Philadelphia is aglow this week with the feel goods from a pitch perfect visit from the pontiff last weekend. Pope Francis toured the city, spreading a lot of good will, touching on numerous issues dear to him. He touted immigration, care of the poor and families. As described this week by Linda Rauscher, the mood on the street was that of a lovefest. It was a Woodstock for people of faith, regardless of stripe.
The pope’s entire visit was successful, from touching down in DC and a historic address to Congress, to a United Nations visit in which he advocated for poor countries, to finishing up with the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
The only thing that managed to mar the visit – albeit only a little bit – were grumblings and posturing by politicians, looking to turn the visit into an opportunity to make statements.
The first lawmaker to attract a lot of attention was U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), a conservative and devoutly Catholic legislator who vowed to boycott the pope’s congressional address.
Why? Gosar complained that the pope was going to use the opportunity to push for action to address man’s role in climate change, an assumption that Gosar rejects. Gosar said he felt the pope should use the address to push for religious tolerance and the sanctity of life.
“[W]hen the pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one,” Gosar wrote in an op-ed on the conservative political blog townhall.com.
I don’t hold Gosar’s opinion’s against him. In some ways, because he is a devout Catholic, I can understand why he might believe God is in control of the Earth’s climate and that any change we might experience would be allowed by the divine. That (almost) makes sense.
What I don’t understand is why anyone would insist on turning a papal visit into a political opportunity. Gosar didn’t silently skip the pope’s address. He telegraphed it in an op-ed and numerous media interviews, making a political statement in a way that is hard to distinguish from what he was so adamantly critical of in the first place.
But such is politics. Nothing – not even a visit from a world religious leader – can be allowed to pass without someone taking the opportunity for political grandstanding. Why not attend, listen to what the pope has to say and respond to his actual words instead of reacting to what you believe he will say?
The always emotional, soon-to-be-former House Speaker, Republican John Boehner, has regularly spoken out for positions that would contradict those of the pope, Boehner, however, had a much more realistic take on receiving the pope.
“Well, listen, there’s one thing we know about this pope: He’s not afraid to take on the status quo,” Boehner said. “He’s 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.”
The thing is this: It makes no sense to refuse to listen to people who you don’t agree with. It’s a childish position that is probably more responsible for popular political disengagement than anything else. How can we expect to do good things for others if we can’t even listen to them?
— Pete Mazzaccaro