A similar article could have been written about Pope Francis’ comments regarding Donald Trump. My Facebook newsfeed has been blown up by indignant people outraged that the pope has chosen to “weigh in” on American politics; similarly by those who think the pope is being judgmental in saying Donald Trump is not a Christian.
Here’s what actually happened.
Trump calls Pope Francis a political pawn of the Mexican government. Pope Francis, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t say anything in response, most likely because he doesn’t care what names people call him. Because he’s not in third grade.
But then, yesterday, a reporter asked Pope Francis directly:
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 you are a pawn, an instrument of the Mexican government for migration politics. Trump said that if he’s elected, he wants to build 2,500 kilometers of wall along the border. He wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, separating families, etcetera. I would like to ask you, what do you think of these accusations against you and if a North American Catholic can vote for a person like this?
The pope replied to three specific things the reporter mentioned. Regarding Trump’s comments about Pope Francis being a political pawn, Pope Francis replied:
Thank God he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as “animal politicus.” At least I am a human person. 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.
That’s about as non-confrontational a response one could imagine, short of not responding to Trump’s comments at all — which likely would have been Pope Francis’ default position were he not directly asked.
Regarding what the reporter said Trump has promised to do if elected, Pope Francis replied:
And then, 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 . . . . I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.
Note that Pope Francis said “a person who thinks only about building walls” is “not Christian.” He didn’t say Trump is not a Christian, primarily because he does not know Donald Trump. His other comments make it clear that he is not responding to things Trump has said, only to what the reporter has said that he said. Pope Francis (who, remember, doesn’t watch any television), probably doesn’t know much at all about Trump’s campaign promises. This is why he said “we must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”
Finally, regarding whether American Catholics should vote for Donald Trump, Francis simply says:
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.
Nine sentences. That is all Pope Francis offered in reply to a pointed question about Donald Trump. If he had not been asked, he likely wouldn’t have said anything at all. He then went on to give a much longer and detailed reply to questions about his recent meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, which I presume is much more on the pontiff’s mind and in his heart than anything Donald Trump says on TV.