BY CHRIS KERR | September 21, 2015
Some people are more excited about Pope Francis’s address to Congress next week than others. Representative Paul Gosar (AZ-5), a Catholic and graduate of Creighton University, has published an op-ed stating that he will NOT attend Pope Francis’s address because he anticipates the text being focused on climate change, which he describes as a “fool’s errand.”
While many may be most disappointed by Congressman Gosar’s stance on climate change, a stance that 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists across the globe disagree with, what I find most troubling, as a fellow product of Jesuit education, is his lack of willingness to at least listen when Pope Francis comes to Congress this week.
Former Jesuit Superior General Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach described Jesuit education as an experience where students, “should learn to perceive, think, judge, choose and act for the rights of others, especially the disadvantaged and the oppressed.” [Kolvenbach, Santa Clara, 2000]
How can we come to understand the perspective of our Catholic faith, and its invitation to stand with the marginalized, if we are unwilling to at least listen? By choosing not to attend and at least hear Pope Francis’s message, Congressman Gosar will miss this opportunity to understand the Pope’s perspective grounded in his concern for others and his love of Christ. He will miss that invitation to solidarity that Fr. Kolvenbach described as paramount to the experience of Jesuit education.
As Pope Francis has said on numerous occasions, “It is impossible for peace to exist without dialogue.”
Congressman Gosar, I hope you will reconsider your decision to boycott. Join us in the dialogue for a more peaceful and just world.
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.