It was only a matter of time.
This morning the Holy Father responded to a question about Donald Trump during a press conference on board his flight home from Mexico. The Pope reportedly said: “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.”
Not surprisingly, Trump fired back. He immediately released a statement calling the Pope’s comments disgraceful, criticized him for questioning his faith, and suggested the Holy Father was acting as a pawn for Mexico.
So what should a faithful Catholic think about all this?
At times like this, it’s helpful to return to the Catechism. Here again is what the Church teaches on immigration:
2241 “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”
The Pope is a pastor, not a presidential candidate. The Pope has rightly called on nations and leaders to focus on the human dignity of the immigrant. But Catholic teaching also emphasizes the obligations of civil leaders and of those migrating. Both have rights and duties that must be respected.
We can’t help but conclude that the exchange between the Holy Father and Trump is regrettable. We wish it didn’t happen, and fault the media for setting up the controversy. Trump will now use the comments to further inflame the debate — in a country with a long history of prejudice against Catholicism and the papacy. Meanwhile, Catholics who want a secure border and enforcement of our laws will be told the Pope is against them.
The immigration debate needs more clarity and light, not more heat. And the papacy deserves more respect than the flippant comments from Trump.
CV is committed to an immigration solution that secures our borders, protects our national security, and is welcoming of legal immigration. We can welcome the stranger, secure the border, and demand that our laws be respected at the same time.
Anyone who tells you such a solution is impossible is wrong.
We need a President capable of bridging the divide. Let’s hope we elect one in November.
For those interested, other candidates have responded in the last hour:
Here is Marco Rubio responding: http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/18/rubio-to-the-pope-no-nation-more-compassionate-on-immigration-than-us-video/
Here is a story containing comments from Jeb Bush: http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/rubio-responds-to-the-pope-theres-no-nation-that-is-more-compassionate-on/2265911
When asked by reporters about the controversy, Ted Cruz replied: “Listen, that’s between Donald and the Pope. I’m not gonna get in the middle of that.”
As of writing, there were no published reports from Ben Carson or John Kasich. Be sure to follow us on Facebook for the latest.