Are the Village people ready for what Pope Francis may have to say to them?
If congressional tough guys are expecting a heaping of old-time religion, they may be surprised by what they hear from Pope Francis when he speaks to a joint session of Congress in September.
The demand for tickets should be going through the roof for the new Congressional Speakers Series, curated by House Speaker "Sunny John" Boehner. First there was Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who's scheduled to speak on "How to Be a Big Thug in a Small Pond." which we learned in another "First Draft" item is now regretfully going to be missed by Vice President Biden. (Can't you just hear him saying, "Aw, shucks"? But what can he do? He has conflicting travel plans -- as fast as his people can plan them. Earlier this week a spokeperson said, “We are not ready to announce details of his trip yet, and normally our office wouldn't announce this early, but the planning process has been underway for a while." I'm sure it has.)
Now tentatively penciled in for September 24, during a planned visit to the U.S., is none other than the hottest speaker on the circuit, Pope Francis.
The thing is, though, it's not entirely clear that news has reached Capitol Hill about this not being your kindly old parish pedophile-priest's pope, about how after the nearly 35-year run of the fascist-thug popes JPII and Ben-the-Umpteenth (50 years if you count the thug-wannabe Paul VI, perhaps restyled for the purpose as a "proto-thug"), there's a new guy in the Vatican. And even the thug-popes could throw super-patriot Americans for a loop by voicing uncomfortable positions against the death penalty (the Church is "pro-life," remember?) and war-mongering.
Considering how far to the right America's zero-IQ Right has moved, it's hardly surprising that they're now well to the right of even a pontiff who himself is quite conservative in his social views. In this morning's NYT "First Draft," Michael Paulson wonders if our ever-righteous electeds (of both parties) have thought through what they may hear from the plain-spoken new pope. (Links onsite.)
Pope’s Visit to Congress Could Lead to Bipartisan DiscomfortThere could be a lot of bright-red faces in Congress that day -- in addition to the permanently bright-orange one.
The good news for Congress is that Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to visit. The bad news is that elected officials might not like what he has to say.
On issues like poverty, immigration, abortion and climate change, the pope is likely to raise concerns that challenge his hosts. And the pontiff has already made clear that he is willing to be direct with political leaders. As he told the European Parliament in November, “Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard.”
“If they’re expecting a talk only on how wonderful America is, they will be surprised,” said the Rev. James Martin, an editor at large at the Jesuit magazine America. “I think he will be an equal opportunity disturber.”
The pope has expressed repeated concern about the treatment of immigrants around the world – a divisive issue for the Republican Party. In a letter the pope wrote in December, but became public this week, he decried “people who only see in immigration a source of illegality, social conflict and violence.”
The pope has also made clear that he believes humans contribute significantly to climate change, telling reporters last month, “It is man who gives a slap to nature continually.” That, too, is contested among Republicans.
“The metaphor he uses, which is the most powerful, is the throwaway culture,” said John L. Carr, the director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. “That has the potential to make both parties uncomfortable: It begins with the unborn child, it includes the immigrant, and it certainly focuses on the poorest of the poor.”
Francis, who has never been to the United States, will be the first pope to address Congress. Speaker John A. Boehner said on Thursday that the pontiff’s address had been scheduled for Sept. 24. The pope is also expected to travel to New York and Philadelphia.