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When Pope Francis lands at Andrews Air Force base Tuesday, he will be making his first ever visit to the U.S. The Pontiff’s six-day agenda includes a visit at the White House, a speech before a joint meeting of Congress, and stops in New York and Philadelphia. In his two and half years as head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has become known as humble but forceful leader. He’s a passionate advocate for the world’s poor and for the need to protect the earth for future generations. We hear about the Pope’s U.S. visit, his leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and why so many non-Catholics are paying attention.
- Maureen Fiedler Host, Interfaith Voices and Sister of Loretto
- E.J. Dionne Jr. Senior fellow, Brookings Institution; columnist, The Washington Post; author, "Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent."
- Robert Destro Professor of law and director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion, Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America
- Nicole Winfield Vatican correspondent, AP
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Pope Francis flies from Cuba to the U.S. tomorrow, his first ever visit to the U.S. since becoming pope in 2013. The pontiff from Argentina has attracted global attention for his humble demeanor, but also for strong calls to action on behalf of the world's disenfranchised and the environment.
MS. DIANE REHMHere to talk about Pope Francis and his role as world leader, Maureen Fiedler of Interfaith Voices, E.J. Dionne of The Brookings Institution and Robert Destro of the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America. I do invite your participation, as always. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or you can send us a tweet.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd how good to have you all here in the studio.
MR. E.J. DIONNE JR.Great to be with you, Diane.
MR. ROBERT DESTROWell, thanks for having us.
MS. MAUREEN FIEDLERGreat to be with you, Diane.
REHMThank you. And we are now joined by Nicole Winfield. She's Vatican correspondent for The AP. She's traveling with the Pope and you are now in Cuba with him, Nicole?
MS. NICOLE WINFIELDThat's right. We have just landed in Holguin, which is in the eastern part of Cuba. Francis will be celebrating a mass in just about a half hour.
REHMHow has the Pope been received so far in Cuba? You say, I gather, he's been doing something of a balancing act.
WINFIELDYes, I think I really see it coming out in this trip. He has not -- he has obviously been very deferential to the government. We saw the images of his meeting yesterday with Fidel Castro. Obviously, very friendly, very familiar. But at the same time, he hasn't shied away from some very subtle critiques of the Communist system. He spoke about not serving in ideology, but serving people.
WINFIELDSo I think he's walking a fine line, making his points, but at the same time, being respectful of his host.
REHMI gather you also you were in Cuba with Pope Benedict back in 2012. Tell me the kinds of differences you've seen on this trip.
WINFIELDWell, I think there's a clear appreciation that this is a Latin American Pope. He speaks their language. I think there is also an enormous appreciation of what he has done for the detente with the United States. I was not expecting Cubans really to know the role that he played, but since I've arrived and talked to them, they're really quite familiar and aware of the role that the Pope played and they're very grateful for it.
WINFIELDSo I'd say the reception for Benedict was warm. I'd say this is warmer and more familiar and one of greater appreciation.
REHMHe, that is, Pope Francis, comes to Cuba and to the U.S. as something of an outsider, even though he is from Argentina. He's done quite a lot of preparation for this trip.
WINFIELDYes, that's right. He's never -- this will be his first trip to the U.S. and it's actually his first trip to Cuba as well. And he told us, over the summer, that he really needed to do his homework, especially for the United States. I think it was a bit of a puzzle for him. It's a complicated church, a complicated system and one that he had never really dug his teeth into, but the Vatican spokesman told us earlier this week that he had, indeed, done his homework over the summer and was fully prepared.
REHMHe's going to speak to a joint meeting of Congress. Will he do that in English or through a translator?
WINFIELDApparently, the Congress speech is one of four speeches that he will be delivering in English. He does speak English quite well. It's accented, but he can get through it. The rest of his speeches, though, will be in Spanish and there will be translations provided, but the vast majority of his speeches in the U.S. will be Spanish.
REHMAnd on the political side, how large a role did Pope Francis play in the rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba?
WINFIELDWell, both Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro singled him out by name in their speeches announcing the rapprochement. We know that he wrote to both leaders in the summer of 2014 urging them on humanitarian grounds to put their half century of animosity behind them and then the Vatican offered its good offices to host the final meetings in October of last year where the deal was sealed and the Vatican acted as something of a guarantor for the commitments that were being made.
