Saturday, February 20, 2016

Walls and Christians

 "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel," the Pope told journalists who asked his opinion on Trump's proposals to halt illegal immigration.
Trump immediately fired back, calling Francis' comments "disgraceful."
"No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith," he said in statement. Trump added that the government in Mexico, where Francis spent the past five days, has "made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope."  (qtd. from
Let's examine both statements, shall we?  First, Pope Francis' statement that a person who thinks only about building walls... is not Christian."  Mr. Trump is not "only" thinking about building a wall, he's also thinking about illegal immigration and also LEGAL immigration.  Trump does not oppose anyone coming to the United States LEGALLY, "the wall" is to keep ILLEGALS out - AND - provide a means of vetting those who seek entrance to the United States via the southern border.  "Fences (walls) make good neighbors," have you ever heard that?  When you know your boundaries you know how far you can go without offending your neighbor.  So, what about those who live behind huge walls?  Make note:
And that wall totally surrounds the Vatican City/State:
If walls make someone "not Christian" then should we be expecting the Vatican to tear down THEIR wall?  OR - do we believe that "wall" provides a level of security for the pope and the "nation" which is the Vatican?  Common sense points to the latter.

Now, how about what Mr. Trump said?  "No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith."  Well, we need to remind Mr. Trump, "freedom of speech" is something he will be sworn to defend and uphold if he is elected president.  The pope, or any leader, religious or otherwise, has the "right" to question whatsoever they choose to question.  The leader of the largest Christian organization on Earth certainly has the "right" to offer his opinion on how Christian, or lack thereof, another is. From the Christian perspective, a man is justified (or judged) according to his faith which is shown through his works.  (James 2:22-24) So, in Trump's defense, he has not yet built a wall nor has he implemented any sort of immigration reform - when and IF he does (IF he is elected) THEN we'll have something to judge.  Back to the point of this paragraph - the pope certainly DOES have the "right" to say or question anything he chooses - especially if we base that upon the United States Constitution and Amendments. 

Both Sides Make Amends

Within a day of the initial comments, both sides are playing down the situation:
Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi said:  "the pope's comments, which were denounced by Trump, were simply an affirmation of his longstanding belief that migrants should be helped and welcomed rather than shut off behind walls.

'This wasn't in any way a personal attack, nor an indication of who to vote for,' Lombardi said.
'The Pope has clearly said he didn't want to get involved in the electoral campaign in the US, and also said that he said what he said on the basis of what he was told [about Trump], hence giving him the benefit of the doubt.'

The Pope was great. He made a beautiful statement this morning,' he told a capacity crowd at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center, 'They had him convinced that illegal immigration is, like, a wonderful thing!' Trump exclaimed, referring to Mexico's government.
I do not wish to turn the CathApol Blog into a political one, but politics and the Catholic Church do sometimes cross paths, as they have here.  My goal is not to defend Donald Trump here (I am still among the "undecided" when it comes to this coming election) - but rather to lay out the facts in a rational manner and allow the readers to make a rational (as opposed to emotional) reaction to what actually transpired and was said.  In the end, I believe the Pope and the Donald concluded on friendly terms.

Addendum:  Map of Vatican City:


  1. I would just like to point out a couple of things:
    1) That "wall" does not completely surround the Vatican. Much of the wall is gone and all that is there is a white line on the pavement to mark where a wall used to be.
    2) The wall in your first picture is about 2/3 retaining "wall". If you took that down, that part of the Vatican property would collapse onto the street shown in the picture. And the wall at the top is more like the back yard fence.
    Look at pictures of St. Peter's square. There is NO wall there. The public is welcome in the Churches, and Vatican museum, and, with permission, the library.

  2. 1) "That" wall does not completely surround, but the perimeter is secure - by some sort of wall. There are many painted lines within St. Peter's square - I don't believe they are reminders of any walls. Now, there was a time, during WWII, where the Nazis had taken over Rome, but were "refused" the Vatican - and while there was no "wall" between them, the Nazi's painted a white line in St. Peter's Square and Vatican officials and priests were not to cross that line, however Fr. Hugh O'Flaherty did cross the line, many times, helping to save escaped POWs and downed Allied pilots, getting them back to the Allies. The movie "The Scarlet and the Black," starring Gregory Peck (1983) tells his (true) story. That is the only reference I am aware of regarding painted lines representing some sort of barrier.
    2) While I did not walk the entire perimeter, I did walk around much of it - and what I saw was some pretty high walls.
    3) The entry into St. Peter's Square is "open" - per say - but there is only ONE way in, and you walk down a very long street (making the "entry" quite defensible) which opens into the square (which is round) - then if you want to get into the basilica - you snake through a long line with security checkpoints and metal detectors, etc. After leaving the church, to get into the Vatican Museum (even though there is "a way" to go straight in, the entrance to the museum is from the outside. You have to walk back out that really long street and walk around the really big wall, and then get back into another line to get into the museum. (If you go, get the museum tickets in advance, and you'll save yourself from the really big line and get into the "short line" for your appointed entry).
    4) Yes, virtually all the churches in the area, if not all of them, are open for the public to walk right in - and there are a LOT of churches! We visited several, but there were many more. As far as I am aware, there are only two churches within the Vatican compound, St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

