Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski believes Pope Francis’ recent document on global warming is already changing the climate of the conversation in the presidential race, particularly among two friends, both members of his flock — and both angling for the most powerful position in the world.
Wenski said comments on climate change by Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, Republicans and devout Roman Catholics from Miami, have been noticeably milder in tone since Francis weighed in.
“Both of them, at least from what I can gather, have walked back some of their earlier comments,” Wenski told the Miami Herald in an interview Wednesday. He called the presidential contenders’ willingness to talk about how to solve the problems created by global warming an encouraging sign. “What the pope is saying is, ‘Let’s talk about this.’ And that requires — whether you’re Democrat or Republican or left or right — it requires that you transcend your particular interest or ideological lens and look at the issue from the common good.”
Rubio’s and Bush’s campaigns dispute that their candidates altered anything as a result of Francis’ encyclical, a teaching document published last week by the popular pope, who argued a religious case for protecting the environment.
The two politicians have said if humans are causing temperatures to rise — and they’re not convinced they are, despite broad scientific evidence to the contrary — a president must still promote policies that benefit the economy over ones that benefit the environment. Both are trying to raise campaign cash from some affluent donors, including the industrialist Koch brothers, who strenuously oppose policies that would curb carbon emissions.
But the candidates have not dismissed Francis’ intervention in the debate.