NBC’s Vatican Analyst: Pope Francis ‘Is a Christian Radical’

‘I think what the Pope was doing was not sending a political signal here so much as a deep, spiritual signal’

TODD: “I want to bring in George Weigel. He is our senior Vatican analyst. George, let me ask you, how much does Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton and the pope’s decision to use those two names among as also with Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, what does that tell us about his own politics?”

WEIGEL: “It tells us that he’s basically a Christian radical, Chuck, and a pastor. Lots of us who don’t necessarily share Dorothy Day’s pacifism during World War II, or Thomas Merton’s views of the Vietnam War, still find these entirely admirable people because of the deep, deep quality of their faith and the struggles they went through. Dorothy Day called her autobiography The Long Loneliness. This was someone who knew that Christianity was very demanding and did her darnedest for decades to live that radical gospel both in her own spiritual life and in her service to others. Thomas Merton was deeply steeped in traditional monastic spirituality but reached out to other great monastic traditions around the world, especially Buddhism. And introduced America to this classic notion of meditation and the contemplative life. So I think what the pope was doing was not sending a political signal here so much as a deep, spiritual signal.”

TODD: “Let me ask you this. There’s been a lot of people who are trying to read political tea leaves into what the pope said in front of Congress. It seems as if he emphasized issues like climate change and the economy and he deemphasized issues like abortion and marriage. Is that a fair takeaway? Or do you think the media’s overhyping it?”

WEIGEL: “No, I don’t think it’s a fair takeaway. The connecting thread through the four big speeches here, Congress, the UN, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and I expect we’ll hear it again at mass this evening, is religious freedom. And that concern of the pope’s, religious freedom in full, the ability of the church’s institutions to be themselves, according to their own convictions of faith and conscience, was dramatically underscored on Wednesday night when he paid an unexpected visit to the home for the indigent elderly run by the Little Sisters of the Poor near Catholic University in Washington. The Little Sisters of the Poor are suing the Obama administration on the famous ObamaCare contraceptives mandate.”

TODD: “Basically a not-so-subtle message is what you’re saying?”

WEIGEL: “Yeah, no, there was nothing subtle about that one at all. And, you know, for a guy who’s not supposed to be judgmental, he was making some judgments here.”

TODD: “Fair enough. George Weigel, I’m going to let you go. We are always indebted to you when we cover anything having to do with the papacy. We appreciate it here at NBC News.”

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