As America clamors for the arrival of Pope Francis, Donald Trump climbs the polls. One man represents 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide; the other is a capitalist who is worth ten billion dollars, and he claims to be able to better run America than the politicians now in power. The Roman Catholic Church and The Trump Organization represent contrasting spirits, one humble and popular with millions because she cares about the poor, and the other with his swept blond hair, Trump jet airliner, Trump towers, all the fruit of big ego and big money.
Pope Francis and Donald Trump are savvy politicians, whose contrasting styles of rhetoric and tone have made them two of the best showmen/salesmen of the 21st Century. In their entrenched camps they are widely popular, crowds react to them like they are rockstars. However, their reach goes well beyond matching mindsets, think for instance of the resistance against demonizing Pope Francis, or how many television viewers took in an episode of Trump's reality show the Celebrity Apprentice.
It's remarkable to me, an ex-Jesuit, how uncritical the media has been of Pope Francis, who seems to get away with repackaging the same old tired message. With a critical evaluation of his publications and speeches to date, one can find only a tonal shift: Non-action.
Of course after 25 years of Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, the first Jesuit Pope is a breath of fresh air. But by what standard are people measuring the effect of his papacy, in spin?, in cleverness of bridging conservatives and liberals?, or in his confrontation of the secular world through short, choppy one liners, e.g., his comment that Catholics don't need "to breed like bunny rabbits"?
Furthermore: I don't see the media spending the time and energy needed to clarify (sic research) whether or not a priest can absolve an excommunicated woman who has an abortion and reconcile her to the Church. No -- they simply run the line: Pope allows priests worldwide to bring women who had abortions back into the fold. I'm sure many of these women haven't met with their diocesan Bishop who is charged with their absolution according to canon law. And of course priests in the USA and Canada have already received permission to act mercifully!
Still the kingdoms of Pope Francis and Donald Trump easily collide.
While the Pope sleeps in a Vatican owned apartment and drives around in Hyundai-made Popemobile, his contrarian "The Don" flies wherever he wants on a private jet and stays in any one of America's luxury hotels. The Pope who is celibate, the heir to the chair of Saint Peter, bears the standard of Jesus Christ, the Don, a Presbyterian, is onto his second marriage with Melania Knauss-Trump, the heir of a vast fortune of real estate -- bearing the bullying-sound bite to make America great again!
What's more is just what continues to be at stake here: the future of the the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, and the many other Christians who look to the Pope as a moral leader. Pope Francis has made faith relevant again to the secular age. He has called attention to the rise of poverty all over the world as well as alerting the world about the global environment. His message is that if we are to survive, we must not only care for one another but also for the earth upon which we live. Then there's Trump. Is he interested in the poor? Is he interested in the environment? Or is he a one issue man: immigration? Is he able to be president, able to deal with and the future of America able to address rising global powers like China, Iran, and domestic issues like gun control and the all-to-frequent killing of young unarmed Black people in American cities?
Even more alarming to me, a gay man in his mid-thirties, is that in spite of Pope Francis' most famous five words, "Who am I to judge?" (about gay priests), nothing has been done by the Church (under Francis) to heal two thousand years of anti-gay rhetoric. In fact, Jesuit institutions have unabashedly fired lesbian and gay employees in America, while the Pope claims to be living poorly and calling for climate deniers to take seriously global warming.
As for Trump, I am even more concerned about the status of my husband, an immigrant from Ecuador -- who arrived in America to pursue the American Dream. My partner is not a thug, he's seeking a better life here, trying to realize his dream to become a health professional. If Trump (who himself is the son of immigrants) wins, he will build a wall across the Mexican-American border. Do we really need a wall? To quote Robert Frost,"Something there is that doesn't love a wall." A same immigration policy must be implemented. Can Trump, the capitalist that he is, stand back and feel compassion for illegal immigrants? Can he ever be able to identify with any American who struggles to put food on the table and to pay the rent? I challenge him to try to imagine what it is like to have no home, no job, no money--and nothing to eat.
Pope Francis is concerned with the Kingdom of God and Donald Trump the kingdom of man. On the back of America's currency reads In God We Trust, those four words that define America's relationship (albeit a murky one) with religion and the separation of Church and State. What if Pope Francis and Donald Trump meet in the heart of capitalism, in cities like Philadelphia, Washington, DC or New York City? Just imagine seeing the two of them together. It could be a real moment. Jesuit priest and American billionaire standing side by side. What would they say to one another? The Pope, "Mr Trump, could you help me out with our missionary work?" Donald Trump, "I'd be happy to help the poor. I'll send you a check." Is it possible? Well, Is it possible that Trump is the leading Republican for the presidential nomination?
I'll give the Pope and the Donald the benefit of the doubt. They both like to strut and to talk. I pray that they will be more self-conscious when they speak because a lot of people listen to them; thus, they have the power to inspire change, and we definitely need big change throughout the world.