Sanders: Roman Holiday From Campaign ‘Not Political’

U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said attending a Vatican conference on Catholic social teaching did not represent a political endorsement of his run for higher office.

When asked about the controversy surrounding the invitation during a presidential campaign cycle and whether that translated into the Vatican somehow supporting his bid, he told the Italian daily La Repubblica, "No, that's not it. The Vatican isn't involved in that. The conference isn't a political event." 

Advertisement

Sanders was one of about 35 economists, academics, church leaders and politicians invited to attend a conference April 15-16 dedicated to St. John Paul II's 1991 social encyclical "Centesimus Annus." The meeting was jointly sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Bolivian President Evo Morales were also invited to speak at the two-day conference. 

Sanders told La Repubblica in an interview published April 15 that he was a huge fan of Pope Francis, "even if I have opinions different from his on certain issues." He said he believes the pope is "a charismatic figure who is helping public opinion become aware of the inequalities in income and wealth that we are seeing in the world."

"The pope wants to fix the social injustices in society and I am completely with him on that," he told the Italian paper. Senator Sanders' talk, titled "The Urgency of a Moral Economy: Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of Centesimus Annus," was to focus on a just distribution of the world's resources, inequality in health care and climate change, he said.

Daniel K. Finn, professor of economics and theology at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, said in his opening address that the conference was meant to ask where the church needs to "go from here" as it promotes its teachings and actively engages in the world.

The academy's role includes listening to top specialists to gain insights that "can help both church leaders and ordinary Catholics better understand what is happening around them," he said in the program's introduction, jointly written with Margaret Archer, a British sociologist and president of the academy.

Close observation and analysis as well as "a generous listening to the multiplicity of 'grass-roots' groups and movements around the globe is critical for an adequate grasp of social reality today," the introduction said.

Michael Naughton of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, told Catholic News Service on April 15 that the broad tradition of Catholic social teaching still needs to penetrate people's daily activities so its principles are translated into action. 

Such "specific dimensions" of everyday life include "the intellectual, philosophical, economic, political and cultural" worlds, he said, "and then you need practitioners who are doing these things on the ground."

The academy, therefore, "is obviously taking the teachings and engaging it in the thought and the practice because what do you have here, you have academics and you have presidents," he said.

When asked about the implications of the church engaging with politicians and the controversies that that often triggers, Naughton said, "the church always has to be careful of becoming co-opted by either economic or political forces. It is largely a cultural institution, it's providing a guide to these political and economic realities."

The church "has to be in the world but not of the world, as they say, but whenever you are in the world, you might sometimes get too close to the world and then you might be used by it" or co-opted by the money, he said. 

"You have to be careful," he said, and have an open discussion about where the line should be drawn, he said.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

About two-thirds of people born in the United States live in their own homes. Immigrants also have a strong record of homeownership: About half of the 42.3 million foreign-born people in our nation live in their own homes.
Hosffman OspinoApril 20, 2018
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the congregation during the ceremonial Mass on May 17, 2017, at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal for the city's 375th birthday celebrations. (CNS photo/Dario Ayala, Reuters)
The complications of Canadian Catholicism came into sharp relief when Justin Trudeau, a Catholic politician and leader of the popular Liberal Party, became prime minister in October 2015.
Dean DettloffApril 20, 2018
Unless we are willing to admit that, then the situation will only get worse.
Matt Malone, S.J.April 20, 2018
Wisconsin is the 15th state to at least put limits on seizures. Other states should follow suit.
The EditorsApril 20, 2018