When Pope Francis addresses Congress in Washington, D.C. next week, at least one Republican representative won’t be in the audience.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) wrote a letter in Town Hall this week outlining why he’s skipping out on the pope’s visit to Congress. The main reason? Climate change.
“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,” Gosar writes. “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.”
Gosar, who states in the letter that he’s “a proud Catholic,” goes on to say that he’d gladly attend the pope’s speech if he had chosen instead to focus on issues like religious liberty and the need to combat ISIS.
“If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line. If the Pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the Pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly,” he writes. “But when the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one.”
It’s true that Pope Francis is expected to address climate change during his visit to Washington, D.C. and New York City. The pope has made climate change and environmental issues a central part of his papacy — in his environmental encyclical, released in June, Pope Francis laid out the scientific evidence for human-caused climate change and spoke of the necessity to develop meaningful environmental policy.
But Gosar’s stance on climate change is out of line with the pope’s. In 2012 Gosar said climate change “is likely not in our control in any event. Historical records clearly demonstrate vast temperature swings long before Man arrived, from temperate zones in Alaska to ice ages in New York.” In his letter this week, Gosar expounded reiterated his views on climate change.
“The earth’s climate has been changing since God created it, with or without man. On that, we should all agree,” he writes. “If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous.”
But the pope’s calls for action on climate change are more in line with Catholicism than Gosar thinks. Pope Francis isn’t the first head of the Catholic church to connect environmentalism with theology: Pope Paul VI wrote in 1972 that “man and his environment are more inseparable than ever,” and Pope John Paul II, in his 1990 World Day of Peace statement, warned that the planet is threatened by “a lack of due respect for nature, by the plundering of natural resources and by a progressive decline in the quality of life.”
Though it’s not yet known what exactly Pope Francis will say during his trip to Washington and New York, he’s expected to discuss climate change and immigration issues.
It’s not clear yet whether other lawmakers who don’t agree with the pope’s stance on climate change will also skip out on his Congressional address. But in contrast to Gosar’s decision to boycott, some Republican lawmakers have actually used the pope’s visit to call attention to climate change. Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) sponsored a resolution, released Thursday, that called for action on climate change.
“If left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans, hitting vulnerable populations hardest, harming productivity in key economic sectors such as construction, agriculture, and tourism, saddling future generations with costly economic and environmental burdens, and imposing additional costs on State and Federal budgets that will further add to the long-term fiscal challenges that we face as a nation,” the resolution, which was co-signed by 10 other Republicans, states.