Pope Francis parts the Red Sea

The outspoken pope’s address to Congress flustered Catholics of the Republican Party.

Anant Naik

Asea of dark-suited Congress members looked on in anticipation at Pope Francis, who stood in a radiantly white cassock with a matching pellegrina. Even before he spoke, the Republican “sea” had parted — against the pope. 
 
Criticism started after Pope Francis delivered a blow against the anti-climate change agenda in his encyclical this past summer. Responses ranged from respectful disagreements to Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s comment about how a pope shouldn’t be a source of policy. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., even announced a boycott of the long-awaited papal address.
 
That address stretched the divide further as the pope argued for a stronger response to climate change. He also said we should protect the rights of the impoverished and become more accepting of immigrants — all of which are contentious ideas for the Republican Party. 
 
I think this papal address will empower the moderates of the Republican Party, driving candidates toward the center. The historically high number of Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election also includes the highest number of Catholic candidates ever. While many candidates have alienated the papacy in politics, the heart of the pope’s argument brought Republican candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to tears. 
 
Since 1972 — the year media exit polls began — no president has won the popular vote without the aid of Roman Catholic voters. Now, the pontiff has spoken, and even if some people still disagree with the belief of the papacy, it’s reasonable to assume that the majority will follow his lead.