The Vatican has accused American Catholics of being too soft on Donald Trump. The pontiff also believes their too leniant on right-wing forces which currently hold power in the United States.
According to the New York Times, two close associates of Pope Francis have accused American Catholics of forming an alliance with Evangelicals. The authors writing in the Vatican approved journal, La Civilta Cattolica, have singled out Steve Bannon as a source of “apocalyptic geopolitics’, who has denied the forces of climate change and stoked fears of Muslims and immigrants.
Evangelicals and Catholics
Evangelicals were a major support bloc for Donald Trump during his election campaign late last year. Over 80% of evangelicals voted for the Republican candidate. White evangelicals are the religious grouping which most identifies with the Republican Party.
The Vatican now believes that American Catholics have become too entangled in the deep political polarisation currently taking over US politics. Ultra-conservative Catholics share many of the same social beliefs as Evangelicals regarding same-sex marriage, divorce and abortion. In forming a political alliance with Trumpism, they are at risk of isolating themselves from the Vatican. Rome, especially in recent times, has preached about tolerance and understanding.
The election of Pope Francis as leader of the Roman Catholic Church marked a significant change in the policy of the church. The first Latin American Pope, he comes from a different world view to that of his predecessors. Pope Francis has made a series of announcements during his tenure which is quite radical for a Catholic pontiff. In May 2013, he claimed that he believed that atheists can also go to heaven if they live good and honourable lives. He said “who am I to judge” when asked about his view of homosexuality.
In his role as head of the Catholic Church, he has slammed the excesses of capitalism. Highlighting the poverty caused by globalisation, he said: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” The Pope has also declared that the world has a moral obligation to tackle climate change.
Split in the Church
All of these views put him at odds with the politics of Trumpism, and the current White House administration. As a Latin American Pope, he has had an uncomfortable relationship with Catholics in North America. While liberation theology flourished in the southern Americas, US Catholicism became more hardline. Many within the Vatican believe that Catholics in the United States have diverged from Catholics in Europe and Latin America.
Furthermore, such a split could cause problems for the Catholic Church. It is attempting to negotiate its way through the minefield of global politics. A recent meeting between Pope Francis and Trump could be best described as uncomfortable from the Pontiff’s perspective. With growing tensions between the United States and Russia, the church will be keen to witness itself as a mediator in any potential hardening of relations.
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