Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion Politics

Peaceful transfer of power can make things worse, says pope

Donald Trump swearing-in ceremony
Donald Trump swearing in ceremony

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Donald Trump swearing-in ceremony

During the Trump Accession to the Presidency (TAP), it seemed like everywhere you turned the Mainstream Media (MSM) was celebrating the Peaceful Transfer of Power (PTP).

How come?

According to AOL’s Newsy, it was because “[a]head of the election, Trump fueled concerns that a peaceful transition might not happen when he suggested he might not concede the election if Hillary Clinton won.”

But Clinton didn’t win, and her concession of the election was never in question. So forget that explanation.

Actually, it just was hard for the MSM to think of anything else to celebrate about the TAP but the PTP. Not only are they (or, to be honest, we) “among the most dishonest people on earth,” as President Trump says,  but also among the most ignorant.

From listening to us, you’d think that the PTP was a singular achievement of the U.S. of A., a veritable mark of American Exceptionalism.

As if a whole lot of countries haven’t been managing the PTP quite well for some time thank you. For instance England, from which the U.S. of A. separated by way of a non-peaceful transfer of power in 1783, has been doing the PTP since the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

And that’s not to mention the fact that the PTP doesn’t always work out so well.

Fortunately, no less a personage than Pope Francis gave us a heads up on this last Friday in an interview with the Spanish daily El País.

Asked about the citizens’ malaise in Europe and America of which “Trump’s case is the most noteworthy,” the pope responded with a discourse about the kind of populism that leads fearful people to turn to a strongman.

Hitler didn’t steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people. That is the risk. In times of crisis, we lack judgment, and that is a constant reference for me. Let’s look for a savior who gives us back our identity and lets defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other peoples that may rob us of our identity. And that is a very serious thing.

So once upon a time, the PTP gave us the most notorious ruler in modern history. A reasonable conclusion is that the PTP doesn’t mean much if the power is transferred to a would-be savior who abuses it.

I suggest we put the celebration on hold for a while.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


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  • Really? Again with the Hitler analogy? You have got to be joking, or daft. It’s like a broken record here with this constant labeling (which is the method of the left), negative labeling, before Trump has done anything. Let alone Hitlerish.

    Yes the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, it has always been that way, but what concerns me and I really don’t know what to make of it except some sort of mass delusion, mental illness, is why there is so much hatred coming from people even the pope.

    Is/was there some plans here that we were not told, that have been stalled/up ended? Did people really buy into the some sort of Utopia that will never materialize no matter who won the election? That this false paradise would be the answer to the worlds problems? I would really like to know where this utopian manifesto is so I can read it, understand why so many people have driven off a cliff. Were people’s hope so bound up in who is president that they can no longer have any hope, and if so since when is the president considered a cult hero? I think people are letting the worst case scenario hypotheticals cloud their judgement of reality. For everything they fear has not even materialized. It’s a wonder people even leave their homes to venture into the perceived wasteland they are so frightened of.

    People need to come off the ledge, because while they have been told that the building is burning, all they need to do is look back inside rather than listen to the crowd below to see that in fact the building is not burning. Get a grip people, because you are already living out your fears when there is nothing there to be fearful of. NOTHING HAS CHANGED! IF IT DOES CHANGE FOR THE WORSE WE HAVE THE POWER TO STOP IT.

  • A monarch for life has no standing to speak of the democratic transition of power.

    As bad as Trump is so far, his ability to become a strongman isn’t any better now than it was under Nixon, FDR, Abraham Lincoln or any other president accused of an autocratic streak.

    Unlike many nations, the US does not have a military social class which sets itself apart from the rest of society. A military backed rollback of civil liberties is highly unlikely.

    Even when it comes to political machinations, there is a low tolerance for the mind of shenanigans associated with autocracy. For example one need only look to the overblown criticism of the last president for his permissible, but unsettling use of executive orders.

  • The pope apparently found himself in that much-sought spotlight without anything salient to say, so he fell back on his Hitler remark that resulted in headlines with this comparison of Trump to Hitler, regarding the peaceful transfer of power.

    It seems to me that such a popular leader of the largest Christian group in the world would have by now come down with a case of “an enlarged heart!” He should be counseling Christians of every stripe to pray for Trump, that he seeks God’s guidance with his decision-making, and that Trump will seek after a humble posture of servant leader and defender of the poor and down-trodden. Guess I’m asking a lot of the pope, to simply be Christian!

  • The Pope has some nerve. He is the head of a dictatorship, in which there is no transfer of power until he dies or resigns. He is the one ‘building walls’ against all women, against LGBT people, and there is still no real welcome for the divorced and remarried. He is the one with the ‘barbed wire’ keeping out even hetero males from the priesthood, who might ‘rob its identity’ as an enclave for celibates. I hope the Pope took a lesson from the Women’s March January 21 — that sea of pink hats proclaiming that intolerance is not acceptable — 2.5 million women globally !!! I think the Pope has seriously underestimated the strength of our American institutions and values and their resiliency.

