In the general scramble to grab a bit of Pope Francis’ luster in time for his upcoming trip to the United States, Politico has joined a host of other journals, pundits and politicians to stake a claim to the popular pontiff while attempting to distance him from their political adversaries.
In its bid to remake the Pope in its own image and likeness, Politico has called Francis the “anti-Donald Trump,” saying that he differs from the GOP—and Trump in particular—on a host of issues, noting that many of his declarations “are at odds with positions held by Republicans.”
No one would suggest that Pope Francis and Donald Trump see eye to eye. The men differ on an array of topics, from immigration to economic reform to the environment. But this doesn’t mean the two are polar opposites either, and even less that Francis is somehow more closely aligned with the American Left.
One could just as easily, and perhaps more truly, call Pope Francis the “anti-Hillary,” since many of the key positions she trumpets—such as gay marriage, unrestricted abortion, opposition to school choice and curbs on religious freedom—are diametrically opposed to the Pope’s views.
In recent days, the Pope has spoken out against abortion more than any other single issue, while in late July Hillary Clinton reaffirmed her undying support for Planned Parenthood, in the midst of the abortion giant’s scandal over the sale of baby body parts.
Proud to stand w/Planned Parenthood & for access to quality, affordable healthcare for women, men & young people. -H https://t.co/XLuRvxzsyZ
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 31, 2015
In her piece on the Pope, Politico’s Nahal Toosi suggests that the Pope’s decision to celebrate Mass in Spanish flies in the face of Donald Trump, who has criticized Jeb Bush for departing from English in his public addresses.
Politico isn’t the first group to try to spin the Pope’s Spanish language into a political story, but it is important to set the record straight. When Jeb Bush decides to give an address in Spanish—his second language—he is making a statement. When Pope Francis offers Mass in Spanish, there is no statement at all. The Pope’s first and best language is Spanish, and his English is mediocre at best, far worse than that of his recent predecessors. Spanish, for Francis, is the natural choice and when he speaks it he isn’t trying to make a pronouncement about multiculturalism or the fate of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S.
The fact remains that the Pope’s U.S. trip is not primarily political but pastoral, even though commentators will be sifting through his words to pull out political messages. Francis has said that he is coming to the United States primarily to meet its people, and he will continue hammering home a message that is chiefly spiritual, even though it has social consequences as well.
When he does, Donald Trump will not be the only one to find himself challenged by what the Pope has to say.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome