Here are some observations regarding a couple of current events.
First, the Pope.
Pope Francis came to visit the U.S. and spoke to Congress. He also spoke at several other events and held an outdoor mass in Philadelphia.
It’s always big news when a Pope drops in. After all, he is the leader of the world’s largest Christian denomination.
What I found interesting was the way the media covered the Pope’s message. It was as if some in the media were surprised by what he had to say.
Beyond that, lots of folks in the media were saying the Pope’s visit signaled trouble for Republicans.
That left me scratching my head a little bit. Seems to me the Pope’s message  signals trouble for politicians of all stripes.
Sure, the Pope made some comments about how climate change should be addressed. And he said stuff about the poor and immigrants.
But he also said things about the traditional family and abortion.
And isn’t this precisely what a Pope – any Pope – would say? It’s not like Pope Francis is veering off the track of church doctrine or anything.
Seems to me all Popes always speak in terms of allaying human suffering. That’s what church doctrine teaches us, isn’t it?
If someone is hurting, you help them. It’s really pretty simple. It’s that “the greatest of these is love” thing from St. Paul in First Corinthians.
Or it’s what Jesus says in John: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment to you, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
So yeah. Of course the Pope is going to implore us to do all we can to ease the suffering of humanity.
Climate change could cause great suffering. Fix it. Immigrants are fleeing because they are suffering. Help them. The poor are suffering. Help them. Weapons are killing people. Stop selling them. Abortion kills. End it. Gay marriage, cohabitation, divorce and single parenthood cause the traditional family to suffer. Stop that stuff. Booze and drugs hurt people. Moderate.
What else would you expect a Pope to say? He’s all about love and mercy.
You and I can agree or disagree about such things.
Not the Pope.
Those positions – and many others – are the unerring underpinnings of Christian dogma. His charge – his very being – is to uphold and promote them.
What I find most amusing about the Pope’s message is how people cherry pick and trumpet the parts they like, then dismiss the rest as arcane and outdated or simply ignore it.
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Another momentous occasion this week was the sitdown between U.S. President Barak Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And it seems to me our President has conceded the role of world superpower to Putin.
This is not surprising.
Obama has always seemed to believe that if you are diplomatic enough and pragmatic enough, eventually your enemies will see the folly of their ways.
Basically, that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, and that when you do that, the whole world will rally around you because good and right are on your side.
(I never understood that old axiom. Who wants to catch flies?)
And while that sounds a lot like the Pope’s take on foreign policy, I’m not sure how effective it is in the  world today.
News reports say that Obama and Putin talked about Syria and got absolutely nowhere. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to strongman Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria and this was made evident in speeches both Obama and Putin gave before the U.N.
Putin’s speech to the U.N. seemed to be justifying his moves to prop up Assad with arms, air power – and  potentially troops.
(In an interview with Charlie Rose before his U.N. address, Putin said this: “Russia will not participate in any troop operations in the territory of Syria or in any other states. Well, at least we don’t plan on it right now.” Oh now that’s reassuring.)
In his U.N. address, Putin announced the formation of a “broad international coalition” to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Of course Russia will lead the “coalition.”
“We think it’s an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face,” Putin told the U.N.
Putin also put the blame on the U.S. and its anti-Assad allies for the unrest in Syria: “I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you’ve done?”
So, basically, Putin’s claiming it’s all our fault and now he has to clean up the mess.
Obama, for his part, didn’t really address ISIS, Syria or Assad, other than to say he opposed the “logic of supporting tyrants.” And he said Assad “drops barrel bombs on innocent children.”
Instead, he criticized Putin for using force to annex Crimea. He characterized Putin as “isolated.”
“Imagine if, instead, Russia had engaged in true diplomacy. That would be better for Ukraine, but also better for Russia, and better for the world,” Obama said.
Fair point, but that’s water under the bridge. The larger question is what has emboldened Putin to do such things?
An Edmund Burke quote comes to mind: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Perhaps Obama and NATO should have taken a stronger stand against Putin’s antics. With a few more missile batteries and war games in the region, things might have turned out differently in Ukraine – and now in Syria.
But anymore it seems Putin is thumbing his nose at Obama and the West. He’s going to do whatever he wants and he has little or no fear of reprisal. Red lines are drawn but nothing happens when they’re crossed.
Putin doesn’t consider the U.S. a superpower anymore and he is all too happy to drape that mantle across his own shoulders.
Just like he did in the Crimea and Ukraine, he will have his way in Syria, ostensibly to help Assad “crush ISIS.” Oh, and by the way, ISIS isn’t Putin’s only target in Syria. He’ll be going after any moderate rebels that Assad deems a threat.
Allowing a guy like Putin to seize leadership like this isn’t good for anybody.