WINFIELDSo one could say that it wasn't very much and Pope Francis himself has tried to minimize the role that he has played, but Vatican officials would be quick to point out that the personal intervention of that kind by a Pope carries a lot of weight. They recall it back during the Cuban missile crisis, it was John XXIII who made a similar appeal to Khrushchev and Kennedy to do everything possible to avoid what could've been a very, very serious conflict.
WINFIELDAnd a few days later, the crisis evaporated.
REHMHmm. And finally, Nicole, what's it like to travel with the Pope? Do you get a real sense of what he's like personally?
WINFIELDWell, I think it's a privilege to be close with him and the delegation on the plane. We do see perhaps a more informal side of him. The Pope, even in the grandest formal occasions often shows a sense of humor and an informality that a lot of people are not used to seeing in a Pope. But on the planes, he's -- I hate to say it, but he's just a normal person.
WINFIELDHe is funny. He's engaging. He's natural. He's normal and I think that's the point that he has tried to make is that Popes are normal people, too, and that we shouldn't put the papacy up on this exalted pedestal. He's human.
REHMThank you. Nicole, Winfield, she's Vatican correspondent for the AP. Thanks again.
REHMAnd now, turning to you, E.J. Dionne, what has made this Pope such an influential global leader in such a short time?
DIONNE JR.Well, it's funny. I think Nicole, who, by the way, is in a great tradition of AP correspondents at the Vatican, said it in that last comment. He's just a normal person. And I think there is something not only about his informality, but also about the people who, from the very beginning of the papacy, he has chosen to lift up. When he went on Holy Thursday to wash the feet of the disciples as part of the liturgy, he went into a youth detention center, washed the feet of women, a couple of Muslims.
DIONNE JR.In other words, this was a Pope who really believes what the Gospel says about the last shall be first and the first shall be last. And so I think that when we look at his trip, we're going to be listening a lot to what he says and we are going to draw a lot of political conclusions from this. We're going to look a lot at how does he fit into the Republican/Democratic, liberal/conservative fight here and that’s legitimate enough.
DIONNE JR.But I also think we have to look at who he is choosing to see or whom he is choosing to see while he's here. I just want to add someone speaking in Spanish, and most of his speeches will be in Spanish, about justice, poverty, a warming planet, an imperative to welcome immigrants is bound to shake things up. I had the mischievous thought of you wonder how would he have been welcomed on that debate stage at the Republican debate last week.
REHMOh, dear. Oh, dear. Oh, dear.
DIONNE JR.I can't...
REHMLet's not go there.
DIONNE JR.Forgive a semi-partisan comment, but I think it raises an interesting question.
REHMMaureen, who are the people with whom the Pope will likely meet?
FIEDLERWell, he's gonna meet with a wide range of people and naturally, the public, the Congress, the people -- the delegates at the United Nations and literally thousands who will be present when he canonizes Junipero Serro at the...
REHMWhich is controversial.
FIEDLERVery controversial, very controversial.
REHMAnd we'll get to that.
FIEDLERYes. So enormous number of different people, but it's interesting to see, like, who was invited to the White House, representatives, for example, from the Catholic LGBT community have been invited, people who have advocated for gay rights for years. And whereas Francis has been very pastoral in that regard, he has made no substantive changes in church dogma or teaching on that issue.
REHMHow controversial is that, Bob Destro?
DESTROWhat, that he's going to be meeting with people? I don't think that's...
REHMNo, with LGBT people, with others.
DESTROI don't think it's controversial at all, really. I think it might be a little bit more controversial for the White House to put him in that position, you know. But nonetheless, I mean, Jesus himself met with the woman at the well and reminded her to bring her husband next time. So I mean, you know, Francis is a pastor and he will act as a pastor.
DIONNE JR.And I think one of the interest -- oh, go ahead, Sister.
FIEDLERI was just gonna say, I think that's the attraction of Francis. His warm, human personality, the fact that he smiles. He welcomes everyone and he seems to have read the Gospel. So much of what he says resonates with it.
REHMMaureen Fiedler, she's host of Interfaith Voices. She is a Sister of Loretto. Short break here. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Just before the break, we were talking with our guest Maureen Fiedler, E.J. Dionne, Robert Destro, about some of the controversy raised about exactly who the pope will be asked to meet with. Now, where is the criticism coming from, E.J. Dionne?
