The Cable

10 Times the Pope and Republicans Didn’t See Eye to Eye on International Issues

Pope Francis and the GOP are at odds on a number of issues.

HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20:  People wave Cuban and Papal flags as Pope Francis passes by as he arrives to perform Mass on September 20, 2015 in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
HAVANA, CUBA - SEPTEMBER 20: People wave Cuban and Papal flags as Pope Francis passes by as he arrives to perform Mass on September 20, 2015 in Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba. Pope Francis is on the first full day of his three day visit to Cuba where he will meet President Raul Castro and hold Mass in Revolution Square before travelling to Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and El Cobre then onwards to the United States. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Since he was elected to lead the Holy See in March 2013, Pope Francis’s progressive views on everything from immigration to climate change have won him an enthusiastic following in the United States. A poll released by Telemundo on Friday shows that 51 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of Francis, an Argentine whose birth name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

But while he might be admired by Americans and Catholics around the world, some of Francis’s views put him at odds with Republicans. As the pope prepares to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for a five-day visit that will also take him to New York and Philadelphia, here are 10 issues where Francis and the GOP disagree.


Francis has called on the United States to do more to aid immigrants trying to enter the United States from Latin America.

“This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain,” Francis said in a July 14, 2014, statement. “They are increasing day by day. This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

Republicans broadly disagree with the pope’s approach to immigration. Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race, wants to build a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration, and has promised mass deportations of those in the country illegally.

Syrian Refugees

Francis wants the international community to give Syrian refugees “a concrete hope, and not just to tell them: ‘Have courage, be patient!’” He has called on every Catholic parish to take in a refugee family and is expected to address the crisis when he speaks to Congress on Sept. 24.

Some Republican presidential candidates don’t see things the same way. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is urging caution before the Obama administration begins to process the 10,000 Syrian refugees it said it would allow to enter the country. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) doesn’t want them resettled here. Trump says they can come but need to undergo a special vetting process.


Francis is one of the reasons the United States and Cuba have restored diplomatic ties: He facilitated talks between Washington and Havana that led to the breakthrough last year, and he visited Cuba on his way to the United States.  

This isn’t going over well for some Republicans. The most vocal critic of the detente with Havana is presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The son of Cuban immigrants, he’s vowed to cut ties with Cuba if elected president.

Climate Change

The pope has blamed climate change on “reckless” behavior that pushed the planet to a “breaking point.”

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain,” Francis warned in June. “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”

This isn’t a message that plays well with Republicans. A Pew poll, released in June, claims just 27 percent of Republicans believe the Earth is getting warmer due to human activity. One Catholic lawmaker, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), is skipping the pope’s address to Congress to protest the Holy Father’s views on global warming.

“Media reports indicate His Holiness instead intends to focus the brunt of his speech on climate change — a climate that has been changing since first created in Genesis,” Gosar wrote in a Sept. 17 letter to Town Hall, a conservative news website. “More troubling is the fact that this climate change talk has adopted all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into ‘climate justice,’ and is being presented to guilt people into leftist policies.”

Organized Labor

Francis hasn’t come out in favor of labor unions specifically, but he has talked a lot about the dignity of work. And at times, he’s sounded like a union organizer. “Let us not be afraid to say it: We want change, real change, structural change,” Francis said in a July 2015 speech in Bolivia.

It’s no accident that labor groups, like AFL-CIO, are hoping to get a boost from the papal visit. That’s not likely to sit well with Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential hopeful who has made a name for union-busting.


Republicans have traditionally been the party of big business and the wealthy, although Trump, perhaps ironically for a billionaire, has injected a healthy dose of populism into the 2016 race. On a number of occasions, the pontiff has made clear his disdain of the pursuit of money.

Francis shed the ornate outfits worn by his predecessor, Pope Benedict. He also chooses not to live in the papal apartment, making his residence inside the Vatican and eating in a residential cafeteria. One of his more notable actions as the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics is his suspension of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the so-called “Bishop of Bling,” who spent more than $40 million renovating his German residence and other church buildings.

Francis has also repeatedly called for the redistribution of wealth. In June, he said the world’s poor are ”sacrificed at the altar of money” and accused the wealthy of worshipping a “golden calf.”


The church is opposed to gay marriage, but Francis has softened its stance on homosexuality. “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” the pontiff asked in 2013.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” Francis added in a 2013 interview with America magazine. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.”

This kind of tolerance is often lacking within the more conservative corners of the Republican party. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is running for president but is far behind the frontrunners, said being gay is a choice, like choosing to drink or swear.

“It’s like asking someone who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli,” he said in 2015, when asked if he’d accept gay marriage. “We don’t want to do that — I mean, we’re not going to do that. Or like asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him, or to have dogs in his backyard. We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they’ve had for 2,000 years.”


Francis washed and kissed the feet of a disabled Muslim man in 2014. That same year, he prayed at Istanbul’s historic Blue Mosque and visited the Hagia Sophia, powerful symbols to both Muslims and Christians, as a show of solidarity.

Many Republicans don’t have this level of tolerance for those who practice Islam. At a Trump campaign event last Thursday in Rochester, N.H., an unidentified man accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim and then cited “growing” extremist training camps where Muslims “want to kill us.”

“That’s my question,” the man said. “When can we get rid of them?”

“We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things,” Trump said in response. “You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.”


Francis is staunchly pro-life, which puts him in line with many Republicans. However, he’s shown sympathy toward those who willingly terminated a pregnancy, saying that they could be forgiven for their sin. Earlier this month, Francis announced that all priests will temporarily have authority to absolve the Catholic sin of abortion. That authority is traditionally given to bishops, but Francis is widening it as broadly as possible for the Jubilee of Mercy holy year, which begins Dec. 8.

The tenor of the discussion on abortion during last week’s Republican debate was far from forgiving. Candidates including Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush all bragged that they had defunded Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides women’s health services, including abortions, in their states. There are GOP-led efforts to do the same underway in the House and the Senate. Carly Fiorina, the former business executive, compared it to the threat from Iran.

“This is about the character of our nation,” Fiorina said.


Many consider Francis a socialist; he’s called for income redistribution. This is completely at odds with the GOP’s view of the capitalistic world.

Trump is leading the presidential race by campaigning on the idea that his business acumen lends itself well to the presidency, and he’s a billionaire. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee, made a fortune at Bain Capital.

Photo credit: Carl Court/Getty Images

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola