Perhaps intimidated by a man who actually stands for something, several Republican congressmen have openly expressed their desire to see Pope Francis stick to religion when he addresses a joint session of Congress on Thursday. And while millions of Catholics have bristled at some of this pope’s more liberal tendencies, it’s downright weird to see Republican lawmakers criticize him before he takes the floor.
“I think it’s totally inappropriate that the Pope is weighing in on all the real sensitive, far-left issues,” said Oklahoma senator James Inhofe. “I’m not a Catholic, but my Catholic friends in Oklahoma are not real pleased with it.”
Speaking to CNN, Rep. Paul Gosar said he would boycott the speech. “I don’t need to be lectured by the Pope about climate change. When he wants to take a political position, I will tell you: He is free and clear to be criticized like the rest of us.”
With progressive comments on everything from gay marriage to climate change, Pope Francis has been a pontiff of change since day one. While his lean to the left has not yet solidified into significant policy shifts from the Catholic Church, no one can deny the influence of the world’s most visible religious leader. Republicans have picked some unwise fights over the years, but this one might be more ill-advised than most. As controversial as he is, Francis is a damn sight more popular than Congress.
Guys. Gentlemen. It’s okay to let this one pass. Come to the speech, sit politely while Francis pontificates on the evils of capitalism, and avoid making a spectacle of yourselves. If called on to make comments after the speech, do so with respect and intelligence. Demonstrate for once that you’re capable of handling a situation with a bit of professionalism.
That doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything the Pope says, obviously. He’s way off the mark on a number of issues, and it’s perfectly fine to point that out. But can’t you do it without whining about it? Can’t you do it without staging an immature boycott? The Republican Party used to be better than this.
Hopefully, the speech will go off without a hitch and Republicans can go back to the business of surrendering to the Democrats without missing a beat. The last thing this party needs right now is an out-of-proportion fight with the Roman Catholic Church. Here’s a hint, guys: If you can’t beat Obama, you can’t beat the Pope. Do us all a favor and stay above the fray for once.