One lesson from the Holy Father is that saying the right things about poverty is not enough. You have to show up. The Associated Press reports that residents of one of Buenos Aires’s poorest neighborhoods, Villa 21-24, call Francis their “papa villero” or “slum pope.” They recall how, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he “would arrive on a bus to their little chapel; how he sponsored marathons and carpentry classes, consoled single mothers and washed the feet of recovering drug addicts; how he became one of them.”
If Republicans want to convince Americans that they care, they need to emulate Francis and start showing up in the barrios and the inner cities. It’s not enough for Republicans to simply vote for school choice; they need to spend time with students struggling in failing schools. It’s not enough to rail against dependency; they need to spend time helping those trapped in dependency to get the skills they need to get off public assistance. It’s not enough to complain about Obama’s class-warfare rhetoric; they need to spend time fighting for the vulnerable.
They don’t have to abandon their principles to do it. As a cardinal, Bergoglio urged the faithful to “defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you.” But also he insisted that “No child should be deprived of the right to be born, the right to be fed, the right to go to school.” Notice that he did not stop at the right to be born. Neither should Republicans. The GOP needs to put as much emphasis on ensuring that children are fed and educated as it does on their fundamental right to life.