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Pope Francis Vs. Putin

Who can U.S. archconservatives now rely on to defend traditional values?

September 21, 2013

Pope Francis (Credit: Roberto Stuckert Filho/Agência Brasil)

Pope Francis recently called on the Catholic Church to stop obsessing about abortion, gay marriage and other controversial issues. Otherwise, he said, it risked seeing its moral foundations fall “like a house of cards.”

Now, that won’t do for American conservatives. A Pope who doesn’t take sides in culture wars? As George W. Bush once said, paraphrasing Vladimir Lenin: “Either you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists.”

This Pope has been refreshingly out of line before. He has expressed concern for the poor, criticized income inequality and even attacked free-market economics and the culture of individualism. In short, he is tacking back to the church’s original mission.

The Pope is clearly confusing to many conservatives. Which gives rise to one important question: Who can U.S. archconservatives now rely on for the defense of their traditional values? Who can they admire now?

Not to worry for their souls, though. There is always Vladimir Putin. Sure, Russia’s president is a former KGB officer who once called the demise of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.

To put the icing on the cake, he recently divorced his wife and is rumored to have fathered a child with a girlfriend.

But look at the man’s main current achievements. His lapdog parliament, the Duma, recently passed laws criminalizing “gay propaganda,” banning adoption of Russia’s orphans by foreign gays and taking children away from Russian homosexuals.

With friends like Putin

Putin, who presides over one of the world’s worst kleptocracies, also likes to mouth off about Orthodox Christianity, “normal” marriage and the moral decline of the West.

What else would you wish for in a conservative icon?

It is by no means the first time a Russian leader and the Pope find themselves on different sides of the barricades. The Soviet Union was officially an atheist state and it attacked the Vatican as a pusher of the “opium for the people,” to use Karl Marx’s definition of religion.

Now, though, in one grand repositioning move, a Russian leader has become, literally, holier than the Pope.m

After World War II, Stalin famously asked: “How many tank divisions does the Vatican have?” For all his saber rattling and fearsome looks, as the world knows by now, the joke was ultimately on Stalin himself. The Solidarity revolution in Poland, inspired by the Polish Pope, was a major factor in the collapse of the Soviet Empire which Stalin had done much to build.

What Putin and his conservative admirers in the United States should worry about that this time, too, is that they might find themselves on the wrong side of history. They stand to be defeated by a Pope who still has no tanks under his command.


In his gay bashing and other social conservatism, Putin has become “holier” than the current Pope.

A Russian leader and the Pope have found themselves on different sides of the barricades before.

Putin and his conservative US admirers must worry lest they find themselves on the wrong side of history.