Here’s what Hillary Clinton says about Pope Francis and other Catholic subjects in her new book

Hillary Clinton at the 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, Oct. 20, 2016 (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz). Hillary Clinton at the 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, Oct. 20, 2016 (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz). 

Hillary Clinton gives two popes a shout-out in her new book—though one of them is by way of a quote that appears to be apocryphal.

In What Happened, her widely anticipated account of the 2016 campaign, Mrs. Clinton writes that a TED Talk given by Pope Francis earlier this year helped her move beyond anger following her unexpected loss to Donald Trump.

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She writes about whether she can empathize with Mr. Trump’s supporters, many of whom told journalists and pollsters that fears about their economic situations drew them to Mr. Trump’s promise to revitalize the economy. She struggled to be empathetic because of the fears some minorities expressed to her about living in the United States following the election. She pointed to the numerous articles in national newspapers seeking to provide an understanding of the motivations of Trump voters, wondering why it was up to her and her supporters to open their hearts to people with opposing political views—and not the other way around.

“And yet I’ve come to believe that for me personally and for our country generally, we have no choice but to try,” she writes.

Then she writes about the pope’s TED Talk, which she describes as “amazing”:

He called for a “revolution of tenderness.” What a phrase! He said, “We all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent ‘I,’ separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone.”

She continues: “He said that tenderness ‘means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future.’” She said the pope’s talk is among the things she has thought about during long walks near her New York home.

“I’m coming around to the idea that what we need more than anything at this moment in America is what you might call ‘radical empathy,’” she writes.

Pope Francis dropped his surprise TED Talk in April. A papal first, the video urged individuals to work toward a future that lifts up society’s most marginalized, including migrants, the sick, the unemployed and prisoners.

Pope Francis makes a couple of other appearances in What Happened, which was released Tuesday and quickly became the best-selling book on Amazon. Mrs. Clinton recalls the back-and-forth between Mr. Trump and Pope Francis during the campaign, when the pair exchanged words over immigration. She also notes that the pope was the subjectof one of the most shared pieces of fake news during the campaign, an article claiming he had endorsed Mr. Trump.

Mrs. Clinton’s book does not contain explicit references to many of the Catholic-related news stories from the campaign.

For example, she recounts how WikiLeaks hacked the email account of her campaign chairman, John Podesta. In some of the leaked emails, Mr. Podesta and some of his associates, all Catholic, write about trying to influence the church. In response, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia wrote that the emails were “contemptuously anti-Catholic” and the then-president of the U.S. bishops conference, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, wrote they were “troubling both for the well-being of faith communities and the good of our country.”

Mr. Trump highlighted these charges of anti-Catholicism during the Al Smith Dinner, a fundraising event hosted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan where both candidates appeared on stage together just weeks before the election. Mrs. Clinton did not write about this event in the book.

Regarding the email hack, Mrs. Clinton writes that Mr. Podesta “took it in stride. He felt bad about some of the language he used. He felt even worse for the friends and colleagues who had sent him private messages and now had to see their words printed for all to see.”

Initial exit polls showed that Mr. Trump won more Catholic votes than Mrs. Clinton, though a more detailed analysis conducted several months after the election suggested that Mrs. Clinton may have actually eked out just a few more.

Mrs. Clinton also takes up the subject of how the Democratic Party should approach abortion.

Mrs. Clinton also takes up the subject of how the Democratic Party should approach abortion. She reflects on an ongoing debate about whether the national Democratic Party should support national and local Democratic candidates who support restrictions on abortion..

She notes that she “picked as my running mate Tim Kaine, a Democrat personally opposed to abortion because of his Catholic faith but supportive of women’s rights as a matter of law and policy.”

She argues, however, that abortion rights must remain a priority of the party. “But when personal views on abortion become public actions—votes on legislation or judges or funding that erode women’s rights—that’s a different matter,” she writes. “We have to remain a big tent, but a big tent is only as strong as the poles that hold it up. Reproductive rights is central to women’s rights and women’s health, and it’s one of the most important tent poles we’ve got.”

In response to this section of the book, Kristen Day, head of Democrats for Life, tweeted, “Hillary's comments make me happy I did not vote for her. Abortion extremism will kill the Dem Party.”

She writes about how during difficult times in her life, she turns to the words of a Dutch Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen

Mrs. Clinton writes about her own Methodist faith, a subject that was not discussed frequently on the campaign trail. Earlier this year, reports said Mrs. Clinton is considering how to become more involved in her church, including preaching.

Toward the beginning of the book, she writes about how during difficult times in her life, she turns to the words of a Dutch Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen, re-reading his book The Return of the Prodigal Son following her loss:

It’s up to us to make the choice to be grateful even when things aren’t going well. Nouwen calls that the “discipline of gratitude.” To me, it means not just being grateful for the good things, because that’s easy, but also to be grateful for the hard things too. To be grateful even for our flaws, because in the end, they make us stronger by giving us a chance to reach beyond our grasp...

My task was to be grateful for the humbling experience of losing the presidential election. Humility can be such a painful virtue. In the Bible, Saint Paul reminds us that we all see through a glass darkly because of our humbling limitations. That’s why faith—the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen—requires a leap. It’s because of our limitations and imperfections that we must reach out beyond ourselves, to God and to one another.

In the same section where she quotes Father Nouwen, she writes about learning to be grateful again and “accepting invitations to events that spoke to my heart,” including a speech to Planned Parenthood—perhaps a demonstration of why even faith talk might not have helped Mrs. Clinton with some Catholic voters.

Each chapter of What Happened concludes with a short quote from a famous activist, politician or writer. One chapter, entitled “Making History,” ends with a quote from Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor: “To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against Truth, and not the other way around.”

