the Pope's words to Congress yesterday? Good for you! There were several high profile Catholics who didn't bother. They had already made up their mind about what the Pope was going to say and how it didn't square with their views (or maybe with their platform). Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona even pre-announced his "boycott," based solely on media reports about what the Pope might say. Then three Supreme Court justices, Catholics all, skipped the historic address: Scalia, Thomas and Alito. I'm the most disappointed by Scalia, given that his son is a priest. Maybe we will find out today that the Senior Associate Justice had been rushed to the hospital. On second thought, perhaps he and the other absentee judges made the choice in order not to have to recuse themselves from future hearings on issues related to themes the Pope would bring up.
In any case, it might be safe for us to assume that the above-mentioned Catholic public figures have a problem with Pope Francis and the way he is carrying out his ministry. They wouldn't be alone. Francis makes a lot of people nervous. I came across a number of woebegone pro-lifers on social media yesterday, not only disappointed that the Pope did not harangue our fearless leaders (who had the day before failed to pass a motion that would allow the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act), but that his mention of the "defense of human life at every stage of its development" led into a somewhat more developed appeal for the end of the death penalty. For some people, this was tantamount to preferring "guilty criminals" over the millions of innocent unborn who continue to suffer the death penalty of abortion.
Phil Lawler wrote a helpful commentary, "Why does Pope Francis back liberal causes directly, conservative causes subtly?" that can explain a lot.
But maybe part of the problem is that Pope Francis (who has already said, in every major address, that he will speak forcefully on the issues of marriage and the family at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia) is calling everyone to some kind of conversion. He knows that the Kingdom of God is not fully manifest in any of our lives, any of our parishes, any of our movements or organizations; that there are still areas where the Gospel needs to be given permission to extend beyond our comfort zones. Those who boycotted the Pope's talk may be like the busy people in the parable who turned down an invitation that didn't promise to advance their personal interests (Lk 14:15-24).
Now that's a problem.
Worthwhile reading for those who wonder "Why didn't Pope Francis talk to Congress about abortion and gay marriage?"