This primary season gets stranger every day. In case you missed it, Pope Francis said that Donald Trump is not a Christian because he wants to build a wall on the U.S-Mexican border.
Here are a few thoughts:
- The Pope does not think in terms of nationalism. He thinks in term of Catholic social teaching. Walls on borders undermine the freedom and dignity of human beings created in God’s image. For Pope Francis, the conversation stops there. The Pope is not responsible for the fate of a nation or creating national policy.
- Trump said: “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President.” I know that Trump said this tongue-in-cheek, but does he really think the Pope is somehow calculating his statements based on whether or not he can get political protection from the West against ISIS?
- Conservatives are saying that the Pope is too political and his remarks about Trump is yet another example of this. When are we going to learn that the Pope is completely apolitical? He just applies Catholic social teaching too contemporary events. His approach to the world is not liberal or conservative, it is Catholic. We in America just can’t seem to get our heads around this idea. I made this argument more fully here.
- From a purely political point of view, this whole controversy will help Trump in South Carolina and other states with large numbers of evangelical voters. Most of these people think the Pope is liberal and since they are not Catholic they have no reason to reckon with his remarks. If this story continues, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some old-fashioned (or maybe not so old-fashioned) anti-Catholicism. On the other hand, Trump backed off in last night’s CNN Town Hall because he realizes that his remarks about the Pope might hurt him in some states with large number of Catholic voters.
- Everyone is saying that the Pope is a hypocrite because there are walls around the Vatican. I don’t know when these walls were built, but this piece at CNN says that they were built in the year 800. Once again, we need to remember that historical analogies can be dangerous. The context of the building of the walls around the Vatican was quite different than the wall Donald Trump wants to build on the U.S.-Mexico border.