Stalin famously put the Pope in his place in a conversation with Churchill near the end of World War II. Churchill was pleading for the Soviet Union to allow for freedom of religion and other rights in its occupation of Poland. Churchill remarked that the country was heavily Roman Catholic. Churchill continued: The Pope (Pius XII) was very influential in Poland.
Stalin interrupted, “How many divisions does the Pope of Rome have?”
I was thinking about this “Realpolitik” today when watching Pope Francis address Congress.
Sitting behind him, Speaker of the House John Beohner (a Catholic) shed tears over the magnitude of the moment.
Not wanting to compare anybody to Stalin, I still wondered what would it would take for the Pope’s words to create change in the hearts of members of Congress and our heavily Catholic population. Are Boehner and his science flunkies are going to concede global warming? An increase in immigration? Caring for the poor rather than a budget that is top-down in whom it helps?
Before liberals give Republicans the raspberry, I don’t see any progressives yielding one inch on same-sex marriage and protection from discrimination for gays — which the Pope cautioned was a danger to the foundation of society.
All told, the Pope has been kindly lecturing Americans on compassion. With every visit to a homeless shelter and the lauding of Catholic Worker Dorothy Day in her care for the disadvantaged, the Pope hit this word again & again — compassion!
I don’t expect his visit to cause reflection on the part of Beohner and his caucus. I DO think the biggest change that will occur after the Pope leaves is that more Catholics (and others) will become involved in shelters and soup kitchens and whatever else is available for volunteerism.
If that’s “all” that the Pope’s visit accomplishes, he would have done superbly.
In the meantime, those taking on issues of global warming and immigration will take heart to have such a boost from this world figure.