How Dare the Pope Refuse to Be a Conservative?

By now you’ve probably heard about the wacko bird Republican House Member from Arizona who has noisily announced he’s boycotting Pope Francis’ appearance before Congress next week. Paul Gosar is, of course, as he explains in a column he penned for Townhall, a “proud Catholic,” who proceeds to do everything other than say his beads to tout his Catholic credentials. But interestingly, in the next breath he tells us he’s “a Conservative, a member of Congress, a constitutionalist and adamant defender of our Republic; an American that believes in strict adherence to the rule of law and a firm believer in our First Amendment protections, in this particular discussion, the freedom of religion.” This appears to be an allusion to his preemptive fury at Francis for not devoting his speech to Congress to abortion and to the allegedly threatened liberties of bakers and florists and County Clerks. But it also suggests he is a bit less than open to any papal advice that happens to conflict with his rather rigid secular ideology.

The old phrase “more Catholic than the Pope” has taken on a whole new meaning under Francis’ papacy, hasn’t it? You half-expect his conservative critics to unearth and appropriate centuries of liberal efforts to fence in the Pope’s sphere of influence. I don’t care enough about Paul Gosar’s temper tantrum to figure out if he happened to issue any tributes to Maximum Papal Authority back when Popes were Popes and mostly said and did things he approved of. But there’s no question he’s in the company of a lot of people who’d be advised to shut their mouths or open them to eat crow.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.