Pope Francis weighed in on the presidential race, and Trump wasted no time hitting back against the Pontiff.
Asked what he thought of Trump’s pledge, Francis 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 having heard Trump’s border plans independently, Francis said he’d “give the benefit of the doubt.” But he added: “I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”
Now we have an authoritative religious leader telling a billion Roman Catholics that Donald Trump is not a Christian, because he has without a doubt built his campaign on building a wall. I’ve written how Trump’s appeal is on a nativist, “Know-Nothing” platform, and Pope Francis correctly called him out for it.
Trump accused Pope Francis of being a pawn of the Mexican government–the same government he plans to have pay for his wall.
Trump immediately hit back. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy,” he said in a statement on his website, “I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened.” He also suggested that the pope is a pawn of the Mexican government and said it’s “disgraceful” for “a religious leader to question a person’s faith.”
I don’t suppose Trump’s remarks will go over too well with Catholics, although many do support him. As for evangelicals like Jerry Falwell, Jr., who has endorsed Trump, it’s the pope who’s wrong.
It seems nothing hurts Trump, so the question is: will this?
Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight thinks there aren’t many swing voters left, and getting from his base to a plurality of 51 percent is problematic (I’ve written that he must veer left to get there). Alienating Catholics in northern states is probably not a wise move. But Trump has a tendency to do unwise things and get away with it.
Marco Rubio is a Roman Catholic but didn’t offer much to get between the Pontiff and Trump.
“Vatican City controls who comes in when they come in and how they come in as a city state, and as a result the united states has a right to do that as well,” he said.
Rubio, a Catholic, says he has “tremendous respect and admiration” for the Pope. He says, “There’s no nation on earth that’s more compassion on immigration than we are.”
Jeb Bush, another Catholic, refused to question Trump’s faith, but agreed that Pope Francis was out of order suggesting that a wall is “unchristian.”