Pope Francis makes a bridge to Donald Trump

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View of the Tiber looking at Vatican City

View of the Tiber looking at Vatican City

It was terrific that Pope Francis responded to Donald Trump’s charge that he’s “a very political person” by embracing the Aristotelian dictum that man is a political animal — though the pedant in me wishes he’d gotten the Latin right. “Thank God he said I am a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as an ‘animal politicus,'” Francis declared. “So at least I am a human person.” 

It’s animal politicum, Your Holiness, as Aquinas put it in his commentary on the Nichomachean Ethics: “Politicum animal est homo, politicum, id est sociale et communicativum.” And certainly you’re the most social and communicative of popes — eating with the Vatican troops, making cold calls to the faithful, and chatting with the press after trips abroad.

As for Francis’ smack back at Trump, there was something sly about that too. “And then, a person who thinks only about making walls, wherever they may be, and not making bridges [fare ponti], is not a Christian,” said the pontiff, punning on that most ancient title of his. The top priest in ancient Rome was the pontifex maximus, which means “greatest bridge-maker” in a possible reference to a priestly responsibility to make bridges [facere pontes] over the Tiber.

Francis, whose Twitter feed is @pontifex, was clueing the press in to his understanding of his role as top Christian, though the message doesn’t seem to have gotten through to the New York Times Ross DouthatIn yesterday’s column, Douthat was much taken with a supposed populist similarity between Francis and Trump, each of whom “downplays the value of rules, customs, and traditions in protecting people from the rule of novelty and whim.”

The column equates the insults Trump directs at individuals (“low energy,” “liar,” “loser”) with Francis’ generic characterizations (“Pharisee,” “self-absorbed Promethean neo-Pelagian,” “whiner,” “sourpuss”). I’d say Francis picked up his style from his Master, who was not above denouncing certain classes of people as “whited sepulchres,” and had a certain proclivity for downplaying rules, customs, and traditions.

As regards Trump’s exclusive interest in walls, Francis actually declined to render a final judgment. “We must see if he said things in that way,” he said, “and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.” Trump, once he’d been apprised of this, pulled back as well.

I don’t like fighting with the Pope,” he said at a GOP town hall in South Carolina hosted by CNN. “I like his personality; I like what he represents…I think he said something much softer than was originally reported by the media.”

Let’s hope Francis has made a bridge that takes the GOP front-runner in the right direction.

  • Tracy

    Fascinating. Love this additional information.

  • Eric

    Among other things, this is yet another remind that no one should read Douthat when he tries to write about religion.

  • Betty Clermont

    The Church has supported the GOP establishment since the John Paul II alliance with Reagan. So the pope supports Rubio. Rubio hired Eric Teetsel as his faith outreach director. Teetsel was the executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, a “strategy for war” in which – in addition to the usual “pro-life” and “pro-marriage” rhetoric – stated that the signers “affirm religious liberty.” “Religious liberty” has remained the Religious Right’s battle cry to this day in the war against Obamacare and “freedom” to discriminate against the LBGT community.

  • Ann Malley

    …and yet for all of the delight in following the Master to build bridges, His Holiness is ignoring the whited sepulchers within the Church who pretend that inviting in untold illegal immigrants is not born of pure intentions.

    The RCC is the States is bleeding out due to scandal and the reality that the Shepherds have been remiss in executing their duties of state. Point in fact, these preachers have put a tarp on Christ and pretended that He is not present in His own Church, let alone Catholic Faith and Morals.

    So let’s build bridges, but not a free style arch based on fantasy, Mark. It’s not just love coming over the border. We all know this. But the Pope seems intent on building a wall that is firmly fixed against anything but his own perception of what the Church ‘should’ be.

    The Holy Father is, however, waking Catholics up to learn the actual Faith instead of the Leftist propaganda that’s been floated for far too long.

  • Dimitri Cavalli

    Mark Silk writes, “Let’s hope Francis has made a bridge that takes the GOP front-runner [Trump] in the right direction.”

    I’m confused. I thought JFK, said in 1960, that elected officials and candidates can’t take instruction from religious prelates and leaders.

  • Donald Trump versus Pope Francis for President http://conta.cc/1S4TYdL