Francis Amoris LaettiaTwins, certainly. Both represent frightened and fed up electors rejecting their own respective establishments. Both Roman Catholic Cardinals and American voters have pinned their hopes upon unlikely figures snatched from the sidelines in what amount to leaps of faith. A Jesuit Pope has remained an oxymoron until now and a presidential candidate not anointed by the two party hierarchy nearly so. The desperation driving these selections also shares a common cause and in another similarity, neither savior seems likely to deliver their supporters’ hopes.

Francis, “The Man Who Had To Be Elected Pope” is caught between an increasingly post-Christian Western population and incipient mutiny from his more conservative clergy. The chasm between his supportive social justice warriors and the opposing heirs of ancient, unalterable doctrine seems unbridgeable as Trump’s no man’s land between his political base and his establishment opponents. Both men are pinned in the gap between women claiming rights to free sex, divorce and abortion and those who deny them. The Pope’s task is simply defined: all that he need accomplish is reconciliation of ancient doctrine with current scientific advances amidst present political realities. The President must reconcile a less ancient, essentially Judeo-Christian Constitution with today’s post-Christian, entitlement mentality amid increasing corruption and economic decline using a fraught political process. Any beta?

Both Pope and President have entered a political battlefield with recently advanced weapons: instant, massive, targeted and personalized communications plus a highly partisan mass media that functions increasingly as a propaganda machine. Francis has updated Vatican communications and built upon Pope John XXIII’s road campaigns as Trump has fully embraced his predecessor’s governance by campaigning, plus tweets. Whether these newly efficient connections between leaders and followers will produce the social changes our Pope and President pursue will have to be seen; they do seem likely to obsolete some middle management..

Trump OppositionBoth of these leaders are men of their time, populists and progressives who look to the collective as their primary tool and to the individual more as material to be shaped and guided. Both also seem to see that shaping and guiding properly shared between Church and State. Francis published his exhortation: “Aoris Laetitia” in support of  his public remarks on marriage, family, homosexuality and other concerns only to arouse immediate, hostile reactions from conservative Cardinals and scholars. His seeds of greater charity regulating human sex and reproduction seem to have landed upon somewhat stony ground.

President Trump has proposed a $54 billion hike in military spending, a trillion dollar infrastructure program including his border wall, a large tax cut and reduction of the national debt. If our Pope and President appear to be speaking from both sides of their mouths, that is no accident; both must somehow balance between incredibly divided followers. An elected Pope is no less a politician than an elected president; when they are forced to address unreconciled constituents in public, politicians resort to double speak. Popes do have one advantage: They can do it in Latin.

In President Trump’s U.S. the average family’s share of the Federal debt is some $166,000; that family’s share of all American debt is about $866,000. And that half of U.S. households have less than one month’s income available for emergencies. How will all that debt be repaid? The E.U. and other places have debt issues too. Western Christianity and finances are mutually unsustainable. Recoveries from such severe conditions have historically involved great pain, drawn out long enough to permit the necessary alterations of attitudes, followed by reorganization under revised rules. Elderly Popes and term-limited presidents in power when such societal dam breaks occur are more often blamed for the pain than able to preside over any eventual recovery. Our Pope and the President have to know that. So what may they hope to accomplish?

High-ranking churchmen defending traditional Catholicism have advertised made the Pope’s dilemma enough; he can jettison either a couple of millennia of church doctrine or increasing numbers of the modern faithful instead. Francis hardly wishes open schism. He has referred to his advanced age and his short time on stage. About all he can safely attempt is to point the way with enough obfuscation that his conservatives cannot find an excuse for public schism. He can try to open a door through which his successors may lead the faithful when – and if – that moment comes. However revolutionary this Pope’s ideas, he can’t afford to open the revolution. Still, if it is delayed too long, his revolution may not save his church. Vive Francois!

President Trump heads a government that de facto abandoned its founders’ Constitution some time ago while pretending de jure for political reasons to respect it. While Trump maximizes his personal influence via the new communications tools, his political opponents use those too with mass media reinforcement. The President is massively vilified, his actions regularly protested and taken to court, his minions urged toward disobedience and his allies prompted toward boycotts against him. Trump’s opponents are trying to deprive his administration of the ability to govern.

