WASHINGTON, Iowa -- Jeb Bush, one of five Catholic Republicans running or thinking about running for president, said again Wednesday that he believes the world's climate is changing -- but that he won't be taking cues from Pope Francis on how to address rising sea levels or shifts in temperature.
The pontiff on Thursday is set to release a long-awaited encyclical, one of the highest forms of communication he can issue, dealing with climate change. A draft of the document leaked this week by an Italian magazine stated that “the bulk of global warming” is caused by human activity. The pope is expected to use the document to call on people to seek ways to mitigate the use of fossil fuels contributing to the changes.
Under questioning from reporters in Iowa, on his first visit to the state as an official presidential candidate, Bush quipped that "the pontiff has leaks too, that’s amazing" and said that he would reserve fuller judgment until reading the document after its official release.
"Look, the climate is changing, there’s lots of things that we can do that aren’t political or doesn’t create a partisan divide or political divide about that issue," he said.
"I respect the pope, I think he’s an incredible leader, but I think it’s better to solve this problem in the political realm," he added. "I’m going to read what he says, of course, I’m a Catholic and try to follow the teachings of the Church."
Later, Bush said, "I don’t go to Mass for economic policy or for things in politics. I’ve got enough people helping me along the way with that."
Bush converted to Catholicism 20 years ago after losing his first bid for Florida governor. It was an experience that he recently described as "meaningful," and one that helped draw him closer to his family.
He seemed to grow agitated Wednesday when another reporter asked how heavily his Catholicism might influence his presidency.
"Same as it does now and same as it did as governor," he said. "With respect, understanding that my views are not the universal views. I think it’s okay to have a set of principles that are informed by some moral underpinning, whether it’s my case my Catholicism or other peoples’ case their belief in a set of principles that they adhere to that may not be faith-driven."
"I’m surprised that this is such an extraordinarily complicated thing," he added. "Maybe I’m not expressing myself. Am I missing something?"
It was a virtually identical response to the one he gave Tuesday to similar questions and told reporters that religious leaders “ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”
In addition to Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are also Catholic.
Bush spoke expansively about faith and public policy in May, when he delivered the commencement address at Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world.
"It can be a touchy subject, and I am asked sometimes whether I would ever allow my decisions in government to be influenced by my Christian faith," he said at the time. "Whenever I hear this, I know what they want me to say. The simple and safe reply is, 'No. Never. Of course not.' If the game is political correctness, that’s the answer that moves you to the next round. The endpoint is a certain kind of politician we’ve all heard before – the guy whose moral convictions are so private, so deeply personal, that he refuses even to impose them on himself."
Bush spoke with about four dozen voters on Wednesday morning on the front lawn of Teresa and Adam Mangold. He is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Pella, Iowa, later Wednesday before flying to South Carolina for events on Thursday.