When CNN reporter Chris Cuomo asked presidential candidate Donald Trump for his thoughts on Pope Francis Wednesday, Trump responded that he thought “he seems like a pretty good guy,” along with questioning whether the Pope was as anti-capitalist as some would like to believe.
Cuomo asked Trump whether he would like to meet the Pope when he visits the United States next month, to which Trump replied that he is Protestant, “but I have great respect for the Pope, I like the Pope.” He said that he thinks Francis is becoming very political, but immediately added, “I like him, he seems like a pretty good guy.”
Asked to imagine a fictitious scene in which the Pope shakes his finger at him, telling him that capitalism can be an avenue to greed, and that it can be toxic and corrupt, Trump responded that if he found himself in that situation, he would remind the Pope: “ISIS wants to get you. You know that ISIS wants to go in and take over the Vatican. You have heard that. That’s a dream of theirs, to go into Italy.”
When Cuomo asked whether Trump would resort to trying to scare the Pope, he responded that “the Pope—I hope—can only be scared by God. But the truth is, if you look at what’s going on, they better hope that capitalism works. Because it’s the only thing we have right now.”
Trump added that he doesn’t believe that Francis is contrary to capitalism, as he is often portrayed. “I’ve seen a lot of what he’s opposed to,” he said, “and I don’t think the Pope is opposed to capitalism.”
Trump also said that capitalism is “a great thing when it works properly. In our country, it has not been working properly.”
“Between regulation, between all of the Dodd-Frank, between all the different things that have been imposed, we aren’t competitive like we used to be. We have to open up our country to great capitalism,” he said.
In point of fact, although Pope Francis has had harsh words for greed and the idolatry of wealth, he has never condemned the free market or capitalism as a system.
His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, famously distinguished between capitalism as an ideology of lawlessness and capitalism as a system that promotes free exchange and creativity.
“If by ‘capitalism’ is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative,” he wrote.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome