We seem to have gotten to the point where whenever Donald Trump says something controversial, it no longer surprises us. Trump is one of the most outspoken and non-politically correct politicians many of us have ever seen, and he hasn't slowed down one bit since he announced he was running for president.
Many people did not take him very seriously when he announced his candidacy back in June of last year. However, to the surprise of some, he is currently in the lead for the Republican nomination. On the campaign trail he seems to have created a warpath, attacking people of different genders, religions, and ethnicities. One of his more controversial statements centered on his belief that a wall should be built on the Mexico-U.S. border with Mexico footing the bill, of course.
Obviously, there were a lot of people unhappy with his statements. He's probably pretty used to that by now. One may even argue that he enjoys ruffling people's feathers and getting under their skin. However, his comments on Mexico seems to have made him a new enemy, and it may have been someone Trump never expected Pope Francis. The Holy Father himself has recently made several scathing comments seemingly directed toward the GOP candidate. Specifically, the pope suggested that Trump cannot be a Christian, because a Christian would not want to build walls to divide people, but instead build bridges to bring people together.
**Pope Francis Makes a Jab
Similar to Trump, Pope Francis has not been afraid to express his opinion, even when his statements are considered highly controversial by fellow Catholics. Still, there probably weren't many people who expected him to call out Trump in such a strong way.
While most see Trump as the least religious candidate in the field, some can't help but wonder if some of his Catholic supporters will move on to a different candidate, since the Pope obviously doesn't want him as president. However, it's hard to say how many Catholics supported him in the first place. So, at the end of the day, it may be the case that the Pope's comments or opinions have done nothing to hurt his popularity among voters. A candidate's faith used to be front-and-center in the Republican race are those attitudes changing?
**Back and Forth
As you might expect, Trump did not take kindly at all to the Pope's comments. There are few who expected him to stay quiet on the subject. After all, it is not Trump's style to leave a challenge unaccepted. Not 24 hours after the pope made his statements Trump shot back, saying things such as:
The Pope's comments were disgraceful
The Pope has no right to decide who is a Christian and who is not.
Who is the Pope to speak on walls with Mexico when the Vatican itself is surrounded by walls?
Trump also went on to say that he thinks the Pope would want him as president if ISIS attacked: "If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS' ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened."
The Vatican has said that the Pope's statements were not directed at Trump, and were more of a broad statement. However, that's a little hard to believe considering that the Pope was asked a question specifically about Trump and gave that response. The Vatican was likely trying to smooth things over to avoid a controversy.
Was the Pope Right?
It is easy to see why the Pope did not like Trump's statements, but it probably wasn't the best idea to call him out and say there's no way he is a Christian. While the Pope is highly respected and revered by the Catholic community, Trump specializes in deflecting criticism and flinging it right back. Even the Pope makes mistakes; maybe this was one of them.
It doesn't seem likely that this will escalate any further; Trump has his sights set on the White House, and the media's main focus is on the remaining debates, primaries, and caucuses. However arrogant and disrespectful Trump is, it's hard not to stand in awe of a Republican candidate who can trade public blows with the leader of the world's largest united church and avoid any significant drop in the polls.
Is this a sign of what's to come? Is religion on its way out of American politics?