The Pope’s role does not extend to American politics

Kristine Totanes, Staff Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

While Pope Francis, over the years, has proven to be an effective facilitator of peace and equality over the world, the amount of political influence afforded to him lately has been a bit too much. During his recent six-day visit to the United States, he met with the leadership in District of Columbia—including a meeting with the president himself — and presented a speech at the White House during his welcoming ceremony, where he touched on a number of highly sensitive topics including immigration, climate change and the nation’s ties with Cuba. The question is whether or not the head of the Catholic church should be commenting on these issues.

Of course, Pope Francis has every right to state his views on any topic, including marriage and income inequality (which he also happened to discuss during his first-ever U.S. tour) but the platform from which he presented his views was not completely appropriate. As the face of the Catholic Church, the pope’s role is to spiritually lead and guide people, not be a political leader — or form a political platform. This, after all, is the role of elected government officials, not spiritual leaders.

By praising President Obama for his efforts to improve U.S. relations with Cuba as well as for taking a stance on climate change, the pope paved the way for potential friction with members of the Republican Party. Similarly, by publicly upholding traditional marriage values and condemning homosexuality he did not improve his standing among members of the Democratic Party. The resulting friction between the pope and American leadership could be detrimental to the mission of the Catholic church — to spread its teachings about Christ and promote peace and goodwill throughout the world—as well as setting the American political environment on its head.

The U.S. political leadership today is a very separated and dichotomic one. The last it needs is a person, whose teachings are adhered to by millions of people all over the United States and the world, to further separate and stratify this leadership. What Pope Francis can do, however, is promote his beliefs and ideologies from the platform that has always been intended for him — that of the pope of the Catholic church.