Nancy LeTourneau wrote about Pope Francis’ increasingly broad set of progressive initiatives over the weekend; we subsequently learned he intends to make action on climate change a Vatican priority as well. I don’t have much to add to Nancy’s take on the domestic political implications of these developments, but do want to make one point: The Pope’s break with conventional conservatism (yes, he remains conservative on some issues, but hardly as systematically as his two predecessors) makes it immensely more difficult for non-Christians–including the secular folk of the MSM–to simply assume “Christian” equals “reactionary.” That’s never been the case, but it’s a simple fact that the Pope and conservative evangelical leaders are a lot more visible than the mainline Christians who generally never joined the Church of the GOP. So from a perception point of view, Pope Francis’ progressive impulses matter a great deal, even beyond the ranks of the Catholic faithful.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.