It’s an unlikely pairing: an outspoken Jewish senator and a placid Argentinian pope. And yet, somehow, they seem to be in alignment.
Bernie Sanders just revealed that he’ll travel to the Vatican in a few days to deliver a speech at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a group founded by a previous pope to study social justice issues. Of course, social justice is an area in which Bernie and the Roman Catholic Church are not in complete agreement: While he and the pope have both advocated for programs that help the less fortunate, the church’s position on personal liberties is a bit less progressive.
For example, on the same day that Bernie bragged about his trip, the pope put out a document reminding the world that marriage is “between a man and a woman” and that same-sex couples “radically contradict this idea.” In the past, he referred to marriage equality in his native country as “a machination of the Father of Lies.”
And don’t get the pope started on gender fluidity. That, he says, is comparable to “nuclear arms … a new sin, that against God the Creator.”
Despite some areas in which they disagree, Bernie says “I am a big, big fan of the pope.”
To be clear, there are currently no plans for Bernie and the pope to actually meet. The organization that he’s speaking at is technically independent, though it was founded by a pope and bears papal watermarks on its papers. Sanders said that he would be delighted to meet with Pope Francis is the opportunity should arise.
But how did this trip wind up coming together? That’s a bit of a mystery. Initially, Bernie was referring to it as an invitation. But the head of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences says that “Sanders made the first move,” and that he asked to speak, which was a “monumental discourtesy.”
But that account was disputed by another Vatican official, and by the Sanders campaign, who said that the invite was strictly initiated by church. So which is it? Like so many religious mysteries, the ineffable truth may never be known.
Sanders will return from this trip just in time for the New York primary, which Clinton is heavily favored to win… for now.
But the pope and a Brooklyn Jew aren’t the only odd couple formulating unlikely potential partnerships right now. It’s recently come to light that a shadowy group of super-rich Republicans are pressuring the party to ease up on its abuse of LGBTs.
This is the work of an organization calling itself the “American Unity Fund,” founded by incomprehensibly wealthy donors, at least one of whom is partially motivated by a gay son. They’ve been applying pressure to the party’s platform committee to remove language hostile to queer people.
Will they be successful? It seems unlikely. Conservatives have had a stranglehold on the party for decades, firmly standing against anything that could be seen as progress for gay people.
But The American Unity Fund speaks a language that Republicans are eager to hear: money. If anything can convince them to change their minds, it’s the wealth of the messengers.
And besides: with Bernie going to the Vatican, gays courting Republicans and the overall circus of this election season, the impossible is quickly becoming probable.