After the Trump Administration’s Constitutional emplacement by America’s voters, this attempted mutiny by Trump’s opponents is not only an attack upon the President but one upon the Constitution and upon the principle of democratic government. Trump’s opponents accuse him of absolutist tendencies but it is they who are displaying them at the moment.

In search of a conclusion, any return toward small, limited, originalist Constitutional government seems unlikely under Trump and still less likely under his opponents. Trump, like Francis, captains a mutinous ship of state. He too will be limited in his accomplishment, the more so if the inevitable financial crunch materializes on his watch, as it did for another GOP president, Herbert Hoover.

So no, Pope Francis and President Trump are no revolutionaries; they are both but modern political populists, moderately progressive iconoclasts who are stuck leading organizations evolving out of social, political and economic patterns no longer accepted by enough people. Both have been scooped up by threatened voters like old style mail sacks scooped up by a passing train. Both see the dangers on the track ahead and neither can be sure of their train’s ultimate destination. Some of us wish that these men were less certain of the efficacy of government in the accomplishment of their goals, given the troubled history of that approach. Both seem men of good will and at least the Pope is a pro at prayer.

Hang on for these rides; in another railroad analogy, our Pope and President may find that while they can start and stop well enough, steering is limited.

About Jack Curtis

Suspicious of government, doubtful of economics, fond of figure skating (but the off-ice part, not so much) Couple of degrees in government, a few medals in figure skating; just reading and suspicion for economics ...
This entry was posted in Economics, Goverrnment, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Short Little Rebel says:

    Hi Jack, I really can’t see the analogy. The only thing where they may be the same is that they lead bodies that oppose them. And I’m not entirely sure the Pope leads a rebellious body. Four cardinals don’t represent a full rebellion. And I would hardly call Trump a ‘progressive’ by any means. In what way has he demonstrated any desire to shape individuals? He seems completely uncaring about what people do in the bedroom or in the bathroom. He is all about good business, the economy and foreign relations. When Oh, add national defense to that as well. These are all conservative concerns, not progressive concerns. When some people tried to trap him concerning abortion and women’s rights, he goofed that up because I don’t think the guy has ever given it a single thought in his life. I really don’t think he cares what people do in that area. He is the last person who wants the government to tell people how to live their personal lives. As a Christian conservative, I support that. I know that some Christians think the government should get involved in those types of decisions, but not me. I am a strict conservative and believe morality is with the individual and God. NOT the government. Marriage even lies with the Church- as it always has. Government only RECOGNIZES what the church has put together. That is all. Government has never created marriage. I believe that this is how Trump thinks- without even thinking about it!

    A progressive, on the other hand, wants government in every aspect of life. AND he wants the end of a USA government in favor of one world government today. Francis is the biggest progressive there is. In his address to the world (forgot the name of that address- but there was only one), he boldly stated that ALL, including the USA, national soveriegnties should END, slowly and painfully, and be given over to the UN for the sake of the ENVIRONMENT!!! Outrageous. And of course, he stated that the Catholic church was the only true church and that all others needed to come back under its guidance. He is the first pope to say that the Catholic church shouldn’t worry so much about abortion and homosexuality. And now, he is being deceptively vague on his stance on divorce and remarriage when Christ was absolutely clear on the matter. He is PROGRESSIVE.

    How can you compare the two or say that Trump is ‘progressive’?

    You also say that both are unlikely to bring any significant change and yet both have already brought massive change to their organizations. Trump has already gotten rid of the TPP (which most have taken the entirety of Obama’s 8 years of presidency to negotiate), a monstrosity built in secret under our very noses; has stricken down the restrictions on coal and energy production in America, has rewritten major parts of our immigration policy, is leading a major change in health care (we’ll see how that goes), and for the good or bad of it, is making major moves militarily across the globe. He seems to be getting what he wants in major ways. I think Trump, if he survives, will make major waves during his presidency. As to the Pope, just look at his popularity! All of Hollywood adores him! He’s been on the cover of major magazines because pop culture loves his progressive stances. He is rocking the world. I think his sheer personality will fill the church pews again- and the church coffers. Who doesn’t want to be forgiven of the sins of divorce, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, etc, from the Catholic Church? Those are the things that drove all the people away from that faith in the first place! Once those cardinals see the full pews again, they will quiet down, no doubt. That’s my thought, anyway.

    Just thought I’d weigh in.