DIONNE JR.Well, some conservatives and others who've said that, does the White House, when foreign dignitaries come to visit, put people on the guest list who formally disagree with them on something? And, you know, to be honest, I think it's actually an interesting question where I would love see some dissidents on the guest list when dictators come into town. My colleague Fred Hiatt and also an editorial on this in The Post, suggested that. And I don't think that's such a bad thing.
DIONNE JR.On the other hand, as Bob said, Pope Francis doesn't have a problem meeting with people. He's -- it's interesting, because he has not changed a word about formal church teaching on gays and lesbians, and yet he is a kind of hero in that community to a surprising degree, given that he hasn't changed doctrine, because he has shown an extraordinary openness to them. And it sort of suggests a move but the formal move hasn't been taken.
DIONNE JR.I think one other thing I want to just get in here at the beginning, which is, you know, people on the progressive side of both politics and on the various battle of the church, very much welcome Francis. And some conservatives, particularly those outside the church, are very critical of him on issues like global warming or his attitudes toward capitalism. George Will had a -- well, let's put it -- very strong critique of him...
FIEDLERTo put it mildly.
DIONNE JR....in The Washington Post, to put it mildly. On the other hand, it's a mistake to purely put -- put Francis purely in our own ideological categories. First, he is more of a radical than he is a liberal on a lot of questions. Secondly, the Catholic Church does have a complex array of teachings.
DIONNE JR.It has long been critical of unregulated capitalism and of what capitalism does to the poor. But the pope is opposed to abortion. I am sure he's going to mention that while he is here. He has not supported and he opposed in a referendum down in Argentina gay marriage. Although there is a lot written that...
FIEDLERIt was for a civil unions.
DIONNE JR.It was for civil unions. So this is going to be complicated.
DIONNE JR.And it's going to be fascinating to see how -- what people choose to take out of it. But my hunch is, at the end of the day, the conservatives are going to be a lot more critical of this pope than the liberals would be, because the liberals so welcome the fact that he has broadened the church's agenda again back to where it was 30 or 40 years ago, to include both social justice and family sorts of issues.
FIEDLERYes. And I just got back from a huge conference in Philadelphia, Pa., called, Women's Ordination Worldwide. And there were literally women from all over the world there who advocate full gender equality in the church. And most would feel -- even though, if you asked them personally, they love Pope Francis, his personality, his emphasis on the poor, his encyclical on climate change, they are totally behind that -- but they say, women are his blind spot. He's got to understand that gender equality is something that he needs to implement in the church, in order for the gospel to be fully carried out.
REHMHasn't he said, however, that as far as women who've had abortions, that they should be forgiven?
DESTROWell, that's always been the rule, that they should be forgiven as long as they confess and are repentant. The bigger problem, I think, as a friend of our family had, is the priest asked her, when she admitted it, he says, when are you going to forgive yourself? God has already forgiven you. You know, so this -- the pastoral approach to this, he's just underscoring that.
DIONNE JR.But I think he did make a change, which -- you know, which had to do -- pardon me if I'm wrong, Bob -- that it used to be that that was a sin you really needed forgiven by a bishop.
DIONNE JR.And he turned it into, if you will...
DIONNE JR....a sin that could be forgiven by your priest and that you didn't have to go to a formal process, which can...
FIEDLERThat's right. That's my understanding, too.
DIONNE JR....my understanding is, America had done that more than other nations.
DESTROWe had done that a long time ago, but this was across the world, he had made that...
FIEDLERNow there's different perspectives on that. When I was at this conference talking to a couple feminist theologians, they said, Well, you know, we're glad he did this. But it makes it easier for women to do what the Vatican wants them to do. The same thing with the change in annulment policy, which is really changes in regulation and, as is the whole question of forgiveness for abortion. So there can be a certain level of critique of that as well.
REHMSo what about the issue of gays in the church? He has said, Who am I to judge? What does that mean as far as the acceptance of gay rights and gay union? Bob Destro.
DESTROWell, you know, the -- again, I go back to the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. I mean, he was very acceptable -- accepting. He was kind. You know? But he made it clear, he didn't go for the behavior.
