Something is wrong when a dictator gets more praise than a pope


Jesse Jackson secured his induction into the liberal hall of fame last week when he told attendees at Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez’s funeral that Chavez “fed the hungry, lifted the poor, raised their hopes and helped them realize their dreams.”

Jackson’s speech, however, wasn’t the only sign of American support at the funeral of a man deceased Venezuelan Bishop Eduardo Herrera Riera once said was responsible for the “painful river of blood that flows daily through [the streets of Venezuela].” Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), former Congressman William Delahunt (D-MA) and James Derham were also in attendance as the official U.S. delegation to the ceremony. Chavez’s number one American ally, actor Sean Penn, was also there, as were Cuba’s Raul Castro and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Chavez and Benedict

News of Chavez’s death was carried by the major media networks, and even though Jackson’s kind words were completely ignored, it felt like some outlets were taking marching orders directly from him.

In a segment on NPR titled “Any praise for Hugo Chavez?” host Michel Martin was careful not to bring up Chavez’s history of abuse or condemn his socialist views. Outlets like PBS and the BBC similarly portrayed Chavez as a fighter for the oppressed and marginalized.

It’s interesting to note that in the last days of Pope Benedict’s Pontificate the press handled itself in a completely different manner. Even though the Catholic Church educates more children, has more hospitals and serves the needs of the poor more than any institution on the plant, the chattering classes focused on a handful of abusive priests and the Church’s “intolerant” teachings on priestly celibacy and gay marriage.

I’d like to think that the media simply failed to mention all the good things the Catholic Church does because they’re waiting to talk about it when the new pope is elected, and that Reverend Jackson thinks the former pope helped the poor more than Mr. Chavez did, but I’m not holding my breath.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Stephen Kokx is a freelance writer and adjunct professor of political science living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Peace and Justice. His writing on religion, politics and Catholic social teaching has appeared in a number of outlets, including Crisis Magazine, The American Thinker and his hometown paper The Grand Rapids Press. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and is a graduate of Aquinas College and Loyola University Chicago. Follow Stephen on twitter @StephenKokx

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