GOP rep has no regrets about skipping pope’s speech

GOP rep has no regrets about skipping pope’s speech
© Greg Nash

Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarHouse passes bill expressing support for NATO McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader On The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown MORE (R-Ariz.) said he has no regrets about skipping Pope Francis’s speech Thursday, even though the pontiff spoke little about climate change.

Gosar announced last week that he would boycott the speech over his expectation that Francis would focus heavily on climate change and press Congress to take action, something that Gosar disagrees with strongly.

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But Gosar, a Roman Catholic, said skipping the speech got across his point, which is that Francis shouldn’t be putting so much of his energy into climate change, and should focus more on fighting religious extremism, abortion and other issues.

“I think I made my point, and I think the point needed to be made,” Gosar said hours after Francis gave his speech, adding that he at no point wished he were in the House chamber.

The Arizona Republican and former dentist watched the speech instead from his office in the Cannon House Office Building, just across the street from the Capitol where Francis spoke.

Gosar complained that the speech “lacked a lot of details,” though he agreed with Francis’s emphasis on the importance of families.

“He was very specific about climate change, a lot more dynamic on that regard than in right to life,” Gosar said. “He made one sentence and then transitioned it right into trying to advocate against the death penalty.”

Francis did not mention climate change or global warming explicitly, but called for “a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity,” and said that the United States has “an important role to play.”

The statements yielded loud applause from Democrats and a small handful of Republicans, but the rest of the GOP stayed seated and did not clap.

On Friday, Gosar wrote that Francis could speak against violent Islam or persecution of Christians.

“But when the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one,” he said.

Apart from the speech to Congress, Francis called more forcefully for climate policies at a White House speech Wednesday, having released an encyclical on the subject in June.

Gosar’s pledge brought scorn from Republicans and Democrats alike. And although he said at least one other lawmaker would join him in avoiding the speech, it does not appear that anyone did.

“My point is the priorities,” Gosar said Thursday.

“Climate change is subjective. And when you have a pope putting out an encyclical and then challenging Catholics, that ‘if you disagree with me you’re wrong,’ I have problems with that. Especially a man of science, and I’m a man of science, and we can debate that all day.”

— Cristina Marcos contributed to this story.