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The Pope Pops His Cork

Pope Francis excommunicates Donald Trump! Or does he?

By Hobbes  |  February 22, 2016

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.

Needless to say, the immediate headline on TVs and newspapers all across the fruited land was "Pope Says Trump Is Not A Christian!!!"  Rolling Stone magazine even held forth with this preposterous assertion:

In Trump's case, it doesn't take a pope to know he's a terrible Christian. I'm Jewish, and don't believe in God, and even I feel confident saying it is so.

What on earth?  Author Jessie Berney, an atheist of Jewish decent, who doesn't believe in the existence of the divine Jesus either as part of his cultural heritage or in his personal convictions, somehow has the insight to decide who is a follower of the Christ who (in his own mind) never existed?  Not only is Mr. Berney self-admittedly ignorant of the religious beliefs he is applying, he clearly has never heard of the logical fallacy Appeal to Illegitimate Authority:

Using an authority as evidence in your argument when the authority is not really an authority on the facts relevant to the argument.

As an intelligent audience, we are confident that our august readers will suffer no temptation to succumb to Mr. Berney's fallacious maunderings.

Pope Francis is a different matter.  At least there is no doubt that he, in his own heart and mind, does view himself as a Christian, and surely it's safe to say that he has some idea of what a Christian is supposed to be.

After all, Catholics believe that, as the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Pope holds the Keys to the Kingdom of God, with full authority "to bind and to loose" - in other words, to literally ban people from Heaven or admit them.  So, to a Catholic, if the Pope says you're not a Christian, you're in deep trouble.

One problem with this: Thanks to a fellow by the name of Martin Luther, there are an awful lot of Christians who don't believe that there is any such thing as a divinely-appointed Pope.  This matters when it comes time to define who's a Christian: whereas a Catholic has to obey the Pope and follow church doctrine, a Protestant is answerable only to God directly, via the Bible.

From the Protestant point of view, the Pope is an illegitimate authority on the subject of who is a Christian.  He's the ultimate authority on who is a Catholic, for sure; but there are many Christians who aren't Catholic and would vehemently deny being Catholic were anyone to ask.  Every literate person in the world ought to be aware of this, seeing that it's been a fundamental geopolitical truth for, oh, the past half-millennium or so.

Walls Within Walls

Why, exactly, did Martin Luther begin the Protestant Reformation and depart the Roman Catholic Church?  Simple - he read his Bible, and found there were many doctrines the Catholics were teaching that weren't found in the Bible at all: confession to priests, indulgences, and oh, yes, the existence of such an office as Pope, amongst 92 other things.  Thus, a fundamental principle of the Protestant version of Christianity is reading the Bible to see what it says, accepting it as final authority on subjects it addresses, and regarding all other authorities as illegitimate.

The Donald has never said he was a Catholic.  Instead, he claims membership in the Presbyterian Church, which is Protestant.  In determining whether he is or is not a Christian, it seems only right to judge him by the standards of the faith he says he holds, which isn't the one the Pope rules over.

When we do as Protestants are supposed to do and look in the Bible... why, looky here!

Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.

 - The Prophet Nehemiah, Nehemiah 2:17

Then there's John the Revelator, describing the Heavenly City where God Himself dwells:

And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.

 - St. John, Revelations 21:10-13

Hmm - who does this sound like?

I said, we need to build a wall and it has to be built quickly. And I don’t mind having a big, beautiful door in that wall so that people can come into this country legally.

 - Donald J. Trump

In conclusion, when it comes to using border-defense policies to determine the Christianity of politicians, His Holiness is talking through his pointy hat.

Truth and Consequences

Or maybe not: Skip over the banner headline, and read what the pontiff actually said again:

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.

Is Donald Trump a person who thinks only about building walls?  Obviously not: he's also thinking about building big, beautiful gates, which are the opposite of walls and are the equivalent of bridges.  So, as even the Pope clearly said, Mr. Trump's wall building has nothing to do with Mr. Trump's eternal destiny.

Yet, somehow, our media reported a totally false story, shoveling words into the Pope's mouth with a backhoe.  Why are we not surprised?

Maybe the Pope should spend a few hours watching the Republican debates to learn how the corrupt, lying, biased, venal media ought to be treated.  Mr. Trump could give him a pointer or two.