Almost immediately, Pope Francis and President Obama negated any Republican hopes of using the Pope’s visit to score political points by teaming up at the White House on a climate change message.
During his remarks, the President said, “And, Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet, God’s magnificent gift to us. We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to changing climate, and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations.”
Pope Francis spoke positively about President Obama’s proposed steps to combat climate change:
Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation. When it comes to the care of our common home, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the change needed to bring about a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.
Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded, which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities, our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note, and now is the time to honor it.
Republicans are some of the few remaining holdouts in the world who have a stated public policy position that deny the reality of climate change. The U.S. visit by Pope Francis will contain many of these kinds of uncomfortable moments for the Republican Party.
A political party that tries to define itself with their version of religious liberty has quite a few policy disagreements with one of the world’s most powerful religious leaders. The Pope’s feelings on income inequality and immigration are two issues that should make Republicans squirm.
The cynical eye with which Republicans are treating the Pope’s visit is demonstrated by Mitch McConnell’s plan to hold a vote to defund Planned Parenthood on the same day that Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress.
Instead of creating political opportunity, the visit by Pope Francis is already reinforcing how out of touch Republicans are with the rest of the world.