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Media frenzy as Pope Francis speaks about Trump and contraceptives, but what did the Holy Father really mean?
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Pope Francis has made it clear, he does not believe a border wall is a very Christian thing to build.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - On a flight back to the Vatican from Mexico, Pope Francis delivered an apparent rebuke of Trump's plan to build a border wall between the USA and Mexico. Pope Francis said to reporters:
"A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian."
The Holy Father made the statement in response to a reporter's question. However, anyone paying attention will note that Pope Francis was not specific in condemning Trump, nor did he make a comment about any specific political issue. Rather, he spoke generally to the ethical question of building walls with the intention of keeping neighbors out.
Trump's plan has never been about keeping neighbors out, so much as enforcing U.S. law and enhancing security.
The Catholic Church has long been at odds with U.S. authorities because some clergy believe that immigration is a humanitarian issue as opposed to a security or legal issue.
Pope Francis quickly pointed out that he did not intend to tell people how to vote or not to vote for Trump. He simply clarified, "I am not going to get involved in that. I would only say that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that."
In Trump's defense, the border is a major economic, legal and national security question, while also being a humanitarian issue. A wall could make it easier for authorities to control the border which would give officials control over immigration. Notably, most countries exercise vigorous control over their border security, the Vatican included. However, Pope Francis is very correct in pointing out that immigration is also a major humanitarian and spiritual issue.
If anything should raise an eyebrow, it should be the fact that a reporter attempted to get Pope Francis to make a specific comment on U.S. election politics, which makes the question, and its subsequent spin in the media, suspect.
The American media is notorious for trying to co-opt Pope Francis for various agendas.
Reporters also asked Pope Francis about the Zika virus which is spreading rapidly and is thought to be responsible for serious birth defects in children. Public health officials have recommended that people use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy during the outbreak. This is a major issue, especially in Catholic countries, such as Mexico, since artificial contraceptives are opposed by Church teaching.
However, Pope Francis departed slightly, suggesting that there might be a time when it could be appropriate in order to prevent damaging birth defects. However, his comment was vague and general and should not be construed as a shift in Church teaching. Pope Francis did add that "Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil." This is true, and the Church does teach natural family planning methods which allow married couples to avoid pregnancy.
To add some context to his thoughts, Pope Francis mentioned the decision by Pope Paul VI in the 1960s that allowed nuns in the Belgian Congo to use birth control at a time when soldiers were targeting them for rape.
Yet Pope Francis was extremely clear on abortion, explaining that the Church remains opposed to abortion. "It is a crime to kill someone in order to save another. That is what the Mafia does."
Once again, we can expect Pope Francis' comments to be misconstrued in a vain attempt to co-opt the pope into the appearance of supporting immoral and unethical agendas.
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