By Irene Starkehaus -
Yes, the Pope-Trump Wall War is so ridiculous that it screams for punchlines. This is shaping up to be just a terrible decade for conservative Catholics, isn't it? Michigan J. Frog for president and Foghorn Leghorn for pope. I really miss the bygone days when the adults were in charge rather than populist caricatures.
Being that I am not a huge fan of Donald Trump (No! Really?) and being that I am a practicing – if not always successful – Catholic, I really resent that Pope Francis has put conservative American Catholics opposing Trump in a bad position. Now we may actually have to defend a man that we would otherwise happily criticize because he happens to be right about America's need to defend its borders.
There you have it, let the Trump defending begin.
The exact quote coming from Pope Francis when asked about his opinions on Donald Trump:
"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian."
Lots of dangling one liners there. Where to start?
Trump is a developer. I'm sure with the right financial incentive, he'd be willing to build a bridge too. Have his people call your people and you can do lunch. Probably sushi since it's Lent.
So is it just the walls then? If I put a fence up to keep the coyotes from eating my Shih Tzu, does that invite excommunication as well? What about an electric fence to keep my Doberman from eating passing school children?
What about moats? Are moats okay? I know they've fallen out of favor over the centuries, but I've always been partial to moats. And think of the jobs that will be created. Low paying, of course. They'll have to be filled by illegal immigrants.
How about fire walls? Do good Christians forego their Norton antivirus software in the name of Christian charity? For the sake of expedience, maybe we can just hand over our social security numbers and credit cards to the Mexican drug cartels now and avoid the middle man?
It's weeks like these that I so terribly miss John Paul.
Yet all of this wall business is actually a tremendous distraction from a bigger story that I'm quite certain the Catholic hierarchy wants to gloss over entirely. Donald Trump to the rescue, I guess.
This post comes to us from the Associated Press in which Pope Francis was asked with regard to the Zika virus whether abortion or contraception would be the lesser of two evils.
"Pope Francis has suggested women threatened with the Zika virus could use artificial contraception, saying "avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil" in light of the global epidemic."
Francis sites a decision by Pope Paul VI in the 1960s in approving contraception for the nuns in Belgian Congo in order to prevent pregnancies because they were being systematically raped.
I'm not sure what method of birth control was approved by Pope Paul in this matter. I would suggest that Paul would have been wiser to assign the protection of the nuns' whole personhood in the form of armed guards instead of merely their reproductive personhood. That would have quelled attempts by those future popes paralyzed by environmental apocalypses created by American capitalism from inching toward the slippery slope of one child reproductive policies.
I know that it was within Paul's rights to grant special dispensation for a specific group of people using a specific method for a specific reason, and that this is then the exception that proves the rule. Just as the Pope's dispensation for Catholics to enjoy corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day does not absolve us of Lenten fasting, Pope Paul's dispensation for these nuns does not correlate to tacit permission for all South America women to use contraception because they might conceive a child while sick with the Zika virus. Quoting from the website Catholic Answers:
The Church has always maintained the historic Christian teaching that deliberate acts of contraception are always gravely sinful, which means that it is mortally sinful if done with full knowledge and deliberate consent (CCC 1857). This teaching cannot be changed and has been taught by the Church infallibly.
This is a barrier to Pope Francis's vague assertion that the avoidance of pregnancy is not evil. I find this obfuscation in light of the topic he was presented to be unfortunate. Abstinence is not evil. There is a clear distinction to be made and that distinction was his responsibility to make. The Church regards its teachings on contraception to be infallible. If you don't want to be pregnant during this outbreak of the Zika virus, then abstain from having sex. For two years.
Yes, two years. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago right here at Illinois Review, there are possible links between Zika during pregnancy and a birth defect known as microcephaly. This is a disease which causes a baby to develop an abnormally small head and often serious, and sometimes deadly, developmental delays.
There are, however, hundreds of causes of microcephaly and the increased occurrence of microcephaly in South American countries is still small enough to be considered a statistical anomaly, but that didn't stop South America at the behest of the World Health Organization from calling for a moratorium on all pregnancies for at least two years.
Pope Francis's off the cuff discussion would make it appear that the Church is willing to collaborate with the World Health Organization and help that moratorium get off to a good reductive start.
The philosophical misconception that may have been inadvertently furthered by Pope Francis's off-hand remarks to members of the press with regard to Zika (and I'm sure Church traditionalists are now busily dowsing a thousand pro-contraception wildfires started by dissidents within the faith) is that perhaps a child with a physical abnormality has a less worthy life and can or should be prevented through contraceptive methods because once that child has been conceived, you're stuck with her.
Talk about a lack of Christian charity. That callous attitude toward human life is malformed, abhorrent and cannot be condoned by any Catholic of good conscience. It must be corrected immediately.
That malformation of conscience is the same as that which is at the heart of every abortion performed on children with birth defects. It's the flagrant anti-life attitude that popes have fought against for 2000 years. Such a nihilistic approach to eugenics is the only "wall" with which Pope Francis ought to be concerned right now.
So. As for Trump's wall. Does the Church hold any particular teaching regarding a nation's right to defend its borders?
The Church holds that a nation not acting illegally has a right to maintain its sovereignty. Even if that nation has something that the people of another nation covet, the covetous people may not invade.
For instance, the first papal encyclical issued by Pope Pius XII during WWII endorsed Catholic resistance to the invasion of Poland. It affirmed his disapproval of the war, racism, anti-Semitism, the Nazi/Soviet invasion of Poland and the persecutions of the Church. Although it was perhaps disproportionate in its diplomacy, the Church absolutely maintained that Poland had the natural right to its sovereignty.
That means that standing at the American-Mexican border cursing an economic system that brought America's prosperity while blessing the illegal actions of the Mexican people to cross the border and get them some of that just because they want it is wrought with contradictions that are perhaps difficult to sort. Almost as difficult as making distinctions between abstinence and contraception, right?
When in doubt, I guess it comes down to the basics. Thou shall not murder. Thou shall not covet. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor. It's all right there in God's Top Ten Countdown.