DESTROYou know? And so, and I think you're not going to see that change. You know? And I do think that it's perilous -- I think E.J. pointed this out a little earlier -- to have this discussion in a -- as a kind of "Inside Baseball." Here, in the United States, here are our issues, you know, but he's got his issues too. One of which is the genocide that's going on, of Christians and other religious believers around the word. And he has called -- he's said, there's a third world war going on. He's said there's a genocide going on. And he asks us to do things to stop it. And I think he's going to ask Congress to actually step in and do something.
REHMThat's where I was going. How is he going to be received by this joint meeting of Congress? Obviously, many people want to be there, but some are actually rejecting his statements on capitalism and on global warming. So how is he likely to be received?
DIONNE JR.Well, first of all, I think it is really fascinating that in 1960, which is not all that long ago, we had a huge debate over, should we elect our first Catholic president?
DIONNE JR.When the pope speaks to Congress, the two people standing behind him will be Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, both of whom are very serious Catholics, so…
FIEDLERAnd he was...
DIONNE JR....for those who are worried, by the way, you know -- we may get to this later in the show -- we still have anti-Muslim prejudice in the country.
DIONNE JR.And that should give us hope...
DIONNE JR....that we can overcome various forms of religious prejudice. I don't think it's going to be quite like a State of the Union, with one side standing up and the other side sitting down. But if he does say very strong things about climate change, which he has already said in his encyclical, you know that there are many people in that chamber on the conservative side who won't agree.
REHMNot going to be happy.
DIONNE JR.If he says very strong things critical about how an unregulated capitalist system works, there are going to be a lot of people in that chamber unhappy. On the other hand, many of those people, if he says anything about abortion, will stand up and cheer. So I think it's going to be interesting. And yet, I think, a lot of people in the congressional leadership are going to try still to be careful that it doesn't look just like...
DIONNE JR....a State of the Union.
FIEDLERI understand that the congressional leadership has had meetings with the membership in the last couple days asking that they be civilized. And that they not...
DIONNE JR.That would be a huge miracle, you know?
FIEDLERMessy, I mean, maybe that is the miracle he would bring. I don't know. But I think you're right. And I think he will be delivering this speech in English. And so, I think, it's not likely that he's going to do what he frequently does when he speaks, which is go off script.
DIONNE JR.Could I say one thing on the religious liberty question? I think it's going to be fascinating -- and, again, this is one of those things that all the analysts, including those nasty columnists are going to be looking for, he speaks self-deprecatingly -- that what kind of emphasis does he put on religious liberty? Does he revisit the whole fight we had over contraception in the Clinton -- in the Obama health care plan? I suspect there are a lot of conservative bishops who want him to do that.
DIONNE JR.My hunch is, with Sister, that he won't really go there.
FIEDLERI don't think he's going to touch that.
DIONNE JR.But he will talk a lot about religious liberty when it comes to those who are being persecuted around the world. And I think that would be a very useful thing for him to do.
FIEDLERYeah, I agree. I think he's going to stay out of domestic disputes like you described.
DESTROI'm not so sure. And the reason I say that is that, in the end, you know, the fights over religious liberty both in the Middle East, where people are given a choice of either convert or die, you know, and people in the United States who want to live by their religions and can go to jail for the privilege, you know, is this is a spectrum of oppression, you know, that there's an orthodoxy. And I think he's going to attack that orthodoxy. People are -- our constitution requires that we take people as we find them. And that's why Ben Carson's wrong.
DESTROYou know? And that's why you finally have -- I mean, there's a fascinating historical vignette about back in the 1920s, some poor guy got off the train in Indiana and they thought he was the pope. And he had to, you know, and so we, you know, he was beat up. And so the whole question of the acceptance of an alternative point of view is, I think, going to be very much on his mind.
REHMBut, you know, even as I hear you all talking, it's as though we really don't quite know what to expect. And Maureen, why is that?
FIEDLERWell, I think it's because he's unpredictable, you know? In all the speeches around the world and all of the actions that he has done -- whether it's visiting prisons or washing feet or speaking about the poor -- none of this was expected when he became pope. This was not something that the pontiffs that preceding him immediately had done. And his openness to this, plus his warm personality, I think it leaves open the question of what he's going to address when he's here. We just don't know.
REHMHe does seem, you write, E.J., perhaps even more liberal than he really is.
