GOP lawmaker to skip Pope Francis speech over climate change

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At least one House Republican will be skipping Pope Francis's high-profile address to Congress next Thursday to protest the pontiff's views on climate change.

Rep. Paul GosarPaul GosarOvernight Defense: Fallout from South China Sea ruling GOP bill would block undocumenteds from military service GOP rep mocks FBI's Clinton decision with 'get out of jail free' card MORE said Francis's calls to combat the effects of climate change remind him of a "leftist politician." The Arizona Republican cited media reports indicating that Francis will focus on the climate during his appearance before lawmakers, given the encyclical released earlier this year calling for an "ecological conversion."

"If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line. If the Pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the Pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly. But when 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 for Townhall.com, a conservative website.

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Gosar, who is Catholic, said he was originally looking forward to seeing the pope. But he had hoped the pontiff would focus on different topics.

"It is difficult to convey the excitement I first felt when it was revealed that His Holiness Pope Francis was invited to Washington D.C. to address the world from the floor of the House of Representatives," Gosar wrote.

The Vatican has so far prevented any media leaks of Pope Francis's speech to Congress — a remarkable feat considering the anticipation that's built up for the event. It's unclear precisely what he will discuss during his address, but he may also broach topics like normalizing relations with Cuba, the Iran nuclear deal, and income inequality.

But Gosar isn't interested in listening to Pope Francis push Congress to change environmental policies.

"If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous," Gosar wrote.

Gosar, incidentally, is leading a charge to impeach Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Gosar's decision to publicly boycott Pope Francis's speech stands in contrast to predictions from other lawmakers interviewed by The Hill in recent days that Congress would be on its "best behavior" and free of controversy. Most lawmakers anticipated that Pope Francis would be met with deference, given that he is a major religious leader while serving as a head of state.

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