GOP lawmaker vows to boycott pope's speech to Congress

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GOP Congressman Plans to Boycott Pope Francis

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Republican lawmaker said he will boycott Pope Francis' speech to Congress next week because of the possibility the pontiff will discuss his support for policies to fight climate change.

Three-term Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona said that as a Catholic, he initially was excited to learn of the pope's visit to Washington and his address to Congress. But Gosar said he decided not to attend after he read media reports that the pope plans to devote much of the speech to advocating for what Gosar calls "flawed climate change policies."

In a column Thursday on the conservative website townhall.com, Gosar wrote that he was appalled by a papal teaching document that "condemned anyone skeptical of the link between human activity and climate change." He said that if the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology or spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, "I would be there cheering him on."

See 10 of Pope Francis' most provocative quotes:

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10 of Pope Francis’s Most Provocative Quotes
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GOP lawmaker vows to boycott pope's speech to Congress

"Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!"

October 8, 2014, St. Peter’s Square

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"Women in the church are more important than bishops and priests."

June 28, 2013, on a flight to Rome

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits — but no."

January 19, 2015, on a flight to Rome

(Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

"I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful ... I see the church as a field hospital after battle."

September 30, 2013, interview, America magazine

 (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

"I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation."

October 1, 2013, interview, La Repubblica newspaper

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"Men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste.’ If a computer breaks it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs and dramas of so many people end up being considered normal."

June 5, 2013, St. Peter’s Square

(Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

"Perhaps you were mad, perhaps plates flew, but please remember this: never let the sun go down without making peace! Never, never, never!"

February 14, 2014, St. Peter’s Square

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"Do you open your hearts to the memories that your grandparents pass on? Grandparents are like the wisdom of the family, they are the wisdom of a people."

October 26, 2013, St. Peter’s Square

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

"True love is both loving and letting oneself be loved. It is harder to let ourselves be loved than it is to love." 

January 18, 2015, Manila, Philippines

 (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

"Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads ... to those who have quit or are indifferent."

September 30, 2013, interview, America magazine

(AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
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If the pope "urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly," Gosar added. "But when the pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one."

As an elected official and a Catholic, Gosar said he has "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."

No one knows exactly what Pope Francis will say to Congress. But Vatican aides have said that throughout his U.S. trip, he will press his message on the environment, immigration and caring for the poor. The pope has called on government leaders worldwide to take bold action to address climate change and has said he hoped his teaching document, or encyclical, would help influence the United Nations climate talks at the end of the year.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, told Vatican television Thursday that in his speeches to Congress and the UN the pope will emphasize the encyclical's message on the need to protect the environment.

If Pope Francis wants to devote his life to fighting climate change, Gosar said, he should do so in his personal time - not as pope. "To promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous," he said.

Gosar told reporters later Friday that he has received a positive response to his boycott threat and said at least one other member, whom he would not name, also may boycott the speech.

He might reconsider the boycott if he were to receive "assurances" from the Vatican that the pope will focus his speech on religious tolerance and the sanctity of life, Gosar said.

"If there is one person that can talk about this in hell's den - which is right here (in the Capitol) - that's the pope," Gosar said. "And if he's not going to make that his concentrating message, I find it disheartening."

Gosar most recently pushed for the impeachment of EPA chief Gina McCarthy.

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