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In Pope Francis era, US candidates face new moral questions

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass for the Holy Year of the Roman Curia, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, yesterday.


When American politicians were confronted in recent years about how their policies fit their faith, the issue at hand was usually abortion and the targets were mostly Democrats.

This week, Pope Francis managed to put the Republicans on the defensive by rebuking Donald Trump and doing so over a different issue: immigration.

The censure roared through the entire field of Republican presidential candidates, who were all pressed about the morality of their approach to immigrants in the country illegally, during a primary dominated by increasingly tough rhetoric that has emphasized border security.

wake-up call

Analysts say the pope?s remarks should serve as a wake-up call for Republicans about how public discussion of religion and policy is broadening under this popular pope who, through his gestures and speeches, has put a greater emphasis on helping the vulnerable than on divisive social issues.

?The Democrats aren?t off the hook. It?s just that the Republicans are on it, too, and this might be a new experience for them,? said Cathleen Kaveny, a Boston College theologian and author of Prophecy Without Contempt: Religious Discourse in the Public Square.