The final chapter closes with a quote attributed to Pope John XXIII, who was made a saint by Pope Francis in 2014. “Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible to do,” Mrs. Clinton writes. It is not readily clear where the quote comes from. While it appears on many inspirational-quote websites, it does not appear to be taken from official Vatican documents or writings of the saint.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 months ago

We live in interesting times. And Hillary Clinton sure is interesting.

I admire her for her willingness to put herself out there - to criticism, ridicule, admiration, whatever.

We keep coming back to abortion. And the fear of women (misogyny). The sacredness of the life of the baby and yet we don't trust the women / mothers. These issues seem to go hand in hand. On the one hand this, on the other hand that.

Could it be that we really can't address one issue without addressing the other?

Chris Hohowski
3 months ago

Yes Beth the only way to truly save the unborn is through the woman. In our family circle in that lower east side neighborhood there were more abortions before 1973 than after when it became legal. Those desperate women had nothing but judgements. And now we hear online searches for do it yourself abortions are on the rise in states that have the most restrictions.

Anyone serious about saving the unborn needs to get to the root of why. Does the women need financial, social, personal dignity affirmed, whatever it takes to save the child. How about a government program like the GI bill? How about the rest of us at church filling in to care for the little one so she's not alone. Or a hundred other ways to save the child thru the mother. The law alone can only do so much if indeed we are truly pro life for both mother and child.
And a whole other discussion about the sperm donor (hardly a father usually) who got her pregnant. Men can stop abortions any time they want if they don't impregnate women they are not ready to have a child with. Believe me I know it's hard but how about teaching young men from an early age to deal with their normal God given sex drive without procreating until you ready to man up to it.
Much more here but enough from me.

Jim Lein
3 months ago

Good and obvious point about men. We guys could solve the unwanted pregnancy problem by not contributing to any.
Good point also about saving the child thru the mother. We need to strengthen not further cut programs such as WIC, SNAP, TANF and Medicaid. We need to treat the womb well by nourishing and supporting the mother.

Chris Hohowski
3 months ago

Yes and it's discouraging the bishops don't address this more.

Sam Flenner
2 months 4 weeks ago

Agree about the need for male accountability. My research on the history of abortion and contraception in the early and middle ages leaves no doubt in my mind lack of male accountability has, historically, significantly impacted the chasm between 'pro-choice' and 'pro-life' we face in the current generation. When we refer to strengthening social programs to assist the parent of the 'unwanted' children would not, somehow, an emphasis on nurturing two parent households be one crucial priority? And let us not forget, especially as Catholics, that embryology science has unequivocally and definitively determined that human life begins at conception. There are 30+ peer reviewed source and textbooks that determine that fact including:
Bernard N. Nathanson, MD., (founder of NARAL) "Deeper into Abortion", New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 28, 1974, Vol. 291, No. 22: 1189-1190.
"There is no longer serious doubt in my mind that human life exists within the womb from the very onset of pregnancy..." I have yet to see any science to the contrary. Some 'choice' advocates have brought up "bodily autonomy" but that is philosophy, not science. Philosophically the appropriate response come from Saint Theresa of Calcutta, "We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?"
~ Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta ~
In other words, If we refuse to hold human life sacred from conception as policy - when the child is most innocent and vulnerable - how can we rationalize that human life is sacred thereafter? Are we not at war against nature and science from the get go? I mistrust Hillary's 'olive branch' of returning to her faith as a trojan horse designed to gain pro-life voters with no intention to abate her war against the unborn.

Chuck Kotlarz
3 months ago

Chris, the combined 40% Obama-Clinton abortion rate decline has been nearly four times greater than the total decline of the Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 presidencies (11%). By year end 2013, the abortion rate dropped 17% from 2008 (Obama’s first five years). The rate fell 23 % under Clinton.

James Haraldson
3 months ago

So recognizing the fact that women are human enough to commit sins and self-serving delusions about the evil they decide to do in their lives compounded by the sins and self-serving delusions of cowardly men encouraging evil constitutes a lack of trust? How exactly? Trusting someone to be human means, in part, to confront human sin and human vanity.

Chris Hohowski
3 months ago

We really lost a great potential president in Hillary. Far too many fell for the caricature than the real thing. And for the 'wailing and whining' that this will bring from some remember 'you cannot love God who you cannot see and hate your brother who you can'. 'Whatsoever you do to the least (that includes Hillary, even Trump, Nancy & Chuck) you do to me'. Get yourself help if you need it. Your well being eternally depends.

Andrea Campana
3 months ago

The behavior of the two candidates in the presence of a Cardinal was disgraceful. Though neither is Catholic, respect for a religious leader should have been given.

Carlos Orozco
3 months ago

Pure incompetence. That is how Hillary Clinton managed to blow an election the whole establishment (in the worst sense of the word) had prepared for her. But she still blames everybody but herself: it's the fault of the primary candidate she cheated (...and still campaigned for her !), that of the media she bought and covered for her, white women (especially those her predatory husband abused and she had threatened), Comey, Putin, WikiLeaks, Alex Jones, Bernie Bros, etc.

I guess there is still justice in the world, however imperfect it may be.

Tony Phillips
3 months ago

It's shocking that anyone who purports to be Catholic could ever have voted for Hilary Clinton. Her rabid pro-abortionism is nothing but sheer evil.

Vince Killoran
2 months 3 weeks ago

HRC's brand of establishment, corporate politics sank her in 2016. Her post-election campaign to blame everyone but herself, including Bernie, is more evidence of a narcissistic personality. There is no good reason for AMERICA to pay any further attention to her.

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