Pope Francis' Speech To Congress Might Disappoint Both Democrats & Republicans Who Are Hoping He'll Fight For Them
Thursday morning, for the first time in history, a Pope addressed Congress. Though Pope Francis preached peace, understanding and equality, the address fell on partially deaf ears, since he was standing in front of some of the worst party division that Congress has seen in years. Will Democrats and Republicans interpret the pope's speech differently? The answer is a resounding yes, but they both might be slightly disappointed by what he had to say about their favorite arguments.
Both Democrats and Republicans were expecting the pope to address their big positions — and he did, but maybe not in the ways they were hoping. Democrats were really happy after the pope openly backed their arguments for policies that are more favorable to immigrants and emphasized the need to address climate change in his first welcome speech at the White House. Republicans wanted Francis to talk about his ardent anti-abortion policy, and his support for a traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Francis left them empty-handed, which only caused more division and anxiousness prior to the speech.
During his speech, Francis addressed the issue of religious freedom, but it said that it needs to be balanced with the other people's individual freedoms:
The pope brilliantly said that Americans should resist the temptation to label people they disagree with as evil. He said that polarization of views is extremely harmful to religion:
But balance isn't something all Republicans are interested in. Some representatives have already expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the pope is addressing issues like climate change instead of issues "of faith." On the most extreme end, Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, told USA Today that he would boycott the address because he knew that the pope would address climate change. In an op-ed published on a conservative news website, Gosar said that the pope needs to address issues of religious freedom and the "sanctity of life":
When Francis addressed immigration, he received a standing ovation from most of the room. He said that the rights of "those who were here long before us were not always respected":
Francis also encouraged Congress to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" while speaking about the refugee crisis in Europe. Obama's recent announcement that the U.S. would take in more refugees was met with stiff opposition in Congress, where Republicans sounded fears of increased terrorism.
The pope didn't only side with Democratic ideologies, though. He reinforced our "responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," which received hearty applause from Republicans. But moments later, he said that this includes a global abolition of the death penalty, which many Republicans have opposed, despite their fight against abortion rights.
Francis also reinforced the idea that the fight against poverty needs to take into consideration one of its core causes: the creation and distribution of wealth. He said that this important "culture of care" doesn't just extend to fighting poverty. Despite the frustration of many Republicans, Francis again addressed how important it is for the U.S. to lead technological developments to help stop our contributions to climate change:
The pope wouldn't side with any party on one issue. He preached tolerance and individual rights while also emphasizing religious freedom, and then he called for an end to the death penalty. Francis spoke to the arguments of both Democrats and Republicans, but the only one he seemed to address head-on was climate change, and he was in favor of reform to protect the Earth. Even on the issue of same-sex marriage, he wasn't clear. He didn't condemn same-sex marriage; rather, he reiterated the importance of the "richness and the beauty of family life":
Same-sex couples have family lives, right? The pope didn't specifically say what did or didn't qualify as "family life," though he has historically been against same-sex marriage as being recognized by the church.The speech was sure Republicans frustrated because of the pope's clear stance on climate change. Though Francis came from conservative positions on abortion, it seemed that his positions on issues such as religious freedom or same-sex marriage were at least unclear, and might possibly have been subtly more moderate.