Pope Francis is expected to visit the United States later this year, and while in Washington he plans to address a joint session of Congress. It’s surely unwelcomed news for many on the right.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza told reporters that the Pope was eager to meet with lawmakers in Washington and hopes to address them in a speech from the Capitol.
“And we might say really the highlight of the Washington visit might be his speech to the joint-meeting of Congress, so the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Auza reportedly said.
The details of his speech are still unknown, but there is little love lost between the Pope and the conservative right who find themselves increasingly opposed to some of the Catholic leader’s progressive stances.
As late as last March, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was publicly inviting the Pope to speech in Washington, but much has changed since then. Now, almost any topic Pope Francis could choose to address appears to be an embarrassing liability for Republicans and a painful reminder of how backwards the GOP continues to be regarding the issues of the day.
For starters, there is the question of science. While scientific research continues to explore the outer limits of human knowledge, Republicans seem incapable of keeping up. In a show of contempt for scientific literacy, the new Republican Senate majority wasted no time in placing well known science deniers in control of congressional committees designed to oversee funding for NASA and university research.
Examples of anti-science idiocy from Republican lawmakers are commonplace, but the Pope’s relatively pro-science views make them all the more embarrassing. For instance, in just the past few months Pope Francis has made remarks in support of theory of evolution (a scientific theory of which less than half – and falling – of all Republicans hold) and man-made climate change.
“I don’t know if it is all (man’s fault) but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps nature in the face,” [Pope Francis] told reporters. “We have in a sense taken over nature.” Scripted remarks that the Pope did not read out go on to say, “As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.”
It seems unlikely that the Pope could resist bringing the issue up while in the country that contributes roughly one-half of the greenhouse emissions responsible for warming temperatures. Republicans listening to the pope lecture them on their responsibility to the planet is sure to make them squirm – and their oil industry campaign donors livid. It will be a joy to watch.
Even worse for the GOP, the Pope will address a Congress that is dead set on slashing help for the poor, while doing everything in its power to benefit the rich. In fact, just days into its session, the Republican Congress has already begun targeting social programs that keep the most vulnerable Americans out of poverty. On its very first day, conservative lawmakers went after social security like a pack of wolves after a long winter. They are eyeing healthcare next. And, perhaps most outrageously, even attacking the disabled.
Here’s Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) blithely stating that over half of all people on disability are moochers gaming the system, a comment which earned him a unequivocal “false” rating from Politifact:
“What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting your disability check. Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club,” he said. “Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts. Everybody over 40 has a little back pain.”
Meanwhile, the Pope has been unflagging in his efforts to criticize greed and wealth inequality at the expense of the poor. It’s an issue he clearly cares deeply about. While Paul was smearing people with disabilities, Pope Francis spent his own birthday handing out sleeping bags to the homeless.
Again, it seems almost impossible to imagine that the pope wouldn’t seize the opportunity to address wealth inequality in a country that is both simultaneously the wealthiest in human history and sits on its hands while over half of all public school children are so poor that they qualify for free school lunches.
For Republicans, the pope’s visit to Washington can only do them harm. While their approval numbers remain in the gutter, the pope is massively popular. Watching the religious leader lecture Congress for being heartless, anti-scientific bullies would be must-see television. C-SPAN’s ratings may just go through the roof, while the Republicans in the audience will sink further and further into their chairs.
Feature image via White House