Pope Francis and Donald Trump make little effort to conceal their disagreements. During the 2016 US presidential election, Francis suggested that Trump was “not Christian” for proposing to build a wall along the US-Mexico border – his campaign’s signature policy. Trump fired back by calling Francis’s comment “disgraceful,” adding: “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.” Francis was flying home from Mexico when he made the comments. Trump accused the Mexican government of turning the Holy Father against him, saying officials had “made disparaging remarks about me to the Pope”.
Francis was undeterred by Trump’s election. This past April, Peter’s Pence, the Holy See’s charitable fund, donated $500,000 (£401,000) to support South American migrants. The official press release made specific reference to Trump’s immigration policy. “Men and women, often with young children, flee poverty and violence, hoping for a better future in the United States,” it said. “However, the US border remains closed to them.”
Francis’s concern for the crisis on the US border is echoed by the leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States. On June 30, three prominent American bishops – Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop José Gómez and Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas – wrote an op-ed in The Hill laying the blame for migrant fatalities on the White House’s doorstep. “These deaths are occurring because the United States is closing off access to asylum protection through policies and enforcement that send the clear and strong signal that you are not welcome,” the bishops declared.
What’s astonishing is how little Catholic voters appear to heed the bishops’ condemnations. A March 2019 poll by the Pew Research Center found that, while Trump’s support among white Catholics had slumped by eight points since February 2017 (about the same as the national average), it had doubled among non-white Catholics, most of whom are Hispanic.
Perhaps there was a time in US history when the hierarchy’s every pronouncement in the political arena would have been instantly accepted by huge swathes of Catholic voters. But a century of integration has left American Catholics thoroughly independent-minded in matters of politics.
Moreover, as Pope Francis and most of the American bishops stand accused of complacency in the ongoing sex abuse crisis, never have American Catholics been less inclined to trust Church leaders. Supporters of tougher immigration policies will question why, as new allegations of sexual misconduct against senior prelates continue to emerge, our leaders in Rome and America seem far more interested in talking about Trump’s wall.
Full story at Catholic Herald.