Here’s What Pope Boycotter Rep. Paul Gosar Gets Wrong About The Catholic Church

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 14: Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., talks with reporters outside a meeting of House Republican Steering Committee meeting in Cannon Building, November 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)... UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 14: Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., talks with reporters outside a meeting of House Republican Steering Committee meeting in Cannon Building, November 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images) MORE LESS
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Just days before Pope Francis becomes the first pope in history to address Congress, a GOP House member from Arizona is threatening to boycott his landmark speech. Rep. Paul Gosar, a Catholic, offers a politically tone deaf and theologically challenged explanation in Town Hall:

Media reports indicate His Holiness instead intends to focus the brunt of his speech on climate change–a climate that has been changing since first created in Genesis. More troubling is the fact that this climate change talk has adopted all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into ‘climate justice’ and is being presented to guilt people into leftist policies. If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line.

There are so many errors strewn across a few sentences, it’s hard to know where to begin.

While climate change may very well come up in the pope’s speech to Congress—the pope has challenged world leaders to act with urgency—don’t expect the pope to deliver a detailed policy plan that drills down on a single issue or affirms one party and denounces another. Francis is a savvy leader who is aware of the political minefields littered in his path before this delicate speech. Every word he utters will be scrutinized through predictable partisan lenses, spun and counter-spun to the point of exhaustion. Rep. Gomar’s response is a particularly crude representation of the temptation to reduce the pope to a mere political figure.

For a congressman educated at a Jesuit Catholic university (Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope), Gosar seems to have missed some basic lessons. “When the pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one,” he sniffs. Pope Francis isn’t cribbing talking points from Greenpeace when he makes the case that climate change is a global threat.

Traditional Catholic teaching recognizes that stewardship of the environment is rooted in the imperative to protect the shared gift of creation, what Pope Francis calls our “common home.” Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, beloved by many conservatives, both addressed the environment as a profound moral issue and called for action to tackle climate change.

“The depletion of the ozone layer and the related ‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions,” Pope John Paul II warned in 1990. He applauded “a new ecological awareness” that “ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programs and initiatives.” Pope Benedict XVI, dubbed the “Green Pope” for taking steps to make the Vatican the first carbon neutral state in the world, also warned against delay. “Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers?” he asked in 2010.

While cheap rhetoric is part of the lexicon of Washington, the Catholic Church is on the front lines in places where climate change is already devastating the poor and most vulnerable. Organizations like Catholic Relief Services, present in 100 countries, have practical experience serving “climate refugees” and connecting the dots between extreme inequality and environmental degradation.

Pope Francis’ message is a moral wakeup call. Rep. Gosar, and other politicians in a state of comfortable denial, can continue to hit the snooze button or choose to be part of the solution.

John Gehring is Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group in Washington. He is author of The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church. You can follow him on Twitter @gehringdc

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  1. Paul Gosar : " I can’t agree with any inclinations that would stand in the way of my benefactors lining their pockets with huge profits" —

  2. it sort of boils down to a pretty succinct philosophy for Republicans…

    we’ll listen to a foreign head of state that wants to goad us into a war in the Middle East for no apparent reason and without trying diplomacy but we won’t listen to a foreign head of state that counsels a belief in science and scientifically driven policy…

  3. Apparently Gosar has not only forgotten (or ignored) the Jesuit imperative to be “men and women for others” but rejects the authority of the Pope on matters of morality. I guess Gosar doesn’t feel morality has anything to do with government unless it’s used to berate women, gays or the poor. Now, I am no longer Catholic because I do reject the authority and, just because I happen to agree with this Pope in many areas I would not return to the church because of this position, among other matters. Gosar, on the other hand, claims to still be Catholic so he must either accept the Pope’s teaching or break with the church & no longer be Catholic. His blather sounds like basic Xian fundamentalism anyway.

  4. I understand (and understand well) that Popes very rarely invoke infallibility, but you would think that they’d show a bit more respect and thoughtfulness when the head of their church counsels them (or they expect him to counsel them) against their views.

  5. Before WWII the Vatican signed Agreements with Mussolini and Hitler (Lateran Treaty and Concordat of 1934). Sometimes they get is very wrong. Mr. Gosar may be a troglodyte but he has the right to express his opinion on this or any issue. This Pope is very popular at the moment. His pr. has been great. The next Pope may not have the common touch. He may be a hard-line Italian with no personality. The cost this Papal trip is in the millions. Catholic dioceses are putting up much of the money. NYC is hoping the Federal Government pays then back for the overtime costs of police etc. The Catholic Church gets donations from all sorts of people especially the rich kind. They rarely ask where it comes from. Please remember this Pope is temporary and Catholic or not we here in America have the right to disagree. Looking back on the writings of the Popes of the last century you will see many condemnations of democracy, Americanism and Modernism. So when you see silly pols. mocked on this board be grateful that you live in a place where you can disagree without penalty.

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