Pope, Plane, you know, the usual...

I'm not panicking about this, I think I'm getting the hang of it now. One think I know for sure is that leaders make mistakes, we shouldn't expect them to be perfect all the time, especially in unscripted interactions. I think the Pope gives us a lot to think about and meditate on in this latest interaction. Sure, it might initially seem a bit out of sync with 2,000 and odd years of Catholic thought, but that's because we often are completely prepared to accept/ expect/ think the worst. The press always want to couch anything he says in terms that say he is giving ground to the modern world, whereas the truth is that he is a loyal son of the Church.

Pope Francis said some really interesting things about abuse in the Church and his meeting with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch. You can read a full transcript here. I'm interested in all the issues he spoke about and I do think they are important. The Orthodox thing particularly interests me, but I'm going to save that for another day. I'm a busy fella and I don't have loads of time.

So the two things the media concentrated on were the Trump comment and the contraception thing. The first thing to do is to look at what the Holy Father actually said and to do this in some context. What question was he asked? How was he asked it? You can read the whole thing here.

The first issue that's being talked about his in relationship to Donald Trump. I think it's worth pointing out that Trump attacked the Pope about this first
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. [emphasis mine] 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?
Note the way the question is couched. Some people have suggested that the Pope was speaking from a position of ignorance with respect to what Trump said, but the questioner gives the Holy Father specific comments to respond to. What I have noticed is that people who support Trump's xenophobia are up in arms about this. Of course the Church teaches that the right to migrate is not absolute. It is like the right to property, which may be abridged in certain situations, but not like the right to life, which may never be abridged. 

When immigration threatens other rights  the right of a people to basic security, for example  it may be restricted in light of those other rights. Like the right to property, though, the right to migrate should not be abridged lightly, since it restricts a fundamental human good  the initiative of the immigrant in promoting his own or his family's well-being. 

CCC 2241 teaches that 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.

Freedom of movement of peoples is an important reminder of the dignity of those affected by national policies and is a component of the universal common good.

Now let us read the Holy Father's response:
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.
The Pope is Pontifex Maximus—The Greatest Bridge-Builder, in this context the title is especially interesting, because as Christians we are called to build bridges. Our faith is grounded in the Incarnation; the imago Dei, the reality that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. We are all human and all human life has immeasurable value. When we think about these issues, it is worth starting from there I think. Then the Pope's comments sound like what one would expect the Pope to say. He is a bridge builder, not a wall builder. He breaks down walls and divisions and unites all people in Christ.

The second issue is the contraception issue:
Paloma García Ovejero, Cadena COPE (Spain): Holy Father, for several weeks there’s been a lot of concern in many Latin American countries but also in Europe regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish. Some authorities have proposed abortion, or else to avoiding pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of “the lesser of two evils?”
Pope Francis: Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape. 
Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no? It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned. 
On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.
I think it is particularly interesting how strongly Pope Francis condemns abortion here. He also evokes Paul VI and Humanae Vitae.

The best explanation I've read is this one http://m.ncregister.com/daily-news/popes-comments-on-contraception-in-accord-with-magisterium-philosophers-say/#When:2016-02-19

It states that the media doesn’t appreciate “the depths of the Church’s understanding, and the beauty of the Church’s proposal, regarding sexual morality,” (you don't say??!!!). The confirmation of Fr. Lombardi is more concerning to be honest. ABC is either morally licit or illicit. The nuns from the Congo thing is a red herring which may have been fed to Pope Francis by Cardinal Cormac (I have been reliably informed). Can anyone help with this? (Please leave a comment if you can!).

Anyway, what next?


  1. As Fr Hunwicke asks appropos of accounts of the Pope's Cuba meeting, "Does one HAVE to be an illiterate to be a journalist ...
    ... or is it just a wopping great advantage?".
    Pope Francis seems to have very little idea of how journalists will treat his remarks. I suspect that no one back in Argentina took any notice of him.

  2. Read Fr Z: the Paul VI story is a load of heretical rubbish.

    It's not just that the Pope feels the need to express an unrehearsed opinion about absolutely everything: it's that he doesn't realise how wrong, and how puerile, some of his comments are.

  3. While Trump might have "attacked" the Pope first, it wasn't an unprovoked attack. I think that celebrating a Mass at the US border (on the Mexican side) was a pretty provocative act.

    I don't have an issue with Popes and provocative acts. Personally I would prefer it if they were to promote the teachings of the Church.

    The Church teaches us that a nation has the right to control and protect its borders.

  4. Mark, generally I really appreciate your blog and I have no doubt that your intentions are more than well intentioned here (it's a Catholic instinct of course, but I'm so bored - and I think at this stage I'm far, far from being alone - of people trying to constantly excuse and give explanations for this Pope. We are way beyond that, surely..? We shouldn't have to spend time figuring out what he said or 'interpreting' him or delving back into the 'context'. Few journalists and even fewer of the general public will do so. By the way, I have no specific interest in Trump and his politics (primarily because I'm not from the USA). This is purely about the Pope's behaviour and the negative impact it is having on any of the faithful, at least those who are still awake. God bless.

    1. Sadly, I have to agree. Have you seen this from Amy Wellborn? It's rather good.

  5. It is. Thanks for sharing. There's this as well: http://www.onepeterfive.com/the-galatians-two-moment-is-now/ By the way, I really enjoy your blog; please don't let my criticism on this particular post stifle your great work which I find truly edifying!


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