The National Catholic Review

In the final days before the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump got an unexpected foil in the person of Pope Francis, who said in response to a question about the Republican front-runner, "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." The pope did not mention Mr. Trump by name, and a Vatican spokesman later emphasized, “In now way was this a personal attack, nor an indication of how to vote.” But it’s difficult not to see Francis’s comments as, at least, a suggestion that Catholic voters do some serious reflection before casting ballots.

Given the low Catholic population in South Carolina, there’s speculation that the pope’s remarks may actually help Mr. Trump there, partly because they add to the candidate’s reputation as someone who can’t be intimidated—his initial response was to say the Vatican will “wish” he’s president when it’s attacked by ISIS—but also because the church is still viewed with some suspicion in a state where most Republican voters are evangelical Protestants.

“The press coverage and reinterpretation of the pope’s comments may have come off to many in the public as a Catholic pope saying a Protestant man running for president isn’t a Christian,” says Mark M. Gray, a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. “This may actually end up helping him among evangelicals who may already be suspicious of the church defining what is Christian and what is not, and interfering in American politics.”

New York magazine’s Ed Kilgore writes that “No Popery” banners and other signs of overt anti-Catholicism are not likely to emerge even in the Deep South following the pope’s comments, but “because the Protestant-Catholic détente in red-state America is a product of shared conservatism on public policy issues, Francis’s ‘heretical’ stance on immigration could create a backlash that's more political and cultural than religious.” That is, Francis may not been seen so much as the leader of the Catholic Church as a “Latin American leftist who's trying to tell Americans how to deal with their own national security.”

Mr. Gray says that there is not a lot of polling data on how Mr. Trump is faring with Catholic voters, but “I don’t think Pope Francis’s comments are likely to change those opinions either way. [The pope’s] comments on planes are not church doctrine that Catholics must now follow or find themselves committing a sin.”

In his 1964 blog, Mr. Gray previously noted that 43 percent of Catholics in a January poll by the Pew Research Center said that Mr. Trump would make an “average” or “better” president—exactly the same percentage as in the overall population. (Marco Rubio scored the highest on this question, with 65 percent among Catholics and 58 percent among all adults; this was the biggest gap between Catholics and non-Catholics of any candidate.)

However, the Pew survey did not distinguish between Hispanic and non-Hispanic Catholics. If Mr. Trump is less popular among the former group (a reasonable assumption, given his anti-immigration policies), that means his popularity is higher among white Catholics than among Americans as a whole. That would bode well for his chances in, say, the Massachusetts GOP primary, whatever the pope says.


Bruce Snowden | 2/21/2016 - 2:52pm

Trump says he can be whatever he has to be and that's good because as the adage says, "The wise man changes his mind often, the fool never does!" JFK learned that once he was President, far removed from campaign brashness filled with unfulfillable promises. Shortly after election a reporter ( like elephants they never forget!) asked JFK about some of the things he said and promised, His wise response was, "The Presidency is a sobering experience!" No matter who wins this election round even Trump, will discover the truth in JFK's admission.

Walter White | 2/20/2016 - 3:28pm

I notice whether it’s the United States border or the migrant situation in Europe that the Roman Catholic Church insists that Western Nations take in millions of migrants from the developing world. The Church claims to advocate for the dignity of each human being but a big part of living a dignified life is living in a community. Whether these communities are neighborhoods, towns, or whole nations no group of people should be required to take in another group of people. People overwhelmingly prefer to live in communities with people like themselves. In fact, studies have shown over and over that increased diversity actually lowers social cohesion.

I can understand why the Church doesn’t support border security on America’s Southern Border. The Church sees Latinos as the future of the Church in the United States and is only looking out for its organizational interests (like big agriculture or the meat packing industry). But the migrant situation in Europe is another story. Flooding Europe with Muslim migrants, of mostly fighting age men, is inimical to the Church’s organizational future. I notice the Church likes to site Exodus 22:21 when defending its position on forced migration. In this case the Church is worse than even the evangelicals in taking a verse out of context. Here it is:

"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

This verse means if someone comes to your camp or town or you come along a stranger on the road that you shouldn’t rob or beat him. It means if a sojourner needs a place for the night that you should at least offer him your stable to sleep in and toss him yesterday’s bread. This expectation of offering food and lodging to a stranger passing through can be found in many cultures. It has nothing to do with taking in huge numbers of people and being forced-integrated with them. If the ancient Israelites were forced-integrated with the peoples surrounding them there would have been no Israelites over time.

The Roman Catholic Church (and the others too Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc.) need to stop using the virtue of Christian charity as a pretext to carry out the globalist agenda. Human beings are social creatures and the choice in community is nearly as important as whom we chose to make a family with. Although I suppose it’s a matter of time before the Church and her globalist allies start forcing families to take in people as well?

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