Pope Francis vs. Trump: Build Bridges or Build Walls?

By | February 20, 2016 | 2 Comments

Vatican wall, 2016


Concord bridge, 1775

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.
Pope Francis, 2016, discussing Donald Trump

Since I am not the Almighty, I am unable to see people’s hearts, so I cannot know whether Donald Trump’s faith is genuine. My only comment on this point is to note that Pope Francis declared that women who had an abortion can be forgiven. That is, actually having an abortion can be forgiven, but merely thinking about building walls to control immigration means one is not a Christian, and therefore is excluded from salvation.

Oddly, I don’t recall the pope declaring that Catholic politicians like Nancy Pelosi are not Christians because they vote for abortion up to the ninth month. But I do recall the pope hugging communist Raúl Castro, who with his brother Fidel persecuted Christians for decades. Castro is a Christian, but Trump isn’t? And I do recall the pope repeatedly criticizing capitalism. So perhaps we are permitted to ask which Gospel Pope Francis was referring to: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or Karl?

With due respect for Pope Francis, walls and bridges are both necessary for civilization to thrive, or even to exist. Obviously, they have opposite but complementary functions. That is why rational persons build both, but in different places and at different times.

When we have something precious we wish to protect – for example, the Vatican or the White House – we protect it with a wall or a fence. On the other hand, when we have a barrier we wish to cross – for example, the Concord River – we build a bridge.

Clearly, no one would build a wall with no openings. That would turn those inside into prisoners. Thus the Vatican wall has gates through which people can come and go. Similarly, those who propose building a wall on the southern border of the United States know that there will be regular entry points, just as there are now. The object of the wall is not to keep everyone out, but to funnel entrants through fixed portals, so the entrants can be screened – and criminals and terrorists can be denied entry.

A similar situation applies with bridges. Bridges exist to bypass barriers and allow people to come and go. But just as walls must have gates to allow access to friendly people, bridges must have gates to deny access to unfriendly people. Sometimes these gates must be improvised by armed citizens. The citizens of Concord hastily gathered to stop the advance of British troops – which they did, despite dead and wounded.

The people of Concord recognized reality. They needed to cross the Concord River, so they built a bridge. But when hostile troops approached, they grabbed their muskets, blocked the bridge, and forced the British troops to retreat. It is worth noting that the purpose of the British troops was to disarm the American colonists. In those days, we were willing to risk our lives to defend our rights. Now, we will be lucky if a majority of citizens are willing merely to vote to defend our rights. This is called “progress.”

The Vatican built walls to protect the center of the Catholic Church from invaders. Rome had been sacked repeatedly – in the years 410, 455, 546, 1084, and 1527. Some people criticize the Catholic Church for a variety of reasons, but not for building these walls. Even the harshest critics recognize that walls are a reasonable response in a dangerous neighborhood.

This is especially true today, when ISIS threatens to seize the Vatican. If you build a bridge to friendly people, they will come across and shake your hand. But if you build a bridge to homicidal fanatics, they will come across and cut off your head. The walls of the Vatican are centuries old, but they may still prove invaluable. Despite his condemnation of walls, no one expects Pope Francis to dismantle the Vatican walls. Likewise, despite his criticism of fences, no one expects President Obama to remove the White House fence.

It would be pleasant if Pope Francis would return the favor, and recognize that others have an equal right to self-protection, and an equal right to build walls in dangerous neighborhoods.

It would be even more pleasant if Pope Francis would adopt the same non-judgmental attitude toward American conservative politicians that he exhibits toward gays and lesbians, including those in the Catholic Church. If “Who am I to judge?” is Pope Francis’ attitude toward gay clergy, one might hope that he would adopt the same tolerant attitude toward those who believe that a nation has a right to determine who may, or may not, enter that nation from abroad.

It would be most pleasant of all if religious leaders were more influenced by their religion than by their leftist politics. In all our history, the United States has had only one Catholic president – and he had his brains blown out onto the street. During the election campaign of 1960, John F. Kennedy took great pains to make clear that he would govern according to his best efforts to understand our Constitution and our laws – and not be ruled by the edicts of the pope.

If there is an earthquake on the East Coast, and seismologists determine that the epicenter is at Arlington, Virginia, it will have been caused by Jack Kennedy spinning in his grave because of Pope Francis’ clumsy attempt to intrude into our politics.

How this will affect voters remains to be seen. My guess is that Trump will attract even more voters, who will be pleased with his anti-establishment attitude of “Nobody tells me what to do.”

Conversely, some Catholic voters may abandon Trump. But even more voters may abandon Catholic candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, for fear that they would be unduly influenced by an intrusive pope. Whatever happens, you can’t deny that this surely is an interesting election year.

To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there is a time to build bridges and a time to build walls. I believe that this is a time to build walls – really big ones.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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