UPDATE: I received word on Tuesday, August 12 that Congressman Byrne has agreed to co-sponsor this resolution.
The Pew Research Center recently published an essay about the American public’s political attitudes and values.
Evidence of the increasingly polarized public could be seen graphically by looking at a scale of political values over a period of 20 years, 1994 to 2014. As the report described it, “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades”. As a result, more Democrats and Republicans see opposing parties as a threat to the nation’s well-being. When it comes to political compromise, the study says liberals and conservatives define ideal political compromise as “one in which their side gets more of what it wants”.
This may be why there is such a political gulf between Democrats and Republicans over a seemingly innocuous resolution currently before the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
House Resolution 440 would congratulate Pope Francis on his election and recognize his “inspirational statements and actions”. Introduced on December 11, 2013, it reads as follows:
Congratulating Pope Francis on his election and recognizing his
inspirational statements and actions.
Whereas on March 13, 2013, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires,
Argentina was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church;
Whereas his election marked the first time a Pope from the Americas has been
Whereas he is the first Jesuit to become Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church;
Whereas he took the papal name of Francis, becoming the first pope to take the
name of St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his devotion to
humility and the poor;
Whereas he has demonstrated his humility by choosing not to live in the lavish
Apostolic Palace, living instead with the clergy and lay people in the
Whereas on March 28, 2013, he broke from tradition during the washing of feet,
when he washed the feet of 12 criminals, including two women, becoming
the first pope to include women in the rite;
Whereas on November 6, he displayed his charity by caressing a man with severe
disfigurement, drawing comparisons to the actions of his namesake, St.
Francis, whose kiss of a leper forever changed his life by solidifying
his commitment to the poorest among us;
Whereas when asked to describe himself during an interview with a Jesuit
magazine, he replied “I am a sinner”;
Whereas his emphasis on humanitarian efforts to alleviate suffering serves as an
inspiration to Congress and all Americans;
Whereas his humility, his commitment to economic justice and improving the lives
of the poor, and his outreach to individuals from all walks of life have
been universally praised and are living examples of Jesus Christ’s
Whereas his call to end inequality has echoed across the globe and brought millions together in solidarity:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives congratulates Pope Francis on his election and recognizes his inspirational statements and actions.
It turns out Democrats and Republicans can’t even agree on this.
203 Democrats, including Alabama’s Terri Sewell, have agreed to co-sponsor the resolution, but only 20 Republicans are willing to join them.
What could be so controversial? For starters, it was sponsored by a Democrat from Connecticut, Rep. John Larson.
Alabama’s First District Congressman Bradley Byrne is not one of the 20 Republican co-sponsors. “I don’t think this particular one has ever come on our radar,” said a member of his staff. An offer to “check with the legislative team” about his position has produced silence, so far.
The Hill, which reports on Congress, opines that the Pope may be “too liberal” for Republicans.
Rep. Larson has asked House Speaker John Boehner to request a vote on the resolution.
Unless something changes though, it may not have a prayer.