Citing climate change as a “socialist talking point,” Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar announced that he will boycott Pope Francis' speech to a joint session of Congress later this week.
His office claimed he won't be the only one.
“Several House colleagues spoke to Congressman Gosar last Friday in support of his stance and told him that they, too, would not be attending,” Gosar's press secretary, Steven Smith, wrote to New Times in an e-mail .
But anyone hoping to learn which members of Congress is out of luck: “Out of respect to those members, Congressman Gosar will not publicly name who they are because he feels that they can speak for themselves if they choose to,” Smith's e-mail went on to say.
Recently, Gosar has received a lot of attention for a Townhall.com op-ed in which he explained that initially, as a “proud Catholic,” he was really excited to hear that the Pope would be [addressing] Congress but that his view changed after he learned what the Pope might say.
“Media reports indicate His Holiness...intends to focus the brunt of his speech on climate change,” Gosar wrote. “If the Pope plans to spend the majority of his time advocating for flawed climate change policies, then I will not attend."
Gosar goes on to say that he finds the possibility of the Pope discussing climate change “troubling” because “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...If the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one."
He would rather the Pope use this opportunity “to be one of the world’s great religious advocates and address the current intolerance of religious freedom[;] to urgently challenge governments to properly address the persecution and execution of Christians and religious minorities; to address the heinous and senseless murders committed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations[,] to address the enslavement, belittlement, rape and desecration of Christian women and children; to address the condoned, subsidized, intentionally planned genocide of unborn children by Planned Parenthood and society; and finally...to refocus our priorities on right from wrong.”
“For a Catholic politician to turn his back on the words of a Pope — it's just sad,” says Bill Patenaude, co-founder of the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Patenaude frequently writes and teaches about the intersection of Christianity and ecology and says, “Any Catholic who knows his religion knows that faith and reason are intimately connected...When you look at issues of environmental protection, they are connected with life issues.”
He concedes that “there has been a general trend that leftist progressives have been more involved in environmental protection but to put a political moniker on science is wrong. There a clear understanding that all the carbon dioxide, methane, [and other green house gases] we are putting in the atmosphere are affecting the climate.”
What's more, he adds, “The dialogue is going to happen” so Gosar and others who disagree with the Pope's message “should be involved.”
It seems like that's what other politicians are doing – from fellow GOP Arizona Representative and known climate-change skeptic David Schweikert to Republican Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who perhaps is the proudest climate-change denier.
Except for Gosar, no other Congressional delegate has said publicly that he or she will boycott the Pope's speech.
In fact, in the days since Gosar published his op-ed, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has said he will attend the Pope's Congressional address as a guest of Arizona GOP Representative Matt Salmon. And Ducey is not known as a climate-change advocate — he told the Arizona Republic earlier this year: “I believe there is climate change; what I'm skeptical about is what human activity has to do with it.”
A spokesman said Monday: “Governor Ducey has great respect and admiration for His Holiness. He looks forward to the opportunity to welcome the Pope upon his visit to the United States.” But the spokesman did not respond to a request for comment from Ducey on Gosar's boycott.
“Apparently, Congressman Gosar is not interested in listening to anyone when it comes to understanding climate change, its impacts, or what we should do to address it,” says Sandy Bahr of the Arizona Sierra Club. “The Pope is not alone – [Representative] Gosar ignores leading climate scientists, including some in Arizona, clean-energy proponents, the conservation community, and the people of Arizona who have expressed concerns about climate change and support government action.”
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A recent study by the University of Arizona and Stanford University found that 78 percent of Arizona residents believe that human activity is at least partly to blame for a rise in global temperatures. (Ninty-seven percent of scientists say the earth's climate is warming.)
“There's a lot of information out there, and I can't understand how [Gosar] can ignore it,” Patenaude says. “I can understand his fear that someone might try to use this information for their political advantage or to push their political agenda, [but even so], that's why the right wing, that's why [Gosar], has to be part of the conversation...
"Not being at the Pope's address is a pity.”