    • Jack Curtis says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. We seem to see His Holiness similarly, a living exemple of why there has never been a Jesuit pope until now. Whether he is saving the church or attacking it will take more time than I have left to be inarguable, seems to me. If I understand correctly, you are calling me out more with respect to Trump. He does not, I must agree, seem an exponent of the Bernie Sanders Left; still, he is no conservative pursuing small government and limited power. Rather, he is at present, a big spender and bigger borrower aimed at more foreign war, more military expansion, more (“infrastructure”) FDR New Deal programs, more government financed social programs (“Trumpcare”) and hereby necessarily, the detailed controls of human behavior injerent in such.

      Political progressives are at bottom, simply those who equate more government with more progress, defining all suchprogress as productive for citizens, isn’t iot? The Founders opposed that; in his “Democracy in america” of 1835 ir sim si dud Alexis de Toqueville, if I remember rightly. (No pun intended) I not only appreciate your thoughts, but really can’t disagree with them; I suspect that we simply use some different definitions here and there, probably a result of the length of time since I learned those that I use …

      • Short Little Rebel says:

        Hi Jack, well, like the Pope, I think the jury is still out with Trump. I am not here to defend him. I’m just not ready to claim he is a progressive yet. I can’t see how you can already conclude him to be a big government, big spender, controller of human behavior type of guy yet. He has decided to increase the military. But that has ALWAYS been a conservative priority, always. And I would want it to be so. Trumpcare is to be a cut to Obamacare. I’m glad of it. Cutting is a conservative theme. Trump is stopping the flow of illegal immigration. That is a conservative value. I don’t see that as an attack on individual freedoms. Those people aren’t citizens. They are law breakers and Trump is upholding law and order- another conservative value. Trump has created a law that curbs regulation on industry- if a new regulation is created, two must be removed- that is a conservative value: ie, less regulations = less government. He removed us from international ‘trade deals’ (out of the treacherous TPP and working on NAFTA) that were weakly disguised attempts to weaken our sovereignty. That is a conservative value! I’m not sure how he is increasing government, other than increasing the military?? And how is he limiting individual freedoms?

        I am, however, waiting to see him do something wonderful like truly get rid of Obamacare, get rid of federal education & return control to the states & simplify Taxes. While we still have all three legislative ‘houses’.

        If he tries to take away citizen’s freedoms to curb illegal immigration, then I would have a problem. And I am shocked at the bombs he has dropped, frankly, and want to know why he did it. To me, if he has no plan of a full scale war, don’t do it. For sure, these terrorists have no fear of a bomb or two. They don’t own the land or the property that got bombed. That’s what makes them terrorists. They aren’t injured by a military response.

        Jack, Trump might turn out to be ok, or he might turn out to be horrible. I just think it is too early to make a determination. Let us see what he actually accomplishes. His mouth says one thing and he does another. I can’t tell if he is a genius or a giant idiot.

        For me, the jury is out, way out. I reserve judgement.
        (p.s. believe it or not, I don’t reserve judgement on this pope, however. He is a progressive through and through. His first encyclical speech to the world, he said PLAINLY and boldly that all world governments must ‘give up their sovereignty’ to the UN because of the environment. He said it would be slow and painful but that it ‘must’ be done. And of course, the Catholic Church was the ‘only’ true church and all other churches must come back under its cloak to be legitimate. Such daring cheek! Nope, I can’t stand the guy. He is a progressive through and through. No wonder Hollywood loves him.

      • Jack Curtis says:

        “Each man kills the thing he loves … The coward does it with a word, the brave man with a sword”

        I respect Francis and Trump for their obvious intentions: reclaiming their pieces of the world from oncoming disaster. But the church restored by Francis will no longer be the church that he wishes to save. I don’t deny Trump for his intentions either; it is simply that he like Francis uses government to accomplish (or tries to, anyway) his goals where it is government that that has brought the condition needing correction. And nor does present government have the resources or even apparently, the willingness to move as he directs, another issue Trump shares with His Holiness.

        Regardless, I devoutly wish your more hopeful stance proves out with our President.

      • Short Little Rebel says:

        me too. I’m not really a Trump supporter. I truly don’t know what to think of him yet. I don’t like many of his actions and am truly baffled by them. I can’t see the upside to them. But I just didn’t think your comment was warranted yet. It may well end up being warranted, however. Only time will tell. I hope and pray that Trump is what he said he was.

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