Is Pope Francis a liberal? It’s more complicated than that. – Washington Post

With his arrival in the United States on Tuesday, Pope Francis will begin a whirlwind of analysis and media excitement. Or, really, he’ll land in the middle of a maelstrom of takes and listicles and photo essays that has been swirling for weeks.

Part of that energy is the result of Francis’s forcing something upon us that is rare in this country: a consideration of global politics independent from our own. Usually, we see foreign policy solely through the lens of its effects on the United States. It’s rare that a political leader will visit and attract any attention, much less attract it outside of its direct implications to the United States.

Seen through our lens, Francis’s politics are somewhat all over the place. He holds strongly liberal views on some things but also goes further, explicitly criticizing capitalism. On other things, he’s deeply conservative. He will be, if you will forgive the unforgivable summation, the only true independent in Washington: Someone whose political positions exist outside of American politics.

American partisans will try (and have tried) to align themselves with the highly popular pontiff. We collected his views on a number of issues and tried to figure out which 2016 presidential candidate he is most similar to, to show how difficult that alignment would be.


Foreign policy

Most like: Rand Paul

Strongly pacifist. “This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: We bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us!”
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Cuba

Most like: Bernie Sanders

As Reuters reported: “Francis played a crucial role in facilitating a back channel between Cuba and the United States, including sending missives to presidents Obama and Castro in 2014, that helped bring about this year’s restoration of diplomatic ties.”
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Free trade

Most like: Bernie Sanders

Francis has been strongly critical of free trade agreements. “At times, it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.”
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Immigration

Most like: Hillary Rodham Clinton

On last year’s influx of young people from Central America, the pope said: “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”
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Environment

Most like: Democrats

The pontiff strongly advocates addressing climate change. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he wrote in his recent encyclical.
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Energy and oil

Most like: Bernie Sanders

The pope’s climate change encyclical naturally promotes a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, although the church still invests in fossil fuel companies.
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Gun control

Most like: Hillary Rodham Clinton

Francis said that weapons manufacturers “fabricate death, they are merchants of death and make death into a trade.” At another point, he implied that they weren’t Christians.
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Death penalty

Most like: Bernie Sanders

Francis opposes it.
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Drugs

Most like: Carly Fiorina

The pontiff encourages a strong response to the drug trade — and opposes anti-addiction methods that also rely on drug use.
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Education

Most like: Bernie Sanders

The pope believes we should “ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and health care.”
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Health care

Most like: Chris Christie

Francis supports access to health care, but opposes the birth control coverage mandate in the Affordable Care Act. (Why is this like Christie? Christie allowed the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, but opposed the Hobby Lobby decision.)
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Government

Most like: Republicans

Francis’s views on the U.S. government are probably fairly apathetic. But he sharply criticized the Vatican’s government and the career bureaucrats within it.
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Business

Most like: Bernie Sanders

“Quoting a 4th-century bishop, [the pope] called the unfettered pursuit of money ‘the dung of the devil,’ ” as the Guardian reported.
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Labor

Most like: Democrats

“I address a strong appeal from my heart that the dignity and safety of the worker always be protected,” Francis said. (A quote commonly attributed to him about unions being an “essential force” appears to have come from the Oberlin College newspaper.)
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Abortion

Most like: Marco Rubio

Francis is strongly pro-life — his recent decision to grant forgiveness to women who have had abortions notwithstanding.
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Welfare

Most like: Well, everyone

The pontiff believes in government support, but also the need to reduce structural inequality and put people to work.
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Same-sex marriage

Most like: Mike Huckabee

Francis opposes it.
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Evolution

Most like: Vice President Biden

The pontiff believes in evolution that includes divine creation. “We are the direct descendants from the Big Bang that created the universe. Evolution came from creation,” he said. (Biden, a Catholic, also believes in evolution.)
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Technology

Most like: Anyone with sense

“Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously,” Francis said, wisely.
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