DIONNE JR.Well, he's -- it depends on how you -- I mean, I sound like Bill Clinton, it depends on what the meaning of the word liberal is. As I, you know, that so much of this is really out of, sort of, there are radical strains not only politically, but even more importantly spiritually. And that the key thing that he does all the time is turns the tables on who is important. Jim Dwyer in The New York Times last week had a beautiful column where, here's the invite list to meet the pope at an event he's having in New York: car washers, Hudson Valley farm workers, day laborers, immigrant mothers, teenagers and children who have crossed the border without their parents. I mean, this is a deeply Christian thing.
DIONNE JR.Now, sure, Marxism actually, in some ways, Christians might view it as a Christian heresy, because Marxism also lifted up the people at the bottom. So that's the key. But I also think there's unpredictability for the reason Sister said, which is, he is an unpredictable person. And a lot of these events, in the prison, for example, could give rise to things we don't expect. But there's another thing, which is, these papal visits -- I used to cover the Vatican and covered a lot of papal trips -- often what a local hierarchy sends to the Vatican, the Vatican pays close attention to what...
DIONNE JR....the local bishops have to say. Our hierarchy is now somewhat divided. If you see...
FIEDLERYeah, to put it mildly.
DIONNE JR....what the -- what the bishops and archbishops that -- whom Pope Francis has named, are quite different from, say, Cardinal Chaput in Philadelphia, who has raised some polite but, you know, some doubts about where Pope Francis is going. And so it's not clear, when he gets all of this input from the American Church, which parts of it is he going to take?
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now, our listeners around the country may not be aware of this, but there is a gentleman standing right on Massachusetts Avenue with a large sign talking about pedophilia within the Catholic Church. Now, that sign is going to be very near where the pope may visit, because it's right across...
FIEDLERProbably near the Vatican Embassy.
DESTRORight. Right, right.
REHMExactly. And right across from the vice president's home. So what about this issue of sexual abuse within the priesthood?
REHMHow is he going to deal with that? Or is he, Maureen?
FIEDLERI don't know. But he certainly should address it in the United States when he's here. And no one seems to know exactly what he's going to say, of course. But there are many people whose relatives have been victims of sexual abuse, who've talked about the fact that Francis hasn't gone quite far enough...
FIEDLER...to try to deal with this issue, particularly when it comes to the bishops, who have not removed the priests who have been guilty. A number of priests have been removed from ministry because of it.
FIEDLERBut the bishops, save one -- Finn in Kansas City -- that I can think of. But, after all, he was a convicted felon. You know, he should have gone before he did. And, you know, they're just -- the feeling that just not enough has been done by Francis. Although there is a commission in the Vatican which is looking into this. It includes, for the first time, a couple of women, including at least one who has been the victim of abuse herself. So it's being looked into. But people are waiting for real action on this.
REHMInteresting. Bob Destro.
DESTROYou know, just before he took office, a big report landed on the desk of the pope and it was left by Benedict IV Francis. And I believe he's working through the to-do list. But, you know, inside sources say it was a lot worse than people expected it would be. And it runs the gamut...
DIONNE JR.Worse, meaning tougher.
DESTROTougher, you know, tougher. It runs the gamut, not simply about sex abuse in the priesthood, there was sex abuse in convents, there were sex abuses in schools, there was financial mismanagement. I mean, you name it. It's a huge institution, worldwide, and there's a lot of issues. And God bless him if he can solve half of them.
DIONNE JR.He had, very early on, a response to this that was really inadequate, defensive. It was not forward-thinking. And my understanding is there are people in the American church who are his allies who said, look, this is huge. And this is not an ideological issue.
DIONNE JR.This doesn't divide Catholics along left/right lines.
DIONNE JR.There are a lot of conservative, progressive, middle-of-the-road Catholics who were incredibly upset at the way the church handled this.
DIONNE JR.And so, I think he does need to be very aggressive. Penitent about what the church did while he's here.
DIONNE JR.I cannot imagine this trip being successful if he doesn't do something that addresses this concern among the faithful. Because, again, this went to the heart of the church structure and how a lot of Catholics love the church. And when an institution you love behaves in this way...
DIONNE JR....it's a deeper hurt than just talking about some random institution out there.
REHMBut how far does he have to go to satisfy those who, as you describe, are so totally offended by what's happened here.
