I’m conflicted. On the one hand, the thought of a would-be U.S. president trading shots with the Holy Father makes me want to unplug the computer and spend the next nine months watching “Forensic Files” re-runs.
On the other hand, blogging simply does not get better than an insult war between Pope Francis and Donald Trump. We’ve reached the mountaintop, my friends.
Asked about Donald Trump’s views on immigration, Pope Francis said Thursday that anyone who wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border isn’t Christian…
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said. “This is not in the Gospel.”
Not having heard Trump’s border plans independently, Francis said he’d “give him the benefit of the doubt.” But he added:
“I’d just say that this man is not Christian if he said it this way.”
There’s real news in that excerpt: Apparently there is someone in the world who isn’t following Trump’s pronouncements on cable news every day.
Anyway, that’s weak tea as far as criticism goes. Francis gives him the benefit of the doubt and even qualifies his point about building walls by saying that it’s wrong to think “only” of doing that. Trump, I’m sure, would claim that he’s all about building bridges too because he’s going to win the Latino vote and it’s gonna be yuge and spectacular and you won’t even believe it. Another minor detail: As much as Trump may want voters to believe that he stands alone in calling for a wall on the border, other Republicans, including Ted Cruz, have been demanding that for years. If he’s not a Christian, they’re not Christians either. In fact, look who’s riding to Trump’s aid here, sensing an opportunity to rebuild a little immigration cred on the cheap:
Rubio: "Vatican city controls who comes in and how they come in as a sovereign state" says US is most compassionate country in world
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) February 18, 2016
The Vatican does indeed have a wall all of its own, as one of Trump’s advisors was quick to point out, although it’s not completely enclosed and — again — Francis didn’t say that walls are always and everywhere wrong. He said that thinking only of walls without building bridges is, whatever that may mean in the context of border control.
Trump could have politely ducked a confrontation by noting any or all of the above. But he’s Trump, so it’s time for a hostile press release:
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.
No leader should question another man’s faith? Trump is running to be president and he’s been casually questioning Obama’s faith for years. Also, and I say this as someone who’s neither Catholic nor a fan of soft borders, if there’s anyone who’s entitled to lecture on what the Gospel does and doesn’t condone, the head of the Catholic Church would seem to be it. What was he supposed to say when asked? “I can’t square this position with Christ’s teachings but do what you gotta do”?
The worst part of this story is that we’re now all set for 24 solid hours of cable-news pundits navel-gazing over whether this spat will hurt Trump in South Carolina. Spoiler: Nope, probably not.
Not only have views of Francis nosedived among American conservatives over the past few years, South Carolina is one of the least Catholic states in the country, with just four percent or so adherents of the faith versus roughly 20 percent among the wider U.S. population. A spat with Francis, especially in defense of strong borders, shouldn’t do any harm. Whether it does harm in other states, including among Republicans who aren’t Catholic themselves but don’t want to spend the next four years watching the president bicker with the Pope, remains to be seen. Frankly, at this point, Francis declaring it a mortal sin to vote for Trump might be our only chance of keeping him from the nomination.
It’s gonna be weird when Trump sues him over his eligibility, insisting that Benedict remains the one true Pope.