Pope Francis compared to President Trump

The differences between the two men are clear and severe. Pope Francis is a religious leader, while President Donald Trump is a political leader. Francis is liberal, but Trump is conservative. The Pope is much holier than the President. Despite these contrasts, the similarities are striking.

1. Hundreds of millions of persons have a favorable view of each man.

For Trump: Pew Research found relatively low ratings in nations with data. But this still amounts to hundreds of millions of persons with a favorable view. For example, in India, more than a third of that populous nation has a favorable view of him. And while he is unpopular in Europe, a sizable minority favors him there. In the U.S., over 40% of the population approves of his job as President (FiveThirtyEight.com).

For Pope Francis: Pew Research found that the number of U.S. Catholics with a favorable view of the Pontiff is down sharply, from 84% to 72%. Any political leader would be thrilled to have that kind of drop in support, down to over 70%. So it is strange that the headlines of some news organizations emphasize the drop without noting that remaining support is high. The Pope’s popularity with liberal Catholics around the world, especially in Europe and South America, remains high. Conservative Catholics criticize him, but they are a minority in many regions of the world.

2. President Trump is a conservative vehemently opposed by liberals. Pope Francis is a liberal vehemently opposed by conservatives. Each has a group of opponents who see their role as absolute resistance. They see no possibility to work with him.

3. Each has opponents seeking to remove the man from his office. Democrats have spoken openly about impeachment, and also have considered using the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump. That’s the rule that lets lower officials in the Executive Branch declare to Congress that the President is unfit for office and must be removed.

Conservatives have spoken openly about removing the Pope, by declaring him unfit if he is found to have taught heresy, or by deposing him in some way. A conference was held in Paris on the topic of deposing Pope Francis. Removing the President by claiming that he is mentally unfit is remarkably similar to removing a Pope by claiming that he is spiritually unfit (as if he had taught heresy).

4. Opponents are hoping that each man will resign his office. Democrats are also a little fearful if Trump resigns, since that would put religious conservative Mike Pence in the Oval Office. Conservative Catholics are openly calling on Pope Francis to resign, hoping that a conservative Pope would be elected next. Such a call is unprecedented in the Church.

5. Each man is accused of sexual offenses, though in very different ways. President Trump was accused of sexual assault, accusations made during the 2016 presidential election [Wikipedia].

Pope Francis is accused of not doing enough to stop Cardinal McCarrick, who turned out to be a child abuser, among other sins. Francis is also accused of providing an insufficient response to the child sexual abuse crisis in the Church.

6. Both men oppose abortion.

President Trump opposes abortion as part of his political platform. As President, he has taken a few actions against abortion. Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the Mexico City Policy. As a result, offering abortion is no longer a requirement for other nations to receive federal funding from the U.S. Trump also favors defunding Planned Parenthood.

Pope Francis has the traditional position on abortion of the Catholic Faith, that abortion is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. Recently, the Pope stated that turning to abortion in a difficult situation is like hiring a hit man to solve a problem. Of course, the Pope’s position on abortion is based on faith in the teachings of Christ and His Church, whereas the President’s position is perhaps rooted more in the political expediency of pleasing his conservative base.

7. Both men have lost significant support held their predecessors. President Trump has lost the support of some mainstream Republicans. This was particularly clear during the election, when many refused to endorse him. Trump continues to endure harsher than usual criticism from within his own party.

Pope Francis is a liberal Catholic, so you might expect conservative Catholics to oppose him. But that is not the way that Catholicism usually works. Catholicism is not a political party. Conservatives used to pride themselves on their loyalty to the Roman Pontiff. Now they pride themselves on opposing the Roman Pontiff.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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