A story has been circulating in which Pope Francis is said to have condemned the Christian Right for voting for Trump. According to Farron Cousins on Ring of Fire:
After the election of Donald Trump, Pope Francis had some pretty harsh words for that Christian right in America that helped elect Donald Trump. He said that, “Those people in America, the Christians who voted for Donald Trump, no, you can’t call yourself a Christian anymore.”
Tempting though it may be for some to believe this story, there is no evidence for it that I have been able to find, neither in a recording nor in a transcript of any interviews. Moreover, difficult though it may be for me to wrap my brain around the idea of supporting Trump while following Christ, if the Pope had said this, it would be inaccurate, theologically. As several writers pointed out prior to the election, it was licit for a Catholic to vote for any of the candidates – or for none. I detest the machinations of the right-wingers who distorted our teaching to coerce people into voting for Trump, and such techniques, using the faith as a weapon to shut down freedom of conscience, should not be used in favor of an agenda with which one agrees, either.
So, what has Pope Francis actually said?
In response to the question of what he thinks of Trump, Pope Francis answered like a true Catholic shepherd, not taking political sides, but keeping his emphasis on those most likely to suffer under a Trump regime, expressing concern especially for “refugees and migrants”:
“I don’t make judgments on people and on political men, I only want to understand what the sufferings are that their way of proceeding causes to the poor and excluded.”
“Money is against the poor besides being against immigrants and refugees,” he said, but noted that “there are also the poor from rich countries who fear welcoming those who are similar coming from poor countries. It’s a perverse circle and it must be interrupted.”
Francis stressed that we must “bring down the walls of division,” but cautioned that in order to do this, we must “build bridges” that seek to decrease inequalities and increase “freedom and rights.”
The Pope does remind us of something very crucial here: that no true Christian unity can exist, which excludes the Other. During this time of uncertainty, we cannot laugh off the fears of the moe vulnerable among us. And please, remember: those who are victims of racial injustice are also among these “excluded” to whom Francis refers. Disdaining their concerns, dismissing their cry for justice as “whining” – that is not Christian.
In building bridges, we who are relatively secure may face the temptation to build bridges within comfortable parameters, within bourgeois gated communities of the mind. But, if the bridges are not extended also to the poor, the refugees, and the racially Other, the walls Pope Francis criticized earlier will not have come down: we’ll just be pretending they don’t exist.