DESTROI think that Maureen got it right when she said, when they start holding bishops accountable.
DESTROYou know, and it's not just -- it's the -- the abuse is bad enough, you know, but the cover-up is even worse.
FIEDLERYes, that's right.
DIONNE JR.Yes. The institutional issue is the more severe one...
DIONNE JR....because they have to deal with that.
REHMAll right. Short break here. When we come back, we've got lots of callers. We'll take those and your email. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. Here in the studio, Maureen Fiedler, she is host of Interfaith Voices, and she is a Sister of Loretto. E.J. Dionne is senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a columnist for The Washington Post and author of "Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent." Robert Destro is professor of law, director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion at the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America.
REHMWe're going to open the phones now first to Gabrielle in Cleveland, Ohio. You're on the air.
GABRIELLEThank you, Diane. As the president of Life Watch Group, an international think-tank, I applaud the pope for two fronts, one for caring about the poor and for global warming, and we recommend a solution that's very simple. We know that 63 percent of the grain in the world that is produced goes to feed animals, chicken, fish, goats, whatever, instead of feeding the poor. And what is important is that 50 percent of global warming is caused by agribusiness. So if we stopped eating so much animal products, we could have a win-win. We would be able to feed the poor with grain instead of the animals, and we would be able to decrease the footprint of global warming.
REHMThank you, Gabrielle. So two questions, feeding the poor and climate change. The question becomes, how much of an impact can the pope's visit truly have changing minds, not only of those believers and non-believers but members of Congress who have the authority to do something. Maureen?
FIEDLERThat's right, and I don't know -- excuse me -- I don't know exactly what effect he will have, but if anybody can have an effect, it's the pope because he has been in contact with the poor. He obviously loves, enjoys the conversations with the poor. And his encyclical on climate change, certainly among the progressive Catholics, which -- who I know, was wildly popular not to mention in the interfaith community, where it's definitely had a major impact.
FIEDLERAnd so I think on both of those issues he's already had an impact, but because he is who he is, it's very possible that there might be some members of Congress that would begin scratching their heads and changing minds.
DESTROWell, I want to question kind of an underlying assumption of much of our conversation. I mean, the assumption appears to be that progressives care for the poor, and conservatives don't. They actually just have very opposite -- they have different ways of addressing that. I mean, as many of the Republicans would say, the best way to take care of the poor is to create new jobs, you know, and to -- and to loosen up the system in such a way that people can work...
FIEDLERWell, Democrats wouldn't be opposed to creating jobs.
REHMBut he's still -- he's still talking about the one percent, Bob.
DESTRONo, no, and I'm not talking about the one percent. What I'm talking about is if there's going to be an effect, then what you're going to also be looking at is what John Paul II talked about, about the great workbench and the importance of work in the creation and effectuation of human dignity. So the question of how you create an environment where people can work and can live safely and can feed their kids is a discussion that both liberals and conservatives can have if they will start taking each other's good faith into account.
DIONNE JR.I think the pope makes it a lot more difficult for conservatives than you are suggesting. Even though I'm all for good faith, and lord knows I have a lot of sympathy for compassionate conservatives who are actually serious about both words, and I want to get back to that, but this pope has been explicitly and repeatedly critical of trickle-down economics.
DESTROHe has been very critical of the workings of capitalism. It really is hard, and which is why non-Catholic conservatives have been so critical of his thought, it's really hard to be on the pope's side of economic questions in poverty and have a supply-side kind of view. Having said that, I do think that the pope could have some real effect on conservatives. I think that we need desperately a comeback for compassionate -- for conservatism that really does put the poor at a greater, at a greater priority...
REHMSo I'm asking.
DIONNE JR.And Catholic politicians don't like to get crosswise with the pope, with his popularity ratings. So I think you're going to see some very interesting -- some of it will be symbolic.
DIONNE JR.But -- and then at the grassroots level, I do think the pope, there are conservative Catholics who have always known the Gospel says you're supposed to care about the poor, and I think he's having an impact on all of us. And by the way, on liberals, too, where we don't do enough either, truth be told.
DESTROWell, I mean, but there's also the piece about the Gospels themselves say you teach people how to fish. I've heard bishops say they're turning my people into paupers, into beggars. You know, so and this was spoken by one of the bishops from the Middle East.
