Congressional Republicans are upset with Pope Francis for making political statements on issues like income inequality, climate change, and the Israel-Palestine conflict. GOP leaders in Congress are dismayed that the pope is articulating non-conservative stances on a wide range of issues. They believe the pope should keep his nose out of politics unless it is to reinforce the Catholic Church’s support for right-wing positions like opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.
For example, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) argues that the pope should focus on “issues [where] he can make a difference”, or what Huelskamp considers the “non-negotiables” like opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. Rep. Huelskamp argues that the pope should stay out of discussions of poverty because that is something the church can’t fix. Huelskamp states:
How do you deal with a poverty problem? There’s not a Catholic [fix], contrary to the arguments of certain economists that work at the Vatican. But there’s a Catholic view on life, on marriage, on the rights of parents and education. So I hope he sticks to this.
Several Republican members of Congress also criticized the pope for recognizing the Palestinian state. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) complained:
I’m surprised that the pope would recognize Palestine when they’re still haters who want to eliminate Israel off the map and don’t recognize Israel. The Pope is the head of his religion, and he makes those calls for himself, but I represent 700,000 people from East Texas and a vast majority agree with me.
I’m disappointed. Now the Pope is legitimizing a Palestinian state without requiring those who get recognition to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Congressional Republicans are taking issue with the pope speaking on political matters, not because they believe religion has no place in politics, but because the views Pope Francis expresses are not in line with those of the Republican Party. Republicans are happy to have religious cover when the Catholic Church publicly takes a conservative position on social issues. However, they do not believe religious leaders should speak out when church doctrine does not align with their conservative views. Therefore in the minds of Congressional Republicans, Pope Francis should keep his mouth shut on issues like peace in the Middle East, climate change and addressing poverty. However, if he wants to criticize gay marriage or abortion, the Republicans would gladly hand him a microphone.