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Jeb Bush, Cafeteria Catholic

Cafeteria Catholics aren’t just on the left. Jeb Bush, who hasn’t read the forthcoming papal encyclical on climate change, indicates that he’s not going to take it seriously if it conflicts with what he already believes:

“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” Bush said. “And I’d like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issue before I pass judgment. But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”

What an extraordinarily un-Catholic thing to say.

First off, nobody believes that bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, are policy wonks, and nobody believes that they are experts at dictating economic policy. That said, Jeb Bush, as a Catholic, is not free to discard the social teaching of the Catholic Church, under which the new papal encyclical on climate change would appear to fall, because it doesn’t suit his personal beliefs. Note well that Bush doesn’t even know what Francis is going to say in the encyclical, but rejects out of hand that the Church has anything binding to say to him about economics.

Second, how is it that Jeb Bush has been a Catholic convert for 25 years, and doesn’t grasp that Catholic Christianity is not focused only on personal piety, but has a broad social dimension as well? On what grounds does he oppose abortion, then? On what grounds did he fight to keep Terri Schiavo alive as her governor? Does he reject what the Catholic Church teaches about the poor?

What a disappointing statement. Bush is no better than liberal Catholics who reject the Church’s teachings on abortion, marriage, and other areas that inconvenience their consciences.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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