

  • 12:33:46

    ROONEYWell, Kojo, I was just going to say if I might answer Rebecca really quick.

  • 12:33:49

    NNAMDISure.

  • 12:33:50

    ROONEYYou know, you need to read my book, Rebecca. The Holy See's diplomacy is not limited to promoting the interest of Catholics or even Christians. The Holy See is a unique voice in the world as the only sovereign, which doesn't have territory and a political agenda. I'm not talking about theological issues here. That's for Father Peter and John. But they're a unique force for the fundamental principles of humanity, which apply to all humans whether you're Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jew, anything at all. And I would hope that you would be able to separate out the important work the Holy See can do to make the world a better place from...

  • 12:34:32

    NNAMDIIndeed, if I may interrupt, Ambassador Rooney, there have been examples of the Vatican exerting its influence in ways that have shaped major global conflicts. John Carr just referred to Iraq. But you note that one of the Holy See's greatest contributions on the world diplomatic stage is one of soft power. Where do we see that influence?

  • 12:34:53

    ROONEYWell, you know, we saw the soft power influence of Pope John XXIII with Norman Cousins at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. We certainly saw it from Pope John Paul II in Nicaragua and in Poland. We saw it in a somewhat misunderstood way with Pope Benedict at Regensburg, which I simply call all the perspective on that has yet to be obtained.

  • 12:35:16

    ROONEYAnd, you know, we saw here just last couple of weeks ago with Pope Francis' diplomatic note on Syria, which I really wished the United States would pick up some of the concepts in there and support the opportunity to use the soft power force of persuasion of the Holy See to seek a broader concept of citizenship in the Middle East as we work through this current round of problems in Syria.

  • 12:35:41

    NNAMDIFather Peter Folan.

  • 12:35:43

    FOLANI want to pick up on what the ambassador said, I think that's great. And I was thinking of the Syria example when the Pope asked for a day of fasting and of prayer for that situation to try to resolve it by peaceful means, by diplomatic means. And it's not a magic trick, it's not that if we all fast enough and pray enough that we convince God to really do something. But eyes are opened, ears are opened.

  • 12:36:03

    FOLANJohn Kerry makes an off-handed comment, well, what would it have to take for there not to be military action? Well then there's action after that, there's a response to that and we're in a position now where military action, at least it's not been something that has taken place.

  • 12:36:17

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Moez (sp?) in Hyattsville, MD. Moez, your turn.

  • 12:36:23

    MOEZHey, thank you, Kojo, for taking my call. I just want to say, I mean, I want to make a comment. By the way, I'm a Muslim here and I'm really -- I'm so happy about the pope talking about poverty now because the conservative movement in this country uses religion a lot of times for social issue. And now when somebody talk about the economic side and all worries against them and they call him now, the pope is a Marxist.

  • 12:36:57

    MOEZAnd I will tell him to embrace himself for more (unintelligible) from the right wing of our conservative movement here because they don't want the issue of religion to be talk about -- I mean, the religion to be talked -- you don't need to talk about economic. But for social things, yeah, they are all, all right. All religions, oh, we are against abortion, against, you know, gay. But when it comes about poverty and Jesus Christ is, we Muslim believe in all prophet. And we believe in Jesus Christ and we know what he did for helping the poor. And I really hope the pope keep going with this dialogue. Thank you.

  • 12:37:40

    NNAMDIMoez, thank you very much for you call. John Carr, despite our strong separation of church and state, Catholic church does have influence in the U.S. at various times on varying issues. Each major party has embraced or rejected it's mantel. Do you think we'll see shifts in how politicians here in the U.S. interact with the church now?

  • 12:37:58

    CARRIt'll be interesting to see. One of the things that impresses me is it's very difficult to put Pope Francis in the categories of American politics. He stands up for the weak and the vulnerable, whether it's the unborn child, whether it's the hungry child, whether it's the undocumented family. So it doesn't fit the categories of right and left. In some ways what he's doing is taking on the individualism which is dominating our politics.

  • 12:38:30

    CARROn the left, it's sort of lifestyle individualism, which makes choice the ultimate criteria of all of life. And on the right, it's sort of market individualism, economic individualism, which makes the market the measure of all life. And what the pope is saying is it's not just our choice, it's not just the market, it's how the weak are fairing. Every religion suggests that you measure the morality of a society by how the weakest are fairing. And if that's the question, we're failing the test.

  • 12:39:05

    NNAMDIWell, income inequality and poverty are global issues. But U.S. culture in particular has become somewhat fixated both on capitalism and consumerism. Is there a way for policy or our elected leaders to affect change on that front, perhaps taking a cue from the pope?

  • 12:39:22

    CARRWell, I was really struck by the silence on poverty for years, frankly. The president...

  • 12:39:30

    NNAMDIOne of the initiatives you're working on is breaking the silence and poverty...

  • 12:39:33

    CARRWell, exactly. And it was amazing to me that shortly after the Holy Father's exhortation, the president himself quoted the pope and was talking about income inequality and poverty. In that exhortation, he says we need politicians who feel the pain of the poor and who work to get beyond the welfare mentality to offer work, education and health care. If you were to name the issues in Washington that get the least attention right now, I think poverty, environment and peace would be three of them.

