The Pontiff, opting for the low-profile big yarmulke over the tall and pointy mitre. All pomp relegated to the cape.
The Pontiff, opting for the low-profile big yarmulke zucchetto over the tall and pointy mitre. All pomp relegated to the cape. giulio napolitano /

As you may have heard, the Successor of St. Peter made his first visit to our country this week. So far he's been giving speeches in Washington, DC and accepting T-shirts and heartbreaking notes from children. Saturday he'll move on to Philadelphia, where he'll hopefully limit his love to the brotherly variety.

His visit is brave, in a way, considering the US's complex relationship with the papacy.

But despite the awkward history, today Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of a very disjointed Congress. Citing Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Catholic activists Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, he urged the legislators to face facts about "environmental degradation," to respect immigrants, to end the death penalty, and to combat fundamentalism, "whether religious or of any other kind."

You could almost believe that the Bishop of Rome was actually Bernie Sanders, blitzed on NyQuil and wearing a great dress, right up until he said, "Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family."

"Within and without." Hot.

This not-so-subtle swipe at gay marriage prompted LGBTQ organizations to suggest that the Pope who's so concerned about the state of the family should talk to the Pope who a few moments earlier said, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." He might also consult the Pope who said "who am I to judge," in reference to gay people who are searching for the Lord within Catholicism.

But the Pope's main point was a theoretical one: Politics is all about helping the most vulnerable people. Hence the ol' "Do unto others" chestnut from the Gospel of Matthew.

In less Biblical terms, he's saying that what's best for the community ends up being what's best for the individuals in that community. That idea is the bedrock of liberal ideology. If I'm not surrounded by poverty and suffering, my life ends up being much more enjoyable. The conservative reply to it has been: No, what's best for the individual is what's best for the community. This thinking begets trickle-down economics, reliance on the justice of free markets, and horrific spray tans.

For this reason, Republicans found it hard to clap at all of the Pontiff's coded public policy jabs. Jeb!'s spoken out against He Who Is Free from Error before, but so far he's only been trying to turn the Pope's visit into an opportunity to beatify himself. The other Catholics in the race—Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and Marco Rubio—have largely stayed out of the fray.