Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, author of Pope Francis: Untying the Knots: the Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism (2015), Paul Vallely, joined host Brian Stelter.
Reliable Sources airs Sundays, 11 a.m. to noon (ET).
A video, text highlights, and a full transcript from the show are available below.
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Red news, blue news, and the Pope
Author, Paul Vallely, explains why conservative media outlets are painting an image of Pope Francis as a liberal radical: “Well, previous popes have been critical of capitalism. They were also critical of communism. But, of course, communism is not in the picture anymore. This pope carries on with that, but he’s also a Latin-American and he has the kind of ambivalence towards the United States and, you know, resentment and admiration that you find in Latin America. And the third thing is that he worked for 20 years in the slums. So, he’s very focused on looking at the world from the bottom up from the point of view from poor people. So, he presents a kind of — there’s a ferocity to his rhetoric which wasn’t there with previous popes. I think that’s what rattled the cage of the conservatives.”
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BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: So, joining me now with more about this, journalist Paul Vallely, the author of the acclaimed pope biography, Pope Francis: Untying the Knots: the Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism. Paul, thank you so much for being here.
PAUL VALLELY, AUTHOR: Pleasure to be here.
STELTER: This has been a wonderful read. Very educational as we get ready for the Pope’s visit to the U.S. I’m wondering why you think we’re hearing that kind of rhetoric from the conservative media in the U.S. Why is it so important for the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world to try to paint this Pope as a liberal radical?
VALLELY: Well, previous popes have been critical of capitalism. They were also critical of communism. But, of course, communism is not in the picture anymore. This pope carries on with that, but he’s also a Latin-American and he has the kind of ambivalence towards the United States and, you know, resentment and admiration that you find in Latin America. And the third thing is that he worked for 20 years in the slums. So, he’s very focused on looking at the world from the bottom up from the point of view from poor people. So, he presents a kind of — there’s a ferocity to his rhetoric which wasn’t there with previous popes. I think that’s what rattled the cage of the conservatives.
STELTER: We’re looking at images of him from Paraguay. Today, he’s in Cuba. He just recently, a few minutes ago completed a mass in Revolution Square in Havana. I wanted to pull up on screen something I was struck by in Rolling Stone magazine. It was talking about what the media coverage of this trip represents. We can put it on screen and I read for you. It says, “Consider the 24/7 global media coverage Francis’ U.S. trip will receive. When else would an economic message that’s critical of capitalism as Francis is be granted such a stage?” An example of this is the way that the Pope has decried the excesses of consumerism. That, of course, touches on advertising, other elements of media. I wonder what you make of that, that the press in the next few days is going to be forced to talk about income inequality and injustices that generally doesn’t get much of a hearing in mainstream media.
VALLELY: Well, the reason they get a hearing is because he sees them as rooted in the Gospel, which is something which a lot of people who disagree with him politically do accept. So, if he’s arguing from the Gospel, he says, this isn’t Marxism. This is classic teachings of Jesus. And it’s as — for the past hundred years, the Catholic Church has had something called Catholic social teaching, which tried to tread a middle way because communism and capitalism and find a way of having a kind of responsible wealth creation.
STELTER: We should mention there’s this setup that we see in the press sometimes, liberal and conservative, right and left. The Pope doesn’t line up quite that way, does he?
VALLELY: No, that’s a political template.
STELTER: It’s almost like some commentators don’t know how to describe him. I’m thinking about on the issue of gay rights, for example. The Catholic Church is not where many Americans’ heads and views are. And when we think about views about gay marriage, how they have shifted in the United States, they haven’t shifted within the church.
VALLELY: Well, they have shifted actually with Francis, because what you see with Francis is that he’s in favor of gay — equal rights for gays. He’s in favor of civil unions. He’s against gay marriage.
STELTER: But not gay marriage. That’s what I mean.
VALLELY: No, marriage, he thinks is sacramental. It’s between a man and a woman, and it’s not appropriate to talk about same-sex couples in that way. And, interestingly, he’s against gay adoption, because he says gay adoption is seen as an equal rights issue. It’s seen from the parents’ point of view: I have a right to a child. He says nobody has a right to a child and gay adoption should be viewed from the point of view of children. And children have the right to a mother and a father. So, he just kind of turns the thing upside-down a bit. It’s more nuanced than you might expect.
STELTER: Much more nuanced than that kind of red/blue divide we sometimes see. Paul, thank you for being here. Great talking with you.
VALLELY: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.