  • The Pope’s warning is worth paying attention to and is in harmony with the Women’s March, not against it. Germans just wanted to make “Germany great again” when electing Hitler as Chancellor. Whether or not the Pope himself heads an organization with as bad a record for violating human rights as the Third Reich, his warning about the peaceful transfer of power stands on its own merits. We see the first troubling notes of Trump’s corrosion of values in the notion of “Alternative Truths,” which is just word-smithing for the purpose of deception.

  • I think you have a valid point here Riding. Vigilance is always wise, and one who claims “I alone” can fix it, demands extra scrutiny based on his own words. He’s already putting barriers in front of the press by locking the West Wing door that allowed them to be nearer the executive offices. He plans to keep them out of the White House entirely, a cause for concern. He uses his press secretary to falsely accuse the media of lying about crowd sizes in a deliberate effort to undermine the credibility of their plain observations while falsely aggrandizing the pres.

    There is more but this alone ought to alert us to the need to watch this pres very carefully. There is nothing unreasonable or paranoid about this. It’s plain common sense.

  • In saying that he wants to strengthen law enforcement, is that simple respect for law and order or a sinister plan to turn America into a police state? Family members in law enforcement still angry over all the officers recently gunned down pointlessly are giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, but I fear the worst in Trump’s stated goal of strengthening law enforcement.


    “So once upon a time, the PTP gave us the most notorious ruler in modern history.”

    Not really. The impositions of economic sanctions and demand that Germany change it’s entire power structure to be the kind that eventually resulted in the election of Adolf wasn’t a “Peaceful transition of power”. It was more like a bunch of other nations kicking the crap out of another nation until that nation embraced a dictator in result.

  • The Pope chimed in on his own accord. Nobody asked his opinion or sought his advice here.

    How about the RCC butt out of everyone’s lives and respect personal boundaries for once.

  • It takes one to know one, I guess, when spinning a fake news comparison between “Trump’s case” and, as the very Vicar of Christ himself dares to put it, “the case of Germany in 1933 (when) Hitler didn’t steal power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.” (EL PAÍS, 2017/01/21) He’s one to talk, isn’t he, though? – this guy Pope Francis alias Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Remember him? The same Argentinian guy who: (1) “testified in 2010 that he had met secretly with Gen. Jorge Videla, the former head of the military junta, and Adm. Emilio Massera, the commander of the navy, to ask for the release of the priests (the military had kidnapped)”; (2) was “called … to testify on the military junta’s systematic kidnapping of children, a subject he was also accused of knowing about but failing to prevent”; (3) “defended his behavior during the dictatorship”; (4) “never issued a formal apology … or commented (but) was … silent” on the otherwise too-close-for-comfort case of “Father von Wernich (who) was found guilty on seven counts of complicity in homicide, more than 40 counts of kidnapping and more than 30 of torture” (New York Times, MARCH 13, 2013).

  • Spicer said it was demoralizing to hear so many challenges to Hair Furher.

    Such a delicate title snowflake he is

  • Yes…so many people don’t get this. I’ve never understood why Germany was singled out in the aftermath of WW1. There was plenty of blame to go around among all the European nations. If the onerous provisions of the postwar treaty had not been imposed on Germany, it’s quite likely we would have never heard of Hitler.

  • Germany was the main driver of the Central Powers, acted the most out of opportunism, caused the most damage to Allied Powers and still existed after the war (unlike Austrio-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires).

    By 1919 all the combatants of the great war were working on fighting the next one.

    BTW, the end of WWI also created the conditions which continue to plague the Middle East and laid the groundwork for the Vietnam War.

  • Theocratic elective meritocracy is hardly “monarchism”. It’s not democracy, sure, but monarchism hardly just means “not democracy”.

  • The connection to the Vietnam War is a very interesting one. In 1919 Ho Chi Minh, was a politically active pastry chef in a world class Paris restaurant. He gathered together like minded Indochinese, many of whom fought in the trenches for France. They drafted a resolution to the Versailles treaty concerning self determination of colonial peoples.

    The resolution was rebuffed and ignored. The despondent Ho would eventually abandon fine cuisine preparation for guerilla warfare years later.

  • What a pathologically absurd statement !
    How many $$$$ making so-called religious organizations are tax-exempt – which means those organization are being subsidized by the taxpayer.

  • But isn’t it interesting that after such a wearying and pointless exercise of playing the “Great Game,” the antagonists were prepared almost immediately for another go round? Of course, the ongoing travails of the Middle East are to some degree a function of the idiotic policy of colonialism, and the arbitrary slicing up of territory without regard to geographic and cultural realities. I still maintain that if the Treaty of Versailles had not been singularly punitive to Germany, WW2 quite possibly might not have happened, irrespective of Germany’s putative greater share of “guilt” in the Great War.