    So, yes, the Vatican Wall does not entirely surround - but there's only the ONE opening - and you have fairly long walk (no vehicles) down a rather narrow street to get to the square. The rest of the City/State is completely surrounded by walls built in the barbarian days to help protect the Holy City from attackers - and even there it fell once and was "rescued" by the Byzantines.

  3. I will stand corrected... I just posted an addendum to the main article with a map of Vatican City, and there are 9 churches within the borders of the city/state. I am not sure how many, if any, of those other 7 churches are available to the general public.

  4. I'm not sure what your point is now. The wall around the Vatican was there for defense in ancient times. Now, what is left of it is for security and the little privacy the pope gets. The city/state has a right to security, especially nowadays. That is not the same thing as a wall to keep out immigrants. It is comparing apples and oranges.

    I've been to Vatican City also. I have a clear memory of feeding my son under the portico away from the square and having my back to a chain link fence not a "wall". Yes, they were trying to keep traffic (there was a major road on the other side of the chain link--and very, very noisy) and pedestrians from coming through. The apartment complex I lived in in Maryland had a chain link fence around the back so criminals couldn't use the parking lot as a thorough fare. Controlling the traffic and crowds at and around the Vatican must be a hard, 24-hour job. I don't agree that the pope needs to destroy the Vatican to be able to say that walls aren't needed to keep out immigrants. In my opinion, it is silly to complain that there is one narrow entrance to St. Peter's. So? Many ancient cities have the same problem. I've seen many old European countries where the streets were extremely narrow and tourist places could not be accessed by car or bus and were quite a walk to get to. It is not a Vatican thing, it is an ancient thing.

    Just to clarify, I still haven't decided on how I feel about a wall being built between the US and Mexico. On the one hand, we have all kinds of criminals (some are not even Mexican) coming across the border. But on the other hand there are hard working people who just want a better life than in an oppressive, socialist country who want to come here.

    On the other hand I do not agree that there is anything wrong with the pope stating his opinion about a wall between nations while living in a "walled" city-state that he does not own, affords little to no privacy, and much of which is open to the public--for free.

    We'll have to agree to disagree about the Vatican. I guess I just don't understand holding resentment for the leader of the universal church having a place to live, eat, and worship.

  5. Whoa! I already stated in the original article that the pope has every "right" to express his personal opinion on things moral/Christian AND that IF Trump is elected, he'll be sworn to protect the "right" of the Freedom of Speech. I'm not sure where the thought of "holding resentment for the leader of the universal church" comes from - I certainly hold no resentment over this! I came to his defense!

    What I did point out is there really isn't any difference between what many in the USA propose (not just Trump) for "the wall" (which is really a "fence" in most places). The Vatican has ONE WAY to enter St. Peter's Square, legally. Try scaling one of those walls/fences and you're going to answer to the Swiss Guard. Likewise, the USA has LEGAL means for immigrants to enter - "the wall/fence" is a deterrent to ILLEGAL immigration. Those who support "the wall" are not opposed to LEGAL immigration.

    I don't think we really disagree on the Vatican. We both agree that the pope deserves whatever privacy he can attain through his wall/fence. Like the original article says too - both Pope Francis and Trump have backed off on the rhetoric and appear to respect each others position.

    I guess my REAL point here is this is a all a case of "Much Ado About Nothing."

    1. Sorry, Scott. I guess I had gotten your argument mixed up with others' arguments I've seen online and was arguing against them, not you. I have been a little frustrated at the late pope-bashing in the media, and there's even been those claiming to be Catholic saying things like "he's not my pope." It was my resentment that came out, I think. Reading back on it, I think I had not understood your position in the first place. I think you're right about two things: We don't really disagree and it is much ado about nothing. I certainly seemed to have gotten riled up about nothing. My apologies.

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