This do-nothing Congress won’t even given the Pope his due. For months a popular piece of legislation crafted to honor the new pontiff has languished, like so many other popular measures, as lawmakers wait for Speaker John Boehner to make his mind up.
According to The Hill, the resolution written by Representatives John Larson and Pete King (both Catholics) congratulates Francis on his March 2013 election and recognizes “his inspirational statements and actions.”
Who could object to such a bi-partisan gesture? Well, only 19 of the 221 current co-sponsors are Republicans. Privately many GOP members grouse that the groundbreaking new pope is “too liberal,” a Republican backer of the legislation told The Hill this week.
Hailing from Argentina, where he learned to scoff at the kind of “trickle-down” economic theories beloved by most conservatives, Francis’ straight talk on the consequences of economic inequality has apparently cooled their ardor.
To their ears the pontiff sounds more like a long-haired liberal hippy than the gold plated capo of the richest spiritual organization on earth.
But it’s Francis’ dramatic about-face on gay rights, an increasingly losing issue for the GOP, that may cause them the most disquiet.
The new pope has sounded alarmingly open to the idea of civil unions for gay couples and has undercut criticisms of LGBT Catholics by asking “who am I to judge?”
Since most conservatives are unwilling to surrender the capacity to judge the spiritual fitness of their political opponents just yet, the new pope’s decision to disarm them doesn’t play well.
Some Republicans even think the pope is “sounding like Obama. He talks about equality - he actually used the term ‘trickle-down economics,’ which is politically charged,” the GOP official told The Hill.
But cooler headed conservatives have noted that for all his attention grabbing sound bites, Francis still bars women from taking strong leadership roles within the church, he still opposes marriage equality for gays, and crucially he still opposes changes to employment discrimination laws worldwide.
If there has been a change, it has only been in tone, they observe. We need not fear chimeras.
The problem is that no one listens to cooler headed conservatives on Capitol Hill these days.
Meanwhile Congressman Larson, a Democrat, is growing impatient. In a letter to the speaker this week Larson highlighted Boehner’s own invitation to Francis to address a joint meeting of Congress.
“To my knowledge this would be an historic first. I ask that you take a look at a bipartisan resolution introduced by Representative Peter King and myself, acknowledging the first Pope from the Americas - it is my sincere hope that you will consider this resolution for the suspension calendar for a vote,” Larson wrote.
But what chance does even Pope Francis really have if what he stands for – tolerance, inclusion, income equality – are the very things that make him so odious to the GOP?