Yes, Pope Francis Did Just Say That You Are Not Christian

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There has been another in-flight press conference with Pope Francis. No doubt you’ve already heard about it. At this point it’s beginning to feel like a recurring Saturday Night Live skit: “Oh the Things Pope Francis Says!”

While much was covered, one question of interest for many American Catholics concerned presidential candidate Donald Trump and his policy proposals on illegal immigration. Regardless of one’s thoughts about Trump the candidate (or caricature), the Holy Father’s response is worth analyzing.

Phil Pullella, Reuters: “Today, you spoke very eloquently about the problems of immigration. On the other side of the border, there is a very tough electoral battle. 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?”

Pope Francis: “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. 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. 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. 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.”

So, to break this down part by part:

“On the other side of the border, there is a very tough electoral battle. 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.”

To this, Pope Francis responded:

“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.”

Continuing with Reuters question:

“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.”

How did the Holy Father specifically address this portion of the question which directly relates to national sovereignty, border control, mass illegal immigration and the orderly and lawful right for a nation to deport those who illegally enter?

“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.”

Mind you, I don’t believe a careful review of what was said by Pope Francis has anything really to do with Trump the man, Trump the candidate, or even Trump the Christian (or non-Christian per Francis?). My problem is that the Holy Father says that one holding the position itself is not Christian. Simply “saying things like” building a wall along a countries border and deporting those who illegally entered makes someone “not Christian”. No qualifying needed. Period. A wall and deportation? Not Christian.

Some may point to the word “only”…as Pope Francis said “a person who thinks only about building walls…and not building bridges…” Is this not a straw man? While many speak of the need to secure the border, few leave it at that. Promoting free trade, defeating the drug cartels, addressing political corruption south of the border, etc. are all proposed as further responses to the foundational problems which lead people to illegally enter a neighboring country. Building bridges does not negate the need to build walls or vice versa. They are not mutually exclusive.

Pope Francis concludes by saying, “We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

But, if he did say things in that way…?

The Holy Father clearly states that YOU are not Christian if you:

1. Want to build 2,500 kilometer wall along the border
2. Want to deport 11 million illegal immigrants

Maybe a shorter wall or only 1 million deportations would make a difference? Is there a formula for this?

One last question: Are those who fight for same sex marriage or unrestricted abortion on demand also “not Christian”, or just people who advocate for controlled borders and legal immigration?

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