Since he was crowned a few years ago, Pope Francis has become a darling of the so-called American left for his emphasis on such liberal concerns as poverty, inequality and climate change. They've found this a welcome change from Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who seemed more concerned with the Church's more controversial positions on various culture-war issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. But while some may call this incremental shift "progress" of some sort, it's worth remembering that Pope Francis, for all his virtues, is no liberal and no friend to liberalism.
I've spent the past week or so studying Pope Francis's record, and what I discovered - to my profound dismay - is that the Catholic Church fundamentally rejects liberal skepticism and actually claims that it has access to absolute truth.
This revelation is certain to come as a shock to Americans who see the Pope as a secular humanist, but there's no denying his numerous and explicit statements on the topic. Evidently, Pope Francis entertains all kinds of beliefs which he insists are ultimately not subject to human scrutiny and which must be accepted on faith. For example, in an obscure letter published in February of 2014, Francis unequivocally claims that Jesus Christ is "the eternal Son of God". It seems fairly clear that his mind is made up on this matter and that no rational argument or empirical evidence is going to dissuade him.
Contrast Francis with many of the heroes of the Enlightenment, which sparked the birth of liberalism. Voltaire, for example, might as well have been writing about Catholicism itself when he declared that Christianity "is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world." It seems extremely unlikely that this Voltaire would ever endorse the Pope's religious beliefs; but American liberals seem to think that Francis shares Voltaire's relatively agnostic deism.
That's a mistake, and one that may come to haunt liberals in the long run. Issues like poverty and climate change may be important, but what is progress on either if Pope Francis keeps claiming that Christianity is the one true religion?