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Conservative Lawmaker Boycotting Pope's Address Over Climate-Change Views

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who is Catholic, says he will boycott Pope Francis' address to Congress this week because of the pope's progressive views on climate change.
Matt York
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who is Catholic, says he will boycott Pope Francis' address to Congress this week because of the pope's progressive views on climate change.

A conservative Catholic lawmaker announced he will boycott Pope Francis' historic address before Congress next Thursday because of the pope's views on climate change.

"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," wrote Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., in an editorial for the conservative commentary site Townhall.com.

"If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line."

Gosar is the first lawmaker to announce he will boycott the pope's address. A self-described "proud Catholic," who attended Creighton University, a Jesuit college, Gosar asserts, "The earth's climate has been changing since God created it, with or without man."

The Arizona Republican further takes issue with Pope Francis' encyclical, a 192-page paper released this summer in which the pope calls for new action to combat human-driven climate change.

"If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change, then he can do so in his personal time," Gosar wrote. "But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous."

James Martin, a Jesuit priest, editor-at-large of America magazine and author, tweeted that it was "unbelievable" Gosar would boycott the address. Martin tweeted at the lawmaker: "Have you forgotten that part of the Jesuit tradition is listening to people with different points of view from your own?"

While the pope's views — and Catholicism generally — can be thorny for both political parties, most lawmakers have shown no appetite for picking ideological fights with the pope.

Asked in July if he expected the pope to take lawmakers to task over issues like climate change or helping the poor, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, demurred.

"Well, listen, there's one thing we know about this pope," Boehner told reporters, "he's not afraid to take on the status quo or not afraid to say what he really thinks. And I can tell you this: I'm not about to get myself into an argument with the pope."

Boehner, also a Catholic, extended the invitation to Pope Francis, who will be the first pope to address Congress.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.
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