Conservative Catholics rankled by the outspokenness of Pope Francis on issues they consider purely political — and often liberal — should get used to hearing the pontiff hold forth on climate change, equal pay for women, and the like, a New York priest and writer told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV
"Some people would prefer that he stick to strictly spiritual topics," said Msgr. Jim Lisante of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Massapequa Park, New York. "He sees that politics and the spiritual go hand in hand. Political decisions have an impact on the spiritual … What he's doing makes great sense."
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"He thinks the spiritual topics and real world are deeply interconnected," said Lisante, author of books including "More of Life and Love."
The activist Pope who has weighed in on income inequality and climate change made another public-policy inroad this week, decrying the "pure scandal"
of lower salaries for women doing the same work as men.
Lisante acknowledged that the equal-pay push is coming from the head of a very male institution, but said he does not believe that Francis — and by extension, the Catholic Church — is somehow exposed on this issue as not practicing what is preached.
"As a matter of fact, at least where I'm coming from, people are paid equally whether they are men or women," he said of the non-priestly jobs open to women in Catholic dioceses.
"No one is given a higher salary because they're a male in the church," said Lisante. "People are given their salaries on the basis of the job they do and their qualifications."
He also questioned whether equal pay for women should be viewed only through a political lens.
"The Pope is calling for fairness. Who can disagree with that?" he said.
"The great thing about this Holy Father is, you're not going to catch him short on sincerity or authenticity because the guy is the real deal," said Lisante, noting Francis' career-long embrace of modest living
arrangements in keeping with his belief in the church's kinship to everyday people and the poor.
"He's living and walking the walk," said Lisante. "That gives him great moral authority to comment on these issues, which as Holy Father, he's obligated to do."
With Francis convening a panel of experts this week to discuss climate change
, he is also getting some conservative pushback
against the effort.
"Though Pope Francis' heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations' unscientific agenda on the climate," Joseph Bast, of the libertarian-conservative Heartland Institute think tank, told The New York Times.
Lisante argued that whether or not science has settled the question of humankind's contribution to global warming, Francis is right to bring up the environment, climate change, and their impact on health and quality of life as well as any role that a consumerist, capitalist economy plays in all of the above.
"The bottom line is, the teaching of the church is very clear: From the moment of conception until the moment of natural death, life is to be treasured and respected," said Lisante. "Part of that is, let's take a look at the environment. If we're poisoning ourselves, poisoning our children, putting the wrong thing into our bodies and into our air, that's a concern that has to do with the protection of human life.
"To me, he's perfectly consistent," Lisante said of Francis. "He's a pro-life Pope, but not just pro-life in terms of being against abortion or against the capital punishment, but for life in its healthiest form. It makes great sense to me. He's doing the right thing."
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