  • The clown pope is such an embarrassment to Catholicism. He keeps using Peter’s chair as a soapbox for his radical communist ideology. Please, God, end his reign of insanity.

  • This is as n interesting idea, subject to a lot of discussion.

    You have to bear in mind how the war ended. Germany did not suffer real decisive battlefield defeats until late 1917, when it’s gamble to take advantage of Russia’s exit and America’s slow entry failed. Germany’s civilian population stopped the war by overthrowing the Kaiser. So both sides still had large intact armies in the field who were not crushed in battle. So that explains why they were capable of another war so easily a generation later.

    Ironically Versailles gave Germany the chance to innovate and make a brand new military without having to rely on old stockpiles of equipment or adherence to old school strategic thinking. Versailles created blitzkrieg. The greatest loss Germany faced in terms of military capability from Versailles was the loss of their navy. 30 years of development scuttled at Scapa Flow harbor which was never recovered under Hitler (who had no mind for naval planning).

    I believe a second war was inevitable, but the players may have differed if not for Versailles.

    Colonialism would still create between European powers. Japan would have gotten an even worse deal from peace if it did not keep some of German colonial territory it seized. It’s aggression would have began much earlier. The pacific war was going to happen regardless of Versailles.

    The USSR was hyper aggressive during the interwar period. Fighting wars to reclaim Poland and Finland (both disastrous) and hijacking the Spanish Republic during its civil war. They could have become the aggressor in the second war.

    The there is also the notion of second order counterfactuals. That changing one event is not enough to completely change historical conditions. That elements of the original fact pattern will emerge. It’s a fairly common element to modern alternative history literature and discussion.

  • I would agree that the war with Japan was probably inevitable. As to Europe, nations are always arming, it’s what they do. I simply think that if the German people had not been crushed economically in the twenties by whatever device, Hitler’s rise would surely have been less likely.

  • So once again there were no military checkpoints on Wednesday after the election, no take over of media outlets, no armored vehicles at intersections. And guess what? When the current president leaves office we’ll repeat the process. You can’t help yourself but draw a line to the election of Hitler in Germany? It is poor impulse control on your behalf?

  • Maybe if not Hitler, a communist dictator would have emerged. Communists were close rivals to Nazis before Hitler rose to power. The Great Depression was a boon to autocratic political thinking. The USSR was making major propaganda over it as the collapse of capitalism.

  • “They could have become the aggressor in the second war.”

    They /were/ one of several aggressors in the second war, from my perspective. The Soviets attacked and conquered other nations unprovoked.

  • “Maybe if not Hitler, a communist dictator would have emerged.”

    Implying one didn’t??

  • It seems every major economic crisis which causes great misery and is long standing provides fertile soil in which autocrats flourish, though in our own case, America was sufficiently dynamic and resourced to weather it, and FDR was no autocrat. As to the USSR, in that case and many subsequent others, their crystal ball was not only cloudy, but cracked.

  • If you want to see an interesting movie reflecting the appeal of autocracy in the US of the era, see “Gabriel Over The White House”.

    A film where the president becoming dictatorial is seen unironically and as a good thing. It’s a weird relic of the Depression..

  • It may prove worth viewing, but as it comes from the realm of theatre its real world relevance may be in question.

  • To learn something new and not miss out on it, I had to look up what you shorthanded there, Agni Ashwin, “mic drop”. It’s “an instance of deliberately dropping or tossing aside one’s microphone at the end of a performance or speech one considers to have been particularly impressive.” It can be “used to emphasize that a discussion is at an end after a definitive or particularly impressive point has been made.” That’s both a valuable and funny lesson for me, because pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ and Everett Lunday and Parrish don’t see it that way, apparently. Now, if you think I write this so you can, please, expand on “mic drop”, you’re right.

  • Jewish led Communists attempted a violent coup in Berlin in 1919, thankfully Nationalist Germans defeated them and executed the Jewish ringleaders.

    On 1 January 1919 the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was formed under the leadership of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Rosa Luxemburg was born to a Jewish family in Zamość on 5 March 1871, in Russian-controlled Congress Poland.

    In January 1919, a second revolutionary wave swept Berlin. On New Year’s Day the Jewess Rosa Luxemburg declared: “Today we can seriously set about destroying capitalism once and for all. Nay, more; not merely are we today in a position to perform this task, nor merely is its performance a duty toward the proletariat, but our solution offers the only means of saving human society from destruction.”

    In response to the uprising, the Social Democratic leader Friedrich Ebert ordered the Freikorps to destroy the left-wing revolution. The Jewess Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were captured in Berlin on 15 January 1919 by the Rifle Division of the Cavalry Guards of the Freikorps (Garde-Kavallerie-Schützendivision) and executed.

  • Somehow I doubt an actual historical source would use the word “jewess”

    You can save yourself cutting and pasting and just give us the link to stormfront and whatever neo nazi site you are using.

    Of course the use of the freikorps marked the death knell of democracy in Germany and the birth of the Nazis. History’s most notorious scumbags.