In the Presence of My Enemies

A prediction: Pope Francis will be heckled by right-wing Republicans when he addresses a joint session of Congress next month.

Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-SC) infamous 2009 “You lie!” outburst will be considered a term of endearment relative to what ultra-conservative Republicans will holler when the Holy Father discusses income inequality and climate change in his speech. Right-wing obnoxiousness has no known limits, and it’s a guarantee that you will see Republicans on their worst behavior on September 24.

Their contempt will thrust forth like the “chestburster” in Alien. Their voices will vibrate with venom. Pope Francis will be condemned as a Commie, mocked as a Marxist, denounced as a do-gooder. Their scorn will make worldwide headlines—and like Donald Trump in the wake of “Kellygate,” they just won’t care.

How could right-wing Republicans possibly restrain their revulsion regarding Pope Francis’s message? For these folks, Pope Francis is Barack Obama and Al Gore all rolled into one. The Holy Father is calling upon America (and the rest of the world) to pay attention to the climate crisis and its moral implications, and to reduce carbon pollution to protect future generations. That’s blasphemy in the Church of Climate Denial.

For the American right, denial of climate science is an addiction, a compulsion, an obsession. What was once a habit has become a vice. They don’t just want to deny. They don’t just have to deny. On some level, these reactionaries need to deny.

They also need to maintain their belief in the false idol of trickle-down economic theory. Pope Francis’s message is a threat to that belief. The Holy Father recognizes that morality cannot come from money, and that there’s nothing more demonic than what George H. W. Bush once called “voodoo economics.” Republicans will not sit quiet and still while Pope Francis denounces capitalism’s ills.

It’s going to get ugly. Will it get so ugly that Catholic Republicans who may lean right on economics and the environment begin to have second thoughts about sticking with such an uncouth party? That remains to be seen. However, what is obvious is that on September 24, this man of God will be put through a partisan hell.

UPDATE: Speaking of reactionaries with a need to deny climate change

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.