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Wineke: The pope vs. Rush Limbaugh

Published On: Dec 05 2013 09:04:52 PM CST
Pope speaks on women in the church

(CNN)

Pope Francis has issued his first encyclical, and it deals with issues of economic justice.

It must be pretty good because Rush Limbaugh has already termed it “pure Marxism.”

If you judge a leader by his enemies, I would guess having Rush Limbaugh as an enemy would speak pretty well of you.

The pope’s brief tenure has been marked by his repeated calls for justice for the poor. He has visited slums (something he did before he was pope), demanded his priests live simply and insisted that his church -- the largest in the world -- be a body of the poor and for the poor.

This is all puzzling to Limbaugh, who notes that the Catholic church is a wealthy body and should, therefore, be on the side of the rich.

“It’s sad because the pope makes it very clear that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth,” Limbaugh said. Not surprisingly, some Catholics take issue with that. But Limbaugh dismisses their concerns, equating them with the flap he went through last year when he called a college student a “slut” on the air.

Well, yeah. I guess if you think it is OK to call a college student who had the temerity to testify before Congress a “slut” because you don’t agree with her viewpoint, then you probably aren’t going to have too much in common with the pope either.

But Limbaugh’s problems aren’t really with the pope. Limbaugh’s problems are with the entire Christian religion. Like the late philosopher Ayn Rand, Limbaugh subscribes to the idea that those who amass the most money and power are somehow superior to those who don’t.

The idea of ascribing dignity to the poor is just not something Limbaugh can comprehend.

But it has been the beacon of Christian theology ever since Jesus made the poor the center of his preaching. Churches and church leaders haven’t always lived up to that theology, but they at least give it lip service.

Pope Francis has actually tried living his beliefs. Long before he became pope, he was a frequent visitor to the slums of Buenos Aires. He lives comfortably but simply.

He doesn’t condemn wealth and he doesn’t condemn the wealthy; he does keep reminding the wealthy that they have an obligation toward those who have less.

Limbaugh doesn’t see that obligation. He sees wealth as a sign of God’s pleasure. That attitude has turned him into a fatuous and cruel joke. But, at least, he’s still rich.

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