Guest Column: Obama, Pope Benedict have more in common than some think

By Michael Cannariato

For those of you who forward e-mails that refer to President Barack Obama (D) as a fascist or socialist because of his belief governments must take a more active role in social justice, add the pope to those characterizations as well.

In his encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI calls for a stop to the “unregulated exploitation of earth’s resources, (empowering) trade unions (that) experience greater difficulty in representing the interests of workers, partly because governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit their freedom or negotiating capacity. … The repeated calls issued within the church’s social doctrine for the promotion of workers’ associations must therefore be honored today even more than in the past.”

The pope is calling for the “green revolution” and respect for and greater protection of labor unions. If they knew of this, Fox News Channel would label the pope a leftist commie socialist.

There’s more…

“(That) economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and immorally unacceptable manner.” Can you say health insurance companies?

That “we prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.” Can you say job creation?

“The fact that some states, power groups and companies hoard nonrenewable energy resources represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries…(and calls for) an urgent duty to find means of regulating non-renewable resources…in order to plan together for the future.” Would that favor the promotion of renewable energy?

The pope also calls for “integral and timely disarmament, food security…and peace…and to guarantee the protection of the environment.” Is he one of those “global warming alarmist peaceniks”?

Pope Benedict vehemently pointed out he disagreed with Obama’s stances on abortion and stem cell research, and addressed those as his first issues. How the pope is different from a large segment of the American church is that he recognizes other key life and justice issues, as he stated clearly in his encyclical.

Sadly, many American bishops, and some Christians, ignore all these other critical issues Obama tries to address, and apparently base their condemnation of him on his stance on abortion.

Pope Benedict recognizes other human needs with which Christians ought to become involved, many of which Obama advocates. The message is the necessity to transcend conflicting ideologies; it’s about resolving key human issues in a—dare I say—Christian way. It’s about being our brother’s keeper.

In today’s partisan politics, Benedict, if he weren’t the pope, would be dismissed by certain media as a union-supporting, wealth-redistributing socialist, and a global warming alarmist.

Instead, he recognizes as critical roles of government a commitment to disarm existing weapons of mass destruction, to feed the hungry, and a diligence to ecological concerns while promoting peace, opportunity and justice in employment and the marketplace.

Hey, Glenn Beck, do you think Benedict just hates rich white people ?

All the expectations about how the pope was going to scold Obama and shake his finger at him didn’t happen. The pope and the president instead offer a different model. In a world of urgent problems, the pursuit of dialogue and creative engagement is essential.

Michael Cannariato is a Rockford resident.

From the September 9-15, 2009 issue

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