REHMAll right, Bob, I had an email this morning, just this morning, from a woman, age 60, totally trained, capable, laid off from her technical teaching job because her technical teaching job had gone to a junior college, and she was laid off, age 60. Nobody, she says, out of 50 applications, two people called her back, when they realized her age, said sorry. So, I mean, there is a broader picture of how we deal with jobs in this country. Maureen, last word on this, and then I'm going to take us elsewhere.
FIEDLERWell, and I think it -- when you talk about jobs, the pope did come out a couple months ago for equal pay for equal work for men and women. And I think that's an important thing to add to this conversation. I hope he reiterates that here.
FIEDLERIt's -- there's not equal work in the church, however.
REHMWe have an email from Francois, and this takes us back to an issue you raised, Maureen. Francois says, might we discuss the controversy surrounding the pope's intentions to canonize a man, Father Junipero Serra, who took an active role in destroying native culture in the American Southwest not to mention their enslavement? Native people are currently voicing their opposition, but so far their concerns have been disregarded. Tell us about Father Junipero Serra, Maureen.
FIEDLERRight, he has a Franciscan missionary who opened a whole lot of missions in California and during the days of the Spanish conquest and was, you know, out to really convert the natives to Catholicism, to Christianity, and thousands of them did. But there were a lot of people who have looked at the history here, know that, like, if Native American entered a mission and in fact was baptized, they couldn't leave. And if they did leave, they were often brought back and flogged for having done that.
FIEDLERNow some of this is policies of several centuries ago, but it doesn't exactly bespeak what we would recognize today as Christianity, and there's a lot of criticism that says should this man be canonized or not. Now having said this, in fairness, there are Native Americans who have an admiration for Junipero Serra and who support the ordination. So -- but I think the majority would raise a lot of questions about his activities.
DESTROI don't know whether you can call it a majority or a minority. When you go to the pueblos of New Mexico, for example, you know, those are Catholic communities. And that native culture hasn't been destroyed. So, you know, there -- what we're doing here is we're taking the standards of today, and we're castigating people of 200 years ago. I mean, Junipero Serra did good things, and he did bad things, but so did Thomas Jefferson.
FIEDLERRight, but the question is canonization, which has to do with sainthood and so forth. So we expect better than a little bit of this and a little bit of that, you know.
DIONNE JR.It's interesting because Pope Francis some months ago gave a very powerful speech on the damage done to native cultures by the Spanish coming in.
DIONNE JR.And it's going to be interesting to see how he squares these two things in the Serra case because it does raise some real issues that he has addressed himself, and yet there is obviously this mass devotion to him in large parts of the Latin American church.
DESTROYou know, where in South America that Spanish culture really -- you can see the bands of wealth and culture in South American society more than you can see it here.
REHMAll right, let's go to Terry in Bruceton, Tennessee. You're on the air.
TERRYThank you, Diane. I'm glad you're back.
TERRYI applaud the pope's stance on global warming, relaxation on gays and abortion, but I call on -- he should call on all of his followers that they shall turn over all information about any Catholic child molesting and abuses to the legal authorities for prosecution and assist as much as possible and provide money for the prosecution to the -- beyond the extent that they've helped these molesters and abusers to evade...
DESTROWell, I think he -- I think the church across the United States has done that. They've paid out billions in damages. There's more that can be done in terms of cleaning up, but I think that the -- Terry has raised an important point, which is how serious is society in cleaning up this mess, the mess of abuse of power in sexual relationships, and we have a long way to go, especially in the public schools.
FIEDLERAnd especially when it comes to bishops who have covered up the fact that priests have been involved in this and have not been held to account in a full way. That's the real problem in the church. I think from the point of view of people who -- excuse me -- work on this issue fulltime, who are the -- have family members or friends who have been the victims of sex abuse, that's their focus right now, the bishops' cover-up.
REHMAll right, to Boston, South Carolina. Charlie, you're on the air.
CHARLIEThanks for taking my call, and I would just like for one of your guests or all of them to comment, given the strong emphasis and the concept of the separation of church and state in our country, comment on the appropriateness or perhaps inappropriateness of having a world religious leader meet with our Congress.
DIONNE JR.Well, we've had this before. I think -- didn't the Dalai Lama address Congress?
