A new pope arrives in the United States. Expectations are high for this different type of papacy that brings fresh air from a land that has never given Catholicism a pope before. He comes to America as a media star, having energized not only Catholics, but many of other faiths or even no faith at all. His charisma and direct contact with people in the pews contrast starkly with the remoteness and intellectualism of his predecessor as pope. Catholicism has been in the doldrums for more than a decade, but his unexpected election has sparked excitement and curiosity. He gives voice to many who haven't been heard and have been yearning for leadership.
The most troubling electoral result of the year, as far as I’m concerned, was the Scottish vote on independence. Not the referendum's failure itself—few people outside the UK had much of a stake in that either way—but the fact that elite opinion elsewhere seemed relatively unshaken by the implications when 45 percent of Scots voted to dissolve the United Kingdom.
The United States and the Catholic Church share some intriguing similarities: both are global in reach, exert significant influence over hundreds of millions of people, and (perhaps most interestingly) make serious teleological claims. Such claims have not necessarily clashed, for they appeal to different social and moral aspects of humanity. At their best, they can be complementary empires of promise.
Pope Francis has garnered headlines with his simplicity, as well as with his calls for a “Church for the poor.” The surprise his actions have met reflects, among other things, this: that when it comes to the matter of the haves and have nots, Christians these days tend not to rock the boat.
So you've probably already heard that Mother Jones has video of Governor Romney saying, among other things, this:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. . . . These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. . . . My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
As is often the case, Wonkblog has heaps of great commentary.