CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jesus spent most of his brief life championing underdogs: Help the poor, feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, etc.Now that new Pope Francis has reiterated this appeal -- calling for more safeguards to protect left-out families -- some conservatives brand him a communist."This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope," Rush Limbaugh ranted to his giant, right-wing audience.Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said on-air that she was "taken aback" because the pope's message "sounded kind of liberal."How absurd: Conservatives are upset because the head of the world's largest Christian church supports the teachings of Jesus.For the record, here are some key lines from the 84-page "apostolic exhortation" issued by the popular pope:"We also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.""How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"
"Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.""Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a 'disposable' culture which is now spreading.""Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.""Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor.""The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.""While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few.""In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule."
"Until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence."Hurrah for the new pope's compassionate appeal for underdogs. We don't see it as a rejection of capitalism, but simply a reminder that rich societies mustn't abandon less-privileged folks at the bottom.