Pope Francis and American Presidential Politics

popeMany Catholics including me appreciate what Pope Francis is doing for the Catholic Church. He certainly appeals to the more moderate voices within the Church, which has endeared him to the liberal media. His message is also attractive to millennials, which is important for the future of the Church. Of course the more conservative Catholics do not agree with some of his stances. Change comes slowly in the Church. It is one reason I respect the institution, though those outside the Church condemn it for the same reason.

My issue is when Pope Francis ventures into politics. I don’t always support his position. Earlier this year, for instance, the Pope was asked about Trump’s proposal to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the country. He said that anyone who builds a wall isn’t Christian.

I take issue with that statement for a couple reasons. First, I recently visited Italy. Including a visit to St. Peter’s and many other Catholic Churches and historic sites. Most if not all do not have “open borders”.  In fact, to get into St. Peter’s you don’t just walk up to the doors and go in. You stand in line, you wait your turn, you go through a metal detector and your bags are checked, and then you are allowed in. In other words, there is a “wall” in order to control who comes in.

How is this any different than the US enforcing its borders? For the same reason why the Catholic Church, sadly, cannot just allow anyone to walk into St. Peter’s, so too the United States of America has every reason, right and obligation to control who comes into this country. Unfortunately, unlike funneling all visitors through a metal detector in front of St. Peter’s, the US has to control entry along a 2000 mile long border. That is an entirely different challenge.

Second, just because I support enforcing our immigration laws and do not support an open border, how does that make me any less of a Christian? The US is an overall force for good in this world. We are a generous nation. Open borders would mean the end of the US as we know it. We are 20 TRILLION in debt, and open borders will mean exploding costs to handle the throngs of immigrants who would want to come. If the US collapses economically, that will unleash great suffering worldwide.

The Pope surely knows this, just as he knows the same “open borders” policy at St. Peter’s would mean a permanent population living inside, requiring the Church to feed them, provide health care, jobs, education, etc.

The immigration debate in the US is multifaceted. There is a philosophical aspect to the issue. One side of the argument is that there should in essence be no individual countries with local governments as today, but instead one world government with no borders. Economic globalization has certainly fueled this. Don’t be fooled: there are many in this country who believe very strongly in this concept. You see this debate most vividly I think in Europe. Brexit was in part driven by a rejection of the British electorate to accept the rising centralization of power represented by the EU in Brussels.

On the other side of the argument is a nationalistic view of the world, where individual countries with their own governments who work to protect the interests of their citizens, and with secure borders are the norm. Many in the US as well as in Europe are frightened, rightfully so, that without control of their borders, some who are coming into their countries do not want to assimilate, do not value the culture of that country and represent a physical threat to the well-being of the population.

There are of course many other aspects that drive the debate, particularly economic. Open borders will drive the debt, no question. There is a political aspect. The cynic in me believes that those on the left want as much illegal immigration as possible as they typically vote Democratic. There is a cultural aspect. I wonder, for instance, if we should allow someone to immigrate to this country who believes Sharia Law should trump our system of law based on our Constitution.

And so the immigration debate goes on. And while I support what this Pope has done to re-energize the Catholic Church, he has interjected himself into the immigration debate and American presidential politics, albeit with an indefensible argument in my opinion.

Jeff Groh is a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. He believes more often than not, both sides of the political spectrum actually agree on the ends, but it is the means that fuel disagreements, with the far right and left resorting to name-calling rather than a pursuing a rational debate on the issues, trade-offs and unintended consequences. His consulting company, New Product Visions, helps companies improve their innovation management practices, and he is passionate about the creation of economic value and prosperity by restoring our country’s manufacturing base. Want to email me? jgroh@newproductvisions.com

Pope Francis and American Presidential Politics

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