I wondered if it was tougher last week to be Pope Francis or to be Congressman John Boehner. I don’t give much weight to religious pronouncements but it was heartening to learn that Pope Francis thinks compassion and not censure should be how the Catholic Church should behave in the world. As one commentator noted, the Pope was saying the Church should be more like a field hospital in the world, giving comfort to those in need. That made me feel good, like I used to feel good hearing about Mother Teresa.
Then the Pope a few days later came down hard against abortion, reading the strict rule of church doctrine. No compassion there.
About the same time Pope Francis was preaching compassion, Congressman John Boehner was leading his political party in passing legislation to cut $39 billion from the government’s program that provides food to poor people. A few days later, John Boehner again led his political party in passing a budget proposal that threatens to shut down much of the federal government unless the Affordable Care Act is scuttled. Threatening to shut down the government wasn’t a wise thing to do, John Boehner had said earlier, but that’s what people in his political party wanted, so he led by following what they wanted.
In neither the case of cutting off food to poor people nor the case of scuttling an affordable medical insurance program benefitting most people was compassion an issue, only the politics of anger and resentment.
People in his own political party don’t think John Boehner is mean enough. Unlike Pope Francis, John Boehner has to run for re-election every two years and then be chosen to lead in Congress.
Like I said, I don’t give much weight to religious pronouncements but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Pope Francis despite his tarnishing welcomed compassion with traditional authoritarianism. After all, I think he already has a free pass to Heaven.
Unlike Pope Francis, John Boehner has to please a lot of angry people who show little compassion. And, unlike Pope Francis, John Boehner and his political party don’t have a free pass to Heaven.