One of the most fascinating parts of the negotiations between the United States and Cuba was the role Pope Francis played in both initiating the process and hosting a meeting at the Vatican. That story has been pretty well reported.
Much less noticed is the fact that recently Pope Francis offered to help the Obama administration place Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Holy See welcomed recent signs President Barack Obama appears to have accelerated efforts to close the controversial facility where some detainees have been held for more than a decade without charge and tortured.
He said the Vatican stood ready to “help find adequate humanitarian solutions through our international contacts” in order to help place detainees, adding that Parolin and Kerry had discussed the issue in depth.
This is why many are seeing a “bolder vision of Vatican diplomacy” with this Pope.
During the Reagan era, fundamentalist Protestants and Catholics put aside their traditional enmity over religious differences and banded together around the Republican Party’s cultural agenda. That’s when the Democratic Party lost a lot of traditional Catholics who had been strong supporters of President Kennedy (a good share of those white working class voters we’re hearing so much about lately).
As Pope Francis calls the Church back into service to the poor, warns against the danger of idolizing capitalism, and engages affirmatively with a diplomatic approach to foreign policy, the alliance of Catholic conservatives with the Republican Party will be strained. That’s something to keep an eye on.