For G.O.P., Pope Francis’ Visit to Congress Comes With Tensions

Washington — In the Reading, Ohio, neighborhood where Speaker John A. Boehner grew up, nearly every house had two things on the wall: a crucifix and a photo of the pope. “You never ever expected to meet the pope,” said Jerry Vanden Eynden, a lifelong friend of Mr. Boehner’s. “In all of our minds, the pope was the closest thing to meeting God in person here on earth.”

When Pope Francis comes to Capitol Hill in September, he will be the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress, where more than 30 percent of the members are Catholic. The visit will fulfill a long-held dream of Mr. Boehner, who says only his working-class roots as a bar owner’s son are more essential to his core than his Catholic upbringing. He has extended offers to popes for the last 20 years, and Francis, after taking nearly a year to consider, was the first to accept.

The pope’s visit comes with inherent tension for many Republicans, including those who are Catholic. While he has made no changes in church doctrine, Francis has forcefully staked out ideological ground opposite that of Mr. Boehner and his party. He has excoriated the excesses of capitalism as the “dung of the devil,” pleaded for action to stop global warming and enthusiastically supported the new nuclear accord with Iran.

For Republicans, fiscal issues are more immediate and problematic. They are pushing for spending cuts, including ones that would reduce funding for the poor, setting up a fight with Democrats that could lead to a government shutdown around the time of the pope’s remarks, which will be broadcast live from the West Front of the Capitol.

Many Republican leaders have been quietly discussing their fears of a spending fight or government shutdown during his visit. “That would be awful,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and a Catholic. “My hope is that we will all be infused with the spirit of St. Francis,” she added, suggesting that Congress would perhaps be moved to agree on some appropriation bills to avoid embarrassment.

For all the potential tension, Mr. Boehner remains thrilled, shelving ideological differences to honor Francis, who might sound to most Americans more like Bernie Sanders than Ronald Reagan.

“Well, listen, there’s one thing we know about this pope,” Mr. Boehner said. “He’s not afraid to take on the status quo or not afraid to say what he really thinks. And I can tell you this: I’m not about to get myself into an argument with the pope. So I’m sure the pope will have things to say that people will find interesting, and I’m looking forward to his visit.”

The pope’s speech to Congress — one of the most significant events of his visit to the United States — will afford him a rare opportunity to deliver a message at the seat of American political power, with a vast audience around the nation. Before him will be 535 House members and senators who dare not show even a whiff of disrespect during the speech, whether he is imploring action on climate change or wading into the issue of abortion.

For their part, House Democrats, including their leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who is also Catholic, have their own disagreements with the pope, who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage.

More than half a century since John F. Kennedy told voters that he would not be taking orders from the pope, Catholic politicians have had to reconcile tenets of their faith with the imperatives of their politics.

On his recent trip through Latin America, Francis denounced aspects of capitalism and human-caused climate change, echoing his encyclical, which environmental activists praised. The pope has not been directly confrontational with host countries, preferring to speak broadly about political priorities, but his words are instantly scrutinized for signals.

While Catholic groups certainly insert themselves into the political process — the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops labored to prevent employers from being compelled to offer contraception as part of standard health insurance, but supported Democrats’ ideas for immigration reform — the Vatican’s views do not comport with the American left-right political framework.

“There is a common perception that he is really shaking things up,” said Mark A. Smith, who is a professor of politics and expert on comparative religion at the University of Washington in Seattle. “But I read him as really reiterating themes that have been part of Catholic doctrine for a long time. At the end of the 19th century, the pope wrote an encyclical that had a lot of themes about needing to take care of the poor and not let business take over the world. He has put it back on the agenda.”

Mr. Smith added: “When he said about gays, ‘Who am I to judge,’ that looks like it is certainly a new tone. But if you read deeper, for a long time there has been this sense in the church that we are not going to condemn people for their desires, only their behavior.”

For Mr. Boehner, a visit from the pope is the culmination of a religious honor that he would never have expected, in the context of a job he could never have dreamed about as a child.

Mr. Vanden Eynden, the speaker’s childhood friend, recalled daily Mass during the school week: “There were the little old ladies and us.” The two boys rolled up papers together at 2 a.m. for their Sunday paper route, and then zipped off for 5:30 a.m. Mass before delivering them.

“We would sit up in the balcony because we were not dressed for church,” Mr. Vanden Eynden said.

School papers during their years in Catholic high school were initialed with J.M.J. (Jesus Mary Joseph), and prayers were said along the sideline during football games with their intensely religious coach, who also made players do the rosary on the way to practice in the car. “We still say Hail Marys when we get together on the golf course,” Mr. Vanden Eynden said. Mr. Boehner, who came from a working-class home with 12 children, also went on Saturdays with his father to Cincinnati to distribute charity to the poor.

“John has been exposed to that from an early age on, that you help your fellow man,” Mr. Vanden Eynden said. The message of the church of their upbringing emphasized charity, but did not demonize wealth, either, he said.

“There is nothing wrong with being successful at all with Catholics,” he said. “I am not sure this pope is saying that. If you go over to Europe, the Catholic Church is pretty successful with what they own.”