Pope Francis’ right-hand man, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said on Thursday that “points of dialogue” between the Vatican and Trump will include peace and “internal [domestic] subjects such as religious freedom and Catholics’ commitment and attention to the most vulnerable bands of society.”
In an Oct. 27 interview on EWTN television, “an influential TV operation now broadcast to 264 million households around the world,” Trump promised to appoint “pro-life” Supreme Court justices. On religious freedom, Trump said, “Whether it’s the Little Sisters of the Poor or, you know, these private businesses who are religiously motivated, they feel this Obamacare mandate, which demands contraceptive and abortifacient services, as part of insurance is intrusive …. I mean, religious liberty in this country is in tremendous trouble.”
In a Sept. 22 statement on “ISSUES OF IMPORTANCE TO CATHOLICS” Trump promised to sign the First Amendment Defense Act which bans the government from taking any “action against a person [who] believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” “The broadly-written law would legalize religious discrimination against LGBT people in all sectors, from employment to retail to healthcare, banning the government from intervening.”
The following day, Trump named 33 “heavyweight” Catholic advisers to his campaign, including Republican former Sen. Rick Santorum and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.
Trump won the Catholic vote 52% to Hillary Clinton’s 45% including a higher percentage of Latino Catholics (26%) than had voted for Romney in 2012 (21%).
Since losing the 2008 presidential election, US Catholic bishops have made “religious liberty” their most important issue in obstructing health care for women as well as denying human rights to LGBT persons. During last year’s trip to the US, Pope Francis supported their cause in speeches at the White House and Independence Hall. His visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor encouraging their lawsuit against coverage for contraception provided by Obamacare, as well as his private meeting with Kim Davis, jailed six days for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, also assisted his bishops.
Before meeting with Davis, Pope Francis had called same-sex marriage an “anthropological regression.” According to the Liberty Counsel, the pope and Davis “chatted about bravery.” During the flight back to Rome from the US, the pope said “government officials have a ‘human right’ to refuse to do their job if they feel it violates their religious conscience, such as issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”
Pope Francis also rejected equality for LGBT persons in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato si’ (no. 155), and his exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (nos. 56, 251, 285-286). The pope issued a joint denouncement of same-sex marriage with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in February 2016. On Sept. 25, the pope encouraged the Mexican bishops’ opposition to Pres. Pena Nieto’s proposal to recognize same-sex marriage.
Some consensus also on migrants, climate change and the poor.
On Thursday, Trump adviser Newt Gingrich “cast doubt” on whether Trump would actually build a wall on our southern border. “He’ll spend a lot of time controlling the border. He may not spend very much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it, but it was a great campaign device,” Gingrich said. When asked about Trump’s intention to build a wall, Cardinal Parolin advised, “Let’s give him time to begin.”
In his EWTN interview, Trump said Syrian refugees should be properly vetted and he would stop accepting them until this was done. On Sept. 1, Pope Francis said “Migrants should be treated according to certain rules, because migration is a right but one which is highly regulated” and “if a country is only able to integrate 20 [refugees], let’s say, then it should only accept that many.”
Emilio Fittipaldi, author of Avarice: Papers that Reveal Wealth, Scandals and Secrets in the Church of Francis, said the Vatican is “invested in shares of Exxon and Dow Chemical,” corporations that pollute and poison. Vatican Bank president, Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, confirmed on May 12, 2016, the bank’s continued “investments in fossil fuel companies.”
Trump used $258,000 from his charitable foundation in ways that “may have violated laws against ‘self-dealing‘ which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.”
Both Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi in his book, Merchants in the Temple, wrote about Peter’s Pence, the annual collection by bishops around the world for the pope’s charity. Only 20% is given to charity, according to Nuzzi. The rest goes into the Vatican bureaucracy. A Vatican official confirmed this is true.
Fittipaldi wrote that the Peter’s Pence collection totaled 378 million euro in 2013. (Pope Francis stopped reporting this figure after he was elected.) Vatican Bank profits are also “offered the Holy Father in support of his apostolic and charitable ministry.” This was 50 million euro in 2013. Additionally, the pope receives “lavish donations” from celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and business moguls like Apple’s Tim Cook for his personal income with no transparency or accountability.
