Pope Francis is increasingly pitting the Catholic Church against the Republican Party in the United States, The Hill reports.
The pontiff's most recent action, brokering a deal to soften the relationship between the United States and communist Cuba, didn't sit well with most Republican Catholics.
"I would also ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy, which is critical for a free people, for a people to truly be free," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said following the announcement earlier this month.
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a practicing Catholic, said Cubans "deserve the same chances to have democracy as the people of Argentina have had, where he comes from, as the people of Italy have, where he now lives."
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, another Catholic Republican from Florida, said Francis should be championing the people of Cuban rather than "their oppressors."
Previous papal clashes with conservatives included a tweet that income inequality "is the root of social evil" and that trickle-down economics is "crude and naïve."
Francis plans to issue a papal encyclical in March
in conjunction with a speech to the United Nations that calls for Catholics to work to alleviate global warming.
Vincent J. Miller, chairman of the University of Dayton's Catholic theology program, told The Hill that Francis' moves are effectively making the church a place where open disagreement can flourish.
"In that sense, one of the most important changes he's making is that conservative politicians are now openly disagreeing with him," Miller said.
Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the conservative U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, isn't buying that. He told The Hill that Francis has alienated Cuban-Americans by getting involved in the talks.
"I don't want the pope running the foreign policy of the United States, just as I don't think the president wants the pope running the social policy of the United States," Claver-Carone said.
Back in July, The Hill
reported on the trouble getting a bill passed to honor Francis on his election as pope. The bipartisan bill passed the Democrat-led Senate, but stalled in the Republican-led House. Only 19 of 221 House co-sponsors were Republicans.
A House source told The Hill at the time that some in the GOP felt Francis sounded too much like President Barack Obama, and that the pope "actually used the term 'trickle-down economics,' which is politically charged."
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