PopeWatch: The Donald and The Francis

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Matthew Schmitz, literary editor of First Things, in the Washington Post thinks that the Pope and Trump have much in common:



Despite these differences, Francis and Trump have much in common. Begin with how they choose their major targets. Both are outsiders bent on shaking up their establishments. Francis challenges a hidebound Vatican bureaucracy and flirts with revising settled Catholic doctrine. He denounces institutional maintenance, demanding “a church that is poor and for the poor.”

Trump attacks conventional Republican politicians and violates every conservative orthodoxy. He calls George W. Bush a liar and praises Planned Parenthood. His every electoral success deals another blow to a political class that is already reeling during a primary season marked by populist passions.

There are rhetorical similarities, too. Barton Swaim, a former speechwriter, notes that conventional politicians “rely … heavily on abstractions” and “avoid concrete nouns.” By contrast, writes Swaim, Trump addresses potential voters in a vivid and snappy way, using simple words and arresting statements. Much the same could be said of Francis.

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[Pope Francis suggests contraception could be permissible in Zika fight]

Francis’s claim that “the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” is a piece of arresting hyperbole not unlike Trump’s claims that “we are led by very, very stupid people.” Whatever the merits of their arguments, both know how to make headlines.

And both men promise to empower those who feel excluded — from the Catholic Church, or from the U.S. political process. Francis sets aside established rules to accommodate troubled Catholics, while Trump gives voice to the anxieties of working-class whites who feel they have lacked a champion.

In making these appeals, Francis and Trump prioritize an iconoclastic style over substance — or coherence. The pope has heartened many Catholics, and shocked others, by supporting heterodox views on communion for the divorced and remarried. But he is hardly a down-the-line liberal.

He opposes abortion and has described gender theory as a violation of nature similar to the use of nuclear arms. His scattershot rhetoric finds its parallel in the opportunistic bombast of Trump.

Both an opponent of immigration and a critic of immigration rhetoric, both antiabortion and a supporter of the nation’s leading abortion provider, Trump boasts a political program that is no clearer than Francis’s theological one. Both men prize bold words and gestures at the expense of clear arguments and specific policies.

Their admirers overlook these inconsistencies. Why? The basis of their appeal is a mistrust of institutions, which is widespread and increasing. According to the Gallup Organization, only 42 percent of Americans now profess confidence in organized religion, down from a historical average of 55 percent. Only 8 percent have confidence in Congress, down from a historical average of 24 percent.

In such an environment, anti-establishment personalities become immensely attractive. It seems that all we need is a Strong Will (in Trump’s case) or Good Intentions (in Francis’s). Institutions, with their rules and customs, seem irrelevant at best.


Go here to read the rest.  Two sides of the same coin?  Well, both Trump and the Pope shoot their mouths off regularly on subjects of which they are manifestly ignorant.  They both are scathing with subordinates.  Both love hyperbole.  Both are no strangers to insults and bluster.  They both have a cult following.  They both dismay many of the most loyal members of the institutions they lead, or seek to lead.   They both have colorful, outsized personalities that are often counterproductive for them.  They both have never seen a microphone which they have not befriended.  If Trump should be elected President, God forbid, it would be interesting to watch their relationship.  One wonders if each sees in the other a distorted funhouse image of himself.

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  1. Excellent post. Trump ad Bergoglio are so opposite that they are the same. I hold both in utter contempt as well. There. I said it.

  2. I like Donald McClarey’s sum of the similarities of behavior and effect. We can see similarities in their actions but I don’t know that we can say what their motives are. (“Both are outsiders bent on shaking up their establishments.”) Was Bergoglio anti-establishment in Argentina? Was Trump anti establishment among the Democrats?

  3. The pope doesn’t always shoot his mouth off. He was silent in supporting traditional marriage in Italty. Homosexual civil unions are legal in Italy. Francis comments…
    Of course, the U.S. bishops were silent when the Supreme Court forced gay “marriage” on us. Apparently massive shifts in the moral landscape are not a high priority. The shepherds have other things to do than quell the concerns of the flock, like help open the door to sin.

  4. Lucius,
    If utter contempt allows you to still pray for both men as to their salvation, then you love your enemies as Christ mandated. But if utter contempt includes not praying for them per that contempt, then…you need to discuss contempt with your pastor because it seems the same as hatred which excludes from Heaven. I Peter 4:18…” “And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear.” Everyone here and in the Church is barely saved…not saved by a long shot…barely saved. A very high IQ demon got me last week on blasphemy during an oil painting mistake…for the first time in my life, full deliberation, no excuses…. and I got to Confession Saturday.
    The righteous one is barely saved…not saved easily…barely saved. Demons will use Francis against many…they are billiard players…excellent ones…using that ball to sink that other ball.

  5. Bill Bannon,
    You are correct that we must pray for Pope Francis and Donald Trump. Perhaps God will bestow His grace and a miracle will happen. That is what we should want and work towards.
    That said, we have seen sacrifice with strange fire being offered to God. In Francis case, it’s the gospel of eco-wackism, unlimited immigration, and socialism masqueraded as social justice. In Trump’s case, it’s a secularized version of the prosperity preaching from the likes of Joel Olsteen, Creflo Dollar, Federick KC Price and Joyce Meyer (which does much to explain the appeal Trump has among evangelicals). We know from history how God responds to such strange fire. From Leviticus 10:
    1 Now Nadab and Abi′hu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer, and put fire in it, and laid incense on it, and offered unholy fire before the Lord, such as he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came forth from the presence of the Lord and devoured them, and they died before theLord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said, ‘I will show myself holy among those who are near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

  6. Optimistic take. God has determined that Trump and Pope Francis are exactly the medicine we require at this time in history. Just wait and see.

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