Fittipaldi also revealed there are several accounts in the Vatican Bank designated for charity which give away nothing or very little. In 2013 and 2014, the fund available to the bank’s Commission of Cardinals gave nothing to charity despite a net surplus of 425,000 euro.
Pope Francis has no problem supporting the right-wing
“Conservatives Around The World Are Peddling A Conspiracy Theory About Sex and Gender” is the title of an article about “gender ideology.” This “has been a very effective communication and persuasion tool. It helps its ‘fighters’ to avoid overtly homophobic language – which is prohibited by law in some countries -and to frame their arguments in secular terms.”
When asked in January 2015 to explain what he meant by “ideological colonization,” Pope Francis gave the example of a minister of education. In order to receive a loan to build schools, she had to use a textbook on “gender theory.” “This is ideological colonization,” he said. A few months later, the pope explained that “gender theory” is that “which seeks to cancel out sexual differences.”
“Pope Francis’ blistering attacks on ‘gender theory’… may be emboldening Catholic bishops in various parts of the world.” In August, the pontiff said, “In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these - I will call it clearly by its name - is [the ideology of] ‘gender.’ Today children - children! - are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex.”
Pope Francis has used the terms “ideological colonization” and/or “gender theory” in an October 2014 interview, January 2015 in the Philippines, in a February 2015 speech to bishops from Africa and Madagascar, March 2015 in Naples, in an April 2015 General Audience, a May 2015 address to the bishops from the Central African Republic, a June 2015 address to the bishops of Puerto Rico, a June 2015 speech to an Italian judiciary council, a June 2015 talk to the diocese of Rome, a September 2015 Vatican address, a September 2015 address to the UN General Assembly, March 2016 in Mexico, in a May 2016 address to the presidents of the European Commission, European Parliament and the European Council, July 2016 in Poland, October 2016 in Georgia and in-flight from Azerbaijan back to Rome. “The pope has recently taken a series of swipes at the French government regarding its policies on ‘gender theory,’” a reporter wrote this month.
When Chileans protested Pope Francis’ appointment of a bishop accused of “covering up of dozens of sexual abuse cases,” he dismissed them as “lefties” in an October 2015 private video.
Like his American confreres who use “moral issues” to oppose progressive government, as cardinal primate of Argentine, Jorge Mario Bergoglio had “clashed with the Kirchner administration sharply over issues of abortion, contraception and sex education.” Kirchner called Bergoglio the “spiritual head of the political opposition.” Kirchner also “castigated the Church for its willingness to accommodate the military regime during the 1970s and early 1980s,” as had Bergoglio when he was a Jesuit provincial. (See here, here, here, here and here.)
The Fernandez administration’s relationship with Bergoglio was “strained due to her support for same-sex marriage and the leftism of her administration.” A week before the vote on legislation approving same-sex marriage, Bergoglio wrote a pastoral letter “harshly criticizing the initiative.” The legislation was a “’move’ by the father of lies [Satan] meant to confuse and deceive the children of God,” he wrote.
In 2012, Fernandez “pushed for mandatory sex education in schools, free distribution of contraceptives in public hospitals, and the right for transsexuals to change their official identities on demand.” Bergoglio accused the president of “demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power.”
After the cardinal was elected pope, Brazilian Ivone Gebara, one of Latin America’s leading theologians, referred to his “well-known criticism of liberation theology. [I]n the informal pre-conclave discussions, Bergoglio’s profile as a Jesuit known for resisting the liberalizing currents in the order in Latin America during the 1970s was a selling point.” Gebara also reminded us that handouts to the poor is not the same as correcting the underlying causes of poverty.
If some of the above information about the Vatican and Pope Francis is news to you, blame the same for-profit media that catapulted Trump to front-runner status in the primaries for creating a “superstar” pope to generate more advertising revenue.
(Betty Clermont is author of The NeoCatholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America.)
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