The Pope and The Donald

The Pope was wrong. Technically. In the recent dust-up between the Vicar of Christ and the vicar of corporate America, the Hair may have come out on top ahead of the Chair. When/if Pope Francis said that, because of Trump’s outlandish and cruel policy proposals (building a wall, deporting Muslims, etc) he was not “a Christian,” he was technically wrong.

One can be good Christian or a bad Christian, a conservative Christian or a liberal Christian, a heretical Christian or an orthodox Christian, a barbaric Christian or a compassionate Christian, but if you have been baptized with water in the name of the Trinity (as presumably Donald Trump was if he is indeed a Presbyterian) then you are a Christian.

Obviously what the Pope intended to say (and perhaps did say, if there are translation or language issues) is that the Donald’s behavior and policies and intentions are not in line with the Christian faith or with the teachings of Jesus. That is, of course, demonstrably true. In fact, if Matthew 25 does indeed give us any indication of the ultimate standards by which we shall be measured, Mr. Trump may have a very tough Judgement Day!

Of course, brilliant politician that he is, Trump has spun this encounter into scores of free hours (yet again) of publicity and likely parlayed it into votes in evangelical, dare I say, anti-Catholic South Carolina and beyond. It seems to matter not that he even blew this opening by claiming that the Vatican is set behind secure walls which they themselves built so that America can do the same. Anyone who has visited, or even seen pictures of, the Vatican, will know that it is wide open and visited by millions each year with little more than standard metal detector screening to get inside!

Of course, part of Francis’ endearing charm is his willingness to speak openly and often off the cuff even to reporters in the back of a plane. Even more endearing is his deep compassion for the poor and marginalized, the last and the least. Donald Trump has not the slightest interest in such persons who are, in his opinion, most likely “murders and rapists and some, he assumes, are good people.”

I only hope the Bishop of Rome’s honest attempt to call him out does not, in the strange calculus of this year’s political season, end up strengthening his appeal.

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