California Predictions for 2017 (And Beyond): A Visit from the Pope and Perhaps a Future Home in Exile

By Kevin Dayton | January 1, 2017 |   

Ed. Note - Elk Grove News invited contributors and readers to participate in a feature story on predictions for 2017. This piece, submitted by Kevin Dayton of, and @DaytonPubPolicy, was of such length and interest, that it is being posted as a stand-alone prediction. The other predictions will be posted later today collectively in a separate piece.  

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The State of California and many of its major local and regional governments seek international recognition for leadership in “progressive” economic, environmental, and humanitarian policies. These policies often agree with many Roman Catholic social justice teachings advocated by Pope Francis.

In fact, some state and local leaders explicitly cite the Pope’s writings as inspiration and justification for their policies. For example, when Governor Jerry Brown attended a climate change conference at the Vatican in 2015, he brought with him Senate Resolution 37, introduced by Senate leader Kevin De León and approved in the Senate on a 24-3 vote. (The 13 other senators didn’t vote.)

This resolution included numerous declarations about Pope Francis as “a global defender of the poor and all victims of injustice, including those suffering the devastating impacts of climate change.” It called for the California legislature (as well as the United States Congress and President Obama) to take into account a Papal encyclical on climate change when developing relevant legislation.

Also attending the Vatican climate change conference were the mayors of San Jose and San Francisco. The mayor of Los Angeles was invited but unable to attend.

While Pope Francis is apparently popular among prominent politicians in California, traditionalist leaders in the Roman Catholic Church leadership are reportedly frustrated about the Pope’s theological ambiguities and social justice priorities. A 2015 photo of Bolivian President Evo Morales presenting Pope Francis with a hammer-and-sickle crucifix created a vivid symbol of conservative concerns.

Some observers of the Vatican even claim that a significant schism between progressives and traditionalists is looming. For this reason, I’m predicting Pope Francis will visit and tour California in the fall of 2017 as a strategic response to internal pressure from some church factions to either change his ways, resign, or face division.

He will receive an enthusiastic reception from prominent state and local elected officials, including Governor Brown. Millions of people will attend and applaud his appearances in Los Angeles, Fresno, and San Jose. He will also travel to Carmel, where he will visit the tomb of Junipero Serra and endure protests organized by Native American advocacy groups and other organizations that condemn European colonialism and demand reparations.

These protests will do little to diminish the Pope’s popularity among the majority of Californians. His calls for social justice during his visit will likely serve as a catalyst for new attempts to repeal the death penalty in California and repeal the tax limits instituted by Proposition 13. However, his appeals for Californians to end abortion will be ignored.

Here’s a more radical prediction, not necessarily for 2017, that would involve California and the Pope and have meaning for world history: Pope Francis could end up seeking refuge in California if there is internal rebellion against his papacy. It would not be the first time a Pope has abandoned Rome.

During the 14th Century, several Popes (and "anti-Popes”) based their administrations in Avignon, France rather than Rome because of political and theological controversies. That so-called “Babylonian Captivity” for the papacy could be resurrected as a “Californian Captivity” if conservative factions in the Roman Catholic Church leadership take dramatic action against Pope Francis.

Progressive California would be a safe and inviting refuge for the exiled Pope. It would be a “neutral” location, as opposed to his home country of Argentina. He would be able to converse on occasion in Spanish as well as hone his skills in English. Most importantly, he would have easy access to the latest developments in communication and technology. That would give Pope Francis a strategic advantage for promoting his message against less-nimble rival factions in the Roman Catholic Church leadership.

An absurd and unlikely prediction? More absurd and unlikely things have happened in world history. And California is the place today where absurd and unlikely things happen.

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