DESTROThe Dalai Lama did, yeah, yeah.
DIONNE JR.I mean, the Vatican has a peculiar standing because it is simultaneously obviously the seat of the Catholic Church, but theoretically it's also a foreign government.
DIONNE JR.We have an ambassador to the Holy See, and so, you know, and this is divided. Issues related to the Vatican have divided us as a people for a long time. We are -- we have fortunately fewer divisions, sort of Catholic and anti-Catholic, than we used to. But I do think that there are certain religious leaders who have standing beyond their own faiths, as certainly true of Francis. That's true of many other religious leaders. But in the Vatican's case, you've got this peculiarity of being a kind of state, as well as a church.
FIEDLERRight, right, right.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. To Hugh in Hampton, Virginia, you're on the air with, I gather, something of a technical question.
HUGHThank you, Diane. I've enjoyed your program for years.
HUGHSure. My question for your panelists is, do you know if the pope plans to address the issue of rescinding the papal bull Inter caetera of 1493 while he is here?
FIEDLERNot that I know of, but I know...
REHMTell us what that is.
FIEDLERRight, there are a couple papal bulls that have -- that a lot of people...
REHMWhat is a papal bull?
FIEDLERA papal bull is like a formal papal statement issued umpti-ump centuries ago. In this case, they're bulls which basically said that the Vatican had control over lands in the Americas that had been part of conquest. It's affected Native Americans. It's even bled into United States law. And there are many people who have advocated that these bulls be rescinded.
FIEDLERThey seem like ancient documents, but they still have some resonance legally in the current time.
REHMSo, as to you, Bob Destro?
DESTROGeneral counsel here.
DESTROGod help us with the lawyers, though. You know, this is a really interesting question. You know, one thing about -- as my late grandfather used to say, God only made so much land. And those issues never go away. Now I have to say I'm not personally familiar with it, but now I'm going to go look it up.
REHMNow this is interesting. It's a tweet from Beth, who says, I love this pope. My grandma and I have never had more in common. But despite 12 years of Catholic school, it's not enough to win me back. Now how do you interpret that?
DIONNE JR.Well, there are some very interesting polls that have come out both from the Washington Post and ABC and PRRI that show that the pope's rating among former Catholics is much higher than the rating of the church, by about 20, 25 points.
FIEDLERYes, at least.
DIONNE JR.That gap is his opportunity to persuade people like your -- like Beth, is it?
DIONNE JR.Yeah, like Beth, that's part of his job here. And he said a very interesting thing. He said a church which realizes that the reasons why people leave also contain reasons why they can eventually return, suggesting, you know, the church needs to look at itself and figure out why did it drive people away. Having said that, I do think that, particularly for women in the church, there are issues related to the role of women that are a real barrier.
DIONNE JR.I think the pedophilia scandal is still, for a lot of people, a hard one to overcome. So there is a lot of work to do. But what a preacher needs are people's ears, and what Francis has that other leaders of the church have not had are the ears of people. They want to listen to him, and it'll be very interesting to see what he does with this opportunity.
DESTROAnd he's made a -- I'm sorry.
FIEDLERWell, he's got -- that's all right. He's got a demeanor, and he's got an emphasis that previous popes have not had. He doesn't dwell on what you might call the bedroom issues. He has changed the whole emphasis in the church toward the poor, toward climate change, toward justice and...
REHMWhat's he saying about birth control?
FIEDLERNothing that I know of.
REHMNothing, all right.
FIEDLERAnd a lot of -- a lot of Catholics would wish he would.
DESTROBut I think that again, he controls who the next crop of bishops is going to be.
DESTROAnd he said specifically, I don't want administrators, I don't want theologians, I want pastors.
DIONNE JR.My friend Peter Steinfels wrote a very powerful piece on the birth control issue. It is something that's worth revisiting.
REHMSure. Will any of you here today have an opportunity to meet Pope Francis?
FIEDLERNo I will not, unfortunately.
DIONNE JR.I will see him. I don't know if I'm going to get to meet him. One of the events, I'm going to a couple of events.
DESTRODoubtful here in Washington, but I always hope for maybe Rome someday.
REHMRobert Destroy, E.J. Dionne, Maureen Fiedler, and thank you all so much for being here.
DIONNE JR.Thank you.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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