Catholic GOP congressman will boycott Pope Francis's congressional address over climate change

"When the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one"

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published September 18, 2015 3:34PM (EDT)

Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar, describing himself as a "a proud Catholic" took to the conservative website Townhall to lecture Pope Francis and announce his planned boycott of his historic papal visit to Congress next week.

Calling it his "moral obligation" to call out Catholic leaders who deviate from conservative talking points on abortion, homosexuality, and religious freedom, Gosar explained that he could not attend Francis's address before Congress.

Francis' calls for action to tackle climate change and his stark criticisms of capitalism and inequality have caused Republicans to wage a war against His Holiness. A Gallup poll in July found that a sharp drop in the pope’s favorability rating -- from 76 percent to 59  percent -- was fueled by conservatives, with only a minority expressing a favorable opinion of the pontiff.

"If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line," Gosar insisted, writing that "if the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time":

At this pivotal moment in world history, His Holiness, Pope Francis, is intending to spend the majority of his time on one of the world’s greatest stages focusing on climate change. I have both a moral obligation and leadership responsibility to call out leaders, regardless of their titles, who ignore Christian persecution and fail to embrace opportunities to advocate for religious freedom and the sanctity of human life. If the Pope plans to spend the majority of his time advocating for flawed climate change policies, then I will not attend.

Gosar has also called for the impeachment of Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy for allegedly committing perjury before Congress earlier this year.

And in another move sure to anger conservatives, Pope Francis will head to Cuba this weekend after working to broker a restoration of diplomatic relations with the U.S. Pope Francis will deliver an address to a joint session of Congress next Thursday.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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