House Speaker John Boehner has proudly announced that Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress in September during the Holy Father's visit to the United States. But Boehner, Catholic though he is, should be careful of what he wishes for.
Congress will be hosting a Pope whose views on the planet's environmental condition and what to do about it are diametrically -- some might say radically -- opposed to the positions held by most Republican lawmakers.
One doubts that the Pope will lecture or scold his Capitol Hill audience. He doesn't have to. His past statements speak for themselves and will hover over his presence, regardless of what he chooses to say.
Which of these statements at the very least would make most members of Boehner's controlling party in Congress squirm in their seats?
During a press conference in the Philippines, the Pope said "I don't know if it is all man's fault, but the majority is for the most part. It is man who continuously slaps down nature. I think humans have gone too far. Thank God that today there are voices speaking out about this." [Unfortunately, the corrective words are not emanating from Republican ranks.]
Pope Francis sent the United Nations a message in which he declared that "the drafting of a new climate change agreement is urgently needed." [Were the Pope to repeat this exhortation at the Capitol, it would likely be greeted with silence from the Republican side of the aisle. Remember that many of the members don't believe a climate change problem even exists.]
"The effective struggle against global warming," the Pope has said, "will only be possible with a responsible collective answer that goes beyond particular interests and behavior and is developed free of political and economic pressures."[Libertarian-minded Republicans would recoil at the Pope's proposed big government solution for global warming. Then there are the dueling priorities. The Pope maintains that a healthy environment takes precedence over economic concerns and is a moral as well as practical prerequisite for profit. The Republican congressional majority's governing philosophy subscribes to the reverse order.]
At a recent papal audience, the Holy Father asserted that "establishment of an international climate change treaty is a grave and moral responsibility." [Does that make the intransigent Republican Party "immoral"? If the Pope ever associated morality with the treaty during his congressional address, how would Republican lawmakers react?]
On World Youth Day in 2013, the Pope said "so often, we are driven by greed and by the arrogance of dominion, possession, manipulation, and exploitation." [Could the Pope's words apply to legislators who are virtual surrogates for deep-pockets fossil fuel industry donors?]
Pope Francis on World Environment Day proclaimed that "the culture of individualism is not what leads to a more habitable world. Rather it is the culture of solidarity." [Were Pope Francis to express this thought in the House chamber, how many members would mutter "communist" under their breath?]
The Pope will make an historic appearance before Congress in September. The question is how much, if at all, will he be able to change history.