Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pope On Trump: "A Person Who Thinks Only of Walls, And Not Bridges, Is Not Christian"

Keeping with custom for the traveling press pool – whose outlets pay for the entire flight – the Pope delivered an hourlong, 12-question extravaganza en route home from Mexico...

...but even if the session included some notable comments on his upcoming last word on the Synod ("perhaps before Easter," he confirms), last week's Havana Summit, abortion as a "crime" on a level with "what the Mafia does," and his "dream" to go to one place above all – "China" – given the piece that's dominating the news-cycle after yesterday's Border stop, for purposes of clarity, here's an English translation of what set it off:

Phil Pullella, Reuters: Good evening, Your Holiness. Today you spoke very eloquently on the problems of immigrants. On the other side of the border, meanwhile, there’s an already rough election campaign. One of the candidates for the White House, the Republican Donald Trump, in a recent interview said that you are a political man and added that maybe you’re a pawn, a tool of the Mexican government on the political issue of immigration. He has said that, if elected, he wants to build a 2,500km wall along the border; he wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, thus separating families, etc. I’d like to ask, then, above all what you think of these accusations against you and if an American Catholic can vote for a person of this kind.

Pope Francis: Well, thank God he said I’m political, because Aristotle defines the human person as “animal politicus” (“political animal”): at least I’m human! And that I’m a pawn… meh, maybe, I don’t know – I leave that to your judgment, that of the people. And then, a person who thinks only of making walls, wherever they might be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. Then, what you told me, what I would advise, to vote for or not: I’m not getting into that. I only say: if he says these things, this man is not Christian. It needs to be seen that he has said these things. And for this I give the benefit of the doubt.
In response, the Republican frontrunner issued a lengthy statement minutes after the presser's content emerged:
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 because this would not have happened. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.

The Mexican government and its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The Pope only heard one side of the story - he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation.

For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.
Given the freshness of yesterday's eventful tour of Ciudad Juarez, it's rather amusing that precious little focus has fallen on what can be seen as another, more extensive "line of attack" from Francis – before a raucous crowd resembling a campaign rally, Papa Bergoglio's morning address to labor and business leaders, which singled out no specific person, but just so happened to pack as least as much of a punch at Trump's worldview as the comment on the plane.

Speaking at a Juarez college, the pontiff focused on Catholic social doctrine's treatment of the economy and workers, tearing into "the prevailing mentality [which] puts the flow of people at the service of the flow of capital, resulting in many cases in the exploitation of employees as if they were objects to be used, discarded and thrown out."

If and where that is the case, "God will hold us accountable for the slaves of our day," Francis said, "and we must do everything to make sure that these situations do not happen again. The flow of capital cannot decide the flow and life of people."

An unofficial English translation of the presser in full has been posted by Catholic News Agency.

* * *
On a context note, while the New York developer/reality TV star's ongoing dominance of the GOP presidential field has quietly been greeted with a significant level of concern among even the most Republican-friendly sectors of the US church's leadership, it bears recalling that – in an astonishing pre-emptive strike – Trump's defining rhetoric on immigration was openly blasted by two top-tier prelates normally affiliated with the nation's Catholic right within weeks of his candidacy's inception.

As far back as last July, in an op-ed for the New York Daily News, Gotham's Cardinal Timothy Dolan called the contender's proposal for a border wall a "'Trump card' to show" that, in today's America, "Nativism," the 19th century anti-immigrant movement that saw Catholic churches burned and the newly-arriving faithful deemed a menace to society, "is alive, well — and apparently popular!"

While underscoring that he is "not in the business of telling people what candidates they should support or who deserves their vote" – a needed caveat given the church's tax exemption and its ban on political endorsements – Dolan added that, "as a Catholic, I take seriously the Bible’s teaching that we are to welcome the stranger, one of the most frequently mentioned moral imperatives in both the Old and New Testament."

Elsewhere, serving to punctuate the line but from a different angle, the figure most often portrayed as the Stateside hierarchy's premier "conservative," Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap., said at a September forum on migration that the spate of recent calls to end the 14th Amendment's provision for "birthright citizenship" – "notably, but not only, [from] Donald Trump" – were likewise ill-founded.

"This is a profoundly bad idea," Chaput warned. "It plays on our worst fears and resentments. And it undermines one of the pillars of the American founding and national identity."

"In all things," he said, "we need to respect the rule of law. This a key element of our immigration system. But we also need to revise and strengthen our laws in favor of the family, the seed of a healthy society."

Of course, a focus on the human dignity of migrants across the board – with no regard whatsoever for US electoral cycles – has had a high place among Francis' core emphases from the very outset of his pontificate. Still, today's development wouldn't be complete without reminding how, during his East Coast tour last September, the Pope chose the nation's very birthplace, Philadelphia's Independence Hall – with Chaput at his side – to address the topic in depth on these shores (above), tying it in with the theme of religious liberty and saying among other things that....
Among us today are members of America’s large Hispanic population, as well as representatives of recent immigrants to the United States. Many of you have emigrated (I greet you warmly!) to this country at great personal cost, in the hope of building a new life. Do not be discouraged by whatever hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation. Please, you should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land. I repeat, do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood. You are also called to be responsible citizens, and to contribute fruitfully – as those who came before you did with such fortitude – to the life of the communities in which you live. I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited. By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within. Do not forget what took place here over two centuries ago. Do not forget that Declaration which proclaimed that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that governments exist in order to protect and defend those rights.
As ever, more to come.