Pope Francis on Trump and Much More

Pope Francis recently gave a lengthy interview to the Spanish newspaper El País (here). All too often the pope is engaged in public relations, spewing puffery or worse. This interview is remarkable. The pope seems to offer his sincere views on a variety of important subjects.

Early in the interview, the pope recommends a wait-and-see attitude toward President Donald Trump: “We will see what he does and will judge accordingly. Always work with the specific. Christianity is either specific or it is not Christianity.” The emphasis on “specifics” is highly unusual. Most leaders, including Pope Francis, tend to deal in generalities. I suspect this is a subtle acknowledgment that Mr. Trump tends to contradict himself, both in word and deed; the pope intends to resist making general judgments.

Later in the interview the reporter asks the pope about populists who “capitalize on the fears of an uncertain future in order to form a message full of xenophobia and hatred towards foreigners. Trump's case is the most noteworthy… Are you worried about this trend?” About Trump and other populists, Pope Francis says:

Crises provoke fear, alarm. In my opinion, the most obvious example of populism in the European sense of the word is Germany in 1933. After Hindenburg, after the crisis of 1930, Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, it needs a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler who says: "I can, I can". And Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn't steal 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 let us defend ourselves with walls, barbed-wire, whatever, from other people who may rob us of our identity. And that is a very serious thing…. the case of Germany in 1933 is typical, a people who were immersed in a crisis, who were searching for their identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened.

Pope Francis is comparing Trump to Hitler. While the pope officially takes a wait and see approach, he knows the danger signs, and issues a warning. He even mentions barbed wires and building walls, while changing the context. Pope Francis warns of charismatic leaders “who may rob us of our identity” -- and our legacy as well. Mainstream media has practically suppressed this warning. Normally they report favorably on virtually everything the pope says, even when it is dubious or when it contradicts his prior statements. But the press is unwilling to report Pope Francis’s warnings about a potential Hitler.

Pope Francis also talked about the liberation theology movement in Latin America -- “Liberation Theology was very positive for Latin America.” He was understandably reluctant to criticize Pope John Paul and Cardinal Ratzinger for squelching it.

There is much more here. It is the best thing I’ve seen from Pope Francis.