Pope Fran­cis will chal­lenge those on the Hill but not take sides

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Shan­non Much­more

Pope Fran­cis will be vis­it­ing the city at the heart of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics next week, but he is more likely to dis­cuss the im­por­tance of lead­er­ship and how it can help the masses of peo­ple than to take po­si­tions on spe­cific is­sues.

Dur­ing his visit, he’ll go to the White House, ad­dress a joint ses­sion of Congress, ride in the Pope­mo­bile in a pa­rade and stop at lo­cal churches and char­i­ties. He then heads to New York City and Philadelphia.

Sis­ter Carol Kee­han, CEO of the Catholic Health As­so­ci­a­tion who has met the cur­rent pope twice, said he will prob­a­bly of­fer plenty of con­struc­tive crit­i­cism to law­mak­ers and other lead­ers.

“He’s chal­lenged peo­ple al­most like we’ve never been chal­lenged be­fore,” she said.

Kee­han said she hopes Fran­cis talks about uni­ver­sal health in­sur­ance, in­come in­equal­ity and a fair crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem while in the cap­i­tal.

She pre­dicts he will dis­cuss cli­mate change and the im­por­tance of em­brac­ing sci­en­tific fact, even if it is un­com­fort­able. Fran­cis is­sued a 184page en­cycli­cal in June that said cli­mate change is a real prob­lem caused by hu­man ac­tiv­ity, and that it’s a moral is­sue.

Abor­tion is likely to come up, but Kee­han said she doesn’t think the pope will en­dorse any spe­cific leg­is­la­tion. He will prob­a­bly talk about the value of life at all stages, in­clud­ing the im­pact of ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell’s prom­ise to de­bate just be­fore the pope’s ar­rival a bill to ban abor­tion af­ter 20 weeks is un­likely to come up in the Pope’s re­marks, she said.

“I don’t think he’ll pick sides,” she said.

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