  • 12:40:13

    CARRAnd if you think about a pope named Francis, his priorities are poverty, environment and peace. So he doesn't fit, but the signs are encouraging. I think it is long past time that we have a real discussion of how we lift up the poor. We can have a vigorous debate about how to do that and there'll be differences, but we have to end the silence and we have to break the stalemate. Where some folks talk only about family life and other folks talk only about economic life, when we all know, if you're poor, or if you work with the poor, it's both. And it's a national scandal that we tolerate this kind of poverty in a rich nation like ours.

  • 12:40:56

    NNAMDIFather Folan, you serve as associate pastor at Holy Trinity Church here in Washington, D.C. Holy Trinity has a long history here in Washington. It's ministered to many in power, most famously, President John Kennedy. I wonder if that proximity to political power influences your thought process in preparing a homily for Sunday Mass.

  • 12:41:17

    COREYI think to some extent that it might, but I don't know how greatly it does. I'm new at all of this so I don't have too much to compare it to, but I'm -- when I'm preparing a homily for instance or even in any sort of a conversation, I don't -- I'm not looking up what's in somebody's bank account or who's going to be there or what job that person has, ask him for a business card, but I'm trying to think how does the gospel make sense in this context. And it would be foolish to ignore the fact that there are lots of folks at Holy Trinity who work for the government, who do all sorts of terrific things in Washington, D.C. and beyond.

  • 12:41:49

    FOLANBut I also think that there's always that tension. You don't want to tailor a gospel too much to somebody because there's blind spots that can be there. But at the same time, you don't want to not take into account at all the people with whom you're speaking or else it risks falling on deaf ears.

  • 12:42:05

    NNAMDIOnto Tesfa, in Arlington, Va. Tesfa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:42:11

    TESFAGood afternoon.

  • 12:42:12

    NNAMDIGood afternoon.

  • 12:42:14

    TESFAMarxism is about conflict, about class war and many stop fight because charity is about love, consideration and reconciliation. And confusing Christianity with Marxism is very unconstructive. Here is an example. Why the Pope is so popular is the individual Christian member. He's very solidly for doing something about the poor. In Ethiopia and Arch Bishop, Abune zena Merkorios, a few years ago died and nobody knew. He was so passionately followed and he cared about the poor. Look, if we want to be constructive, we need to do something about the poor.

  • 12:43:09

    TESFAReligious institutions have to do a whole lot more. And the right wing, Rush Limbaugh and the rest, should stop this destructive policy and do something better. I don't think (unintelligible) them to do anything better. Anything for the poor to them is sin.

  • 12:43:26

    NNAMDITesfa speaks very passionately about an argument that you made earlier, John Carr, saying that people who accuse the Pope of being Marxist don't understand either Marxism or this Pope.

  • 12:43:40

    CARRWell, this is at the center of our faith. It's as old as genesis. It's as clear as Jesus teaching on Earth. And it has been what the church has taught for centuries. And what the Holy Father has done is given it new priority, new visibility, and new urgency. And part of that is just because you have to look at the facts. And the economic meltdown brought on by the financial mechanisms failing us, in fundamental ways, the housing market failing us and what happened? The poor became poorer. The rich became richer. And middle class wages have been stagnant.

  • 12:44:19

    CARRSo it's not just Argentina that has a problem with economics that divide us in fundamental ways. It's true in this country. So this is not a matter of ideology. This is a matter of reality. And what the Pope is doing is taking traditional Catholic teaching about the priority for the poor and the pursuit of the common good and applying it to the global economy. And it's our task to apply it to our own economy.

  • 12:44:49

    NNAMDIAmbassador Rooney, a clarification, please. There has been some recent confusion about the status of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See recently. It's not being closed, as some reported, but likely co-located with the embassy to Rome. What do you make of the move?

  • 12:45:06

    ROONEYWell, the State Department wanted to do that back in 2005 and I managed to stop it. There's been a lot of disinformation about the whole process. You know, some people have tried to turn it into a President Obama versus Catholics issue, which I think is a very poor approach. It's basically an issue of security and an issue of cost. And it's not the greatest building, no doubt about it. It's got a huge picture window open to the Circus Maximus, but on the other hand it's also very difficult to get a vehicle up onto the building grounds, which is one of the very highest risk issues, is a vehicle driving in with a bomb.

  • 12:45:50

    ROONEYSo there's pros and cons to the building, but the bottom line is it would be better to find a new building if the State Department doesn't like that one, rather than to co-locate and submerge the mission into the grounds of Embassy Rome. You know in bureaucracy you need to have your own source of identity and position and otherwise you tend to get subsumed into the broader entity that you're part of. And I think it would undermine some of the perceived independence and stature and ability to influence of the Holy See mission.

  • 12:46:24

    NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Francis Rooney is former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and author of the book, "The Global Vatican: An Inside Look at the Catholic Church, World Politics and the Extraordinary Relationship Between the United States and the Holy See." He's also the CEO of Rooney Holdings. John Carr directs the initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University. He's Washington correspondent for America Magazine. He previously served as director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

  • 12:46:56

    NNAMDIAnd Father Peter Folan, is a Jesuit priest who serves as an associate pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church here in Washington, D.C. He also contributes to America Magazine and the Jesuit Post, a blog by young Jesuits. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:47:11

    CARRThank you.

  • 12:47:12

    ROONEYThank you, Kojo.

  • 12:47:12

    FOLANThank you very much.

  • 12:47:12

    NNAMDIWe've got to take a short break. We'll be right back.

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