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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pope Francis On Donald Trump

The media is exploding about the remarks Pope Francis reportedly made about Donald Trump. Let's take a close look at EXACTLY what was said:
Phil Pullella, Reuters: Today, you spoke very eloquently about the problems of immigration. On the other side of the border, there is a very tough electoral battle. One of the candidates for the White House, Republican Donald Trump, in an interview recently said that you are a political man and he even said that 
  1. you are a pawn, an instrument of the Mexican government for migration politics. Trump said that if he’s elected, 
  2. he wants to build 2,500 kilometers of wall along the border.
  3. He wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, separating families, etcetera. I would like to ask you, 
  4. what do you think of these accusations against you and if a 
  5. North American Catholic can vote for a person like this?
 Pope Francis' response:  
  1. Thank God he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as 'animal politicus.' At least I am a human person. 
  2. As to whether I am a pawn, well, maybe, I don't know. I'll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people. And then, 
  3. a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. 
  4. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. 
  5. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.
Now, let's take note of a few things.
  1. The reporter said Trump disparaged the Pope,
  2. The reporter listed only Trump's negative proposals, failing to mention that Trump welcomes legal immigrants,
  3. He reiterated Trump's disparaging remarks,
  4. And asked the Pope to get involved in America's political process.
Looking at the points in the question, a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that the reporter was deliberately trying to bait the Pope.

The Pope responded precisely as he should:

  1. He assumed the reporter was acting in good faith (Christian benefit of the doubt towards the reporter),
  2.  Refused to take the bait on the name-calling,
  3. Pointed out that, if the reporter's synopsis was accurate, this is not the attitude of a Christian,
  4. Refused to get involved in the political process,
  5. Gave Trump the benefit of the doubt by asking if this was really an accurate summary.
Now, as my friend, Dan Severino pointed out, the reporters' synopsis was inaccurate. It left out salient facts. But someone reported the papal remarks to Trump - whether accurately or not, we don't know.

We can be fairly certain the reporter's question was not included in the summary to Trump. Thus, Trump had no idea that the reporter seemed to be deliberately baiting the Pope to attack Trump. If he didn't have access to the Pope's reply, Trump would not have had a chance to examine the nuance with which the Pope spoke. 

In any case, Trump immediately attacked the Pope. Perhaps a reporter had helped him misunderstand the Pope's answer, or perhaps he did that on his own, but here is the relevant portion of Trump's response (full response at this link)
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. 
If Trump had spent some time, gotten the full context of both the question and the answer, and had spent some time in thoughtful reflection, there would be no news story.

But, in ironic imitation of Ted Cruz's response to the CNN report that Carson was dropping out, Trump didn't check his sources. 

Instead, he went for the quick, politically safe response. And, in Protestant America, disparaging the Pope is always a politically safe response. In fact, it is a guaranteed vote generator in certain areas of the South.

In both the Cruz-Carson flap, and in the Trump-Pope flap, reporters have been the go-betweens. The accuracy of their reporting is suspect. But the popularity of the controversy their reporting generates.... ahhh, it is, as the French say, magnifique!  

From a political perspective, this whole mess is a win-win. The media gets their conflagration, lots of clicks, and lots of people tuning in to watch while Trump gets lots of votes. Nobody is left out but Catholics, and they deserve the blowback. So, the Pope was certainly used as a pawn... but not by the Mexican government. 


Now you can watch the video!

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