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Is Pope Francis going to endorse...BERNIE SANDERS?!

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No presidential candidate should take the Catholic vote for granted.

The field of 2016 presidential contenders would do well to look over their shoulder and spend some time thinking about someone who could make a difference in their races -Pope Francis. In just a matter of weeks Pope Francis will come to Philadelphia and he will command the spotlight for several days. His words will be heard by millions of American Catholics who are one of the most influential voting blocs in today's political landscape. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The list of 2016 contenders, from Hillary Clinton to the entire field of Republican hopefuls, would do well to mind Pope Francis who could influence how millions of Catholic voters cast their ballots. While Republicans tend to take the Catholic vote for granted, history shows this is a mistake. 

Conservative Catholic voters often get noticed in press, but it's blue-collar Catholic voters in swing states that decide elections. Case and point, President Obama would not have been elected for a second term if not for Catholic voters in the decisive battleground state of Ohio who overwhelmingly supported him. 

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The abortion issue is a significant one, in fact, the issue of abortion may be the single-most fundamental issue facing the nation, which prompts many Catholics to vote Republican by default. However, abortion is not the only issue resonating with voters today. Today, topics such as income inequality, healthcare and the environment are resonating with voters and Pope Francis has come down on these issues in such a way as to annoy many conservative Catholics. 

The end result is many Catholics could be contemplating a vote for a liberal candidate, particularly the self-described democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders. 

The reason for this complicated calculus is the simple fact that the Holy Father is not a political entity. The concerns of the Church cannot be pigeon-holed into contemporary American political boxes. Pope Francis is neither Republican nor Democrat. He doesn't "support" either Trump, Bush or Sanders. He isn't going to endorse anyone. Instead, Pope Francis is Catholic and his positions on issues are predicated upon the teachings of the Church and the laws of God. 

When Pope Francis arrives, he is certain to teach about the evils of abortion as well as the liberal use of abortifacients and other artificial contraceptive methods which range from troubling to truly disturbing on the moral spectrum. However, he is also likely to discuss economic and environmental issues, and how political policies have the potential to harm families and individuals. In other words, abortion isn't the only issue, and while some conservative candidates get it right on abortion, most have it wrong on many other issues that are important to Catholics. It would therefore be wrong for any candidate to ignore these other issues when addressing Catholic voters. 

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The past two election cycles have proven that Catholic voters are not merely concerned with abortion. Their concerns rage far and wide, but they want a candidate that will take care of the family, long after all the children are born. What position will the candidates take on minimum wage laws, social security and healthcare? What about education and the environment? Will those positions be equally life-affirming as their laudable position against abortion? 

Pope Francis is not coming to influence the elections, however he cannot help but do so. Millions of Catholics adore and respect him. While he has lost some affinity with conservative Catholics who disagree with his views on economics and the environment, most American Catholics still appreciate him for who he is and will listen to his council. It would be surprising to hear him address any specific political issues during his visit, but he doesn't have to. Catholics across the nation will be listening to his words and taking them to heart as they evaluate their opinions on important subjects. We shouldn't be surprised then, when the nation's Catholics line up behind candidates that are different from those who take them for granted. 

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