Earlier this week, Leslie mentioned the Pope’s encyclical on climate change and mused on how Republicans might respond. For American GOP Catholics, whose party is committed to ignoring climate change as a matter of principle, Pope Francis’ strong call for action put them in an awkward spot.
By way of addendum, I wanted to highlight the response of Jeb Bush in particular, which is really something. “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm,” Bush told Politico.
This is a bizarre statement for Bush to make while running to be the nominee of the Republican party, which has been driven by a base committed to stuffing religion into the political realm for more than 30 years. And it directly contradicts his statements and actions as a public figure, as documented by the Atlantic, ThinkProgress, Time, and others. (“As a public leader,” Bush has said, “one’s faith should guide you.”)
Of course, Catholic lawmakers are under no obligation to agree with the Pope on policy questions. But Bush’s response suggests a politician eager to invoke faith when it’s politically convenient, and quick to draw a line in the sand when it’s not. Surely Bush can come up with a more coherent — and less obviously hypocritical — answer than this.
Sen. Marco Rubio, another Catholic Republican running for president, bobbed and weaved:
Well, look, the pope is a—the pope is a shepherd of a faith. And his desire is peace and prosperity. He wants everyone to be better off…[but Francis is] not a political figure.
ThinkProgress rounded up responses from some other prominent Republicans:
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources concurred. “No, I’m sorry, it’s a political issue,” he told the AP. “Most people have their minds made up on this issue, so any more rhetoric about the issue doesn’t really add a heck of a lot more to it.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, maintained the perspective that climate change is a belief, not a scientific fact, and said he disagreed with “the pope’s philosophy on global warming.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), side-stepped the content of the pope’s position, saying, “I respect his right to speak out on these important issues.”
Candidate Rick Santorum stepped into the fray last week, saying he was more qualified to talk about climate change than the pope — despite the pope’s background in science.
“The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science,” Santorum told radio host Dom Giordano. “We probably are better off leaving science to the scientists, and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.”