Pope Francis implicitly criticized Donald Trump as not a Christian when he said, regarding Trump's proposed policy to build a wall between the USA and Mexico and immediately deport all illegal immigrants,:

"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the [message of the] gospel."
Pope Francis - CNN - February 18, 2016

Naturally, Trump disagreed with this entirely, saying that "No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith" (ibid).

All politics aside and whether Pope Francis' actions lie within some American taboo, did Pope Francis overstep some known Catholic boundary when he chose to enter the fray of politics in the United States by expressing an opinion about the religious faith of a candidate?

  • 4
    Nice question, but given the history of the Papacy includes the excommunication of monarchs, what makes you think there is a line at all?
    – user3961
    Feb 20, 2016 at 0:46
  • 3
    Can you quote the Pope's words?
    – user900
    Feb 20, 2016 at 0:59
  • I'm shore the Pope was not speaking ex cathedra, that does not mean he is wrong.
    – Marc
    Feb 20, 2016 at 2:17
  • Historically, popes have explicitly mentioned political leaders.
    – Geremia
    Feb 20, 2016 at 2:33
  • 1
    The Papal office has been exercising political muscle and criticizing heads of state since about the third century after Christ. Pope Francis did exactly what one would expect of someone in his position.
    – JRystedt
    Feb 21, 2016 at 19:34

4 Answers 4


There is no doctrine, policy or convention in the Catholic church that prevents a priest, or any church leader, from pronouncing on the rightness of some action or belief.

Historically, over the last thousand years or so, the Pope and other church leaders have pronounced on the policies and conduct of many world leaders. In recent times the Pope has condemned Apartheid, Communism, the Rwandan genocide, restrictions on the Cuban church, and much else.

It has to be pointed out that Pope Francis did not pronounce Trump a non-Christian, but pronounced the actions described to him by a questioner as those of a non-Christian, leaving open at least the possibility that the actions described in the question did not accurately reflect Trump's stance. Trump is also far from the only Presidential candidate both advocating wall-building and claiming to be Christian.

  • Does the church advise its followers to vote for Catholics whenever possible?
    – Kris
    Feb 23, 2016 at 14:43
  • You could ask that as a question. Feb 23, 2016 at 14:47
  • @Kris Excellent question! What do you mean by whenever possible? You should ask the question as DJClayworth suggests.
    – Ken Graham
    Feb 23, 2016 at 15:49
  • @Kris An interesting bit of history is that JFK was questioned about his allegiance to the country over the papacy, and so also was Mitt Romney about his allegiance to the LDS church. This is certainly a politically reoccurring issue.
    – user3961
    Feb 23, 2016 at 18:24

Pope Francis did not run afoul of any Catholic policy by criticizing Trump but the Vatican was quick to issue an explanation that is a walk back from the perception left originally that the Pope considered Trump not Christian the quote below taken from the Daily mail:


'This wasn't in any way a personal attack, nor an indication of who to vote for.

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 said what we already know, if we followed his teaching and positions: We shouldn't build walls, but bridges.

He has always said that, continuously. He also said that in relation to migration in Europe many times.

So this is not a specific issue, limited to this particular case.

It's his generic view, coherent with the nature of solidarity from the Gospel.'

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi

Read the story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3454720/Popes-comments-Trump-not-personal-attack-papal-spokesman.html

  • 1
    Your certainly giving some good info, but haven't actually answered the question. Did the pope break some protocol or rules?
    – user3961
    Feb 23, 2016 at 18:08

A better question would be, should Pope Francis consider Trump a Christian at all, since, in the Catechism, it is taught that "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus", or "outside the Church there is no salvation". Just as those who did not board the Ark were not saved. And Church history has been clear that Protestants are not considered Christian because they do not follow the teachings of Christ (in a Catholic point of view, of course).

For example, if the Pope was to call a protestant, who does not eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus (in the Eucharist), then how can he call them Christian if Christ said "Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you will not have life in you." Someone who does not have life in them is not Christian, and not of Christ and are obviously lost.

Aside from doctrinal problems, should the Pope of the Catholic Church (this is the context) criticize anyone's Christianity?

Well, the Pope, as head of the Church, is believed to have been endowed by Christ with the keys to heaven and to bind and unbind ("bind and loose")... well, binding doctrines and laws. So he can exercise the authority to excommunicate people out of the Catholic Church, bu to someone like Trump, who is not inside the Church, it doesn't make much sense. He also has the authority to say someone is not being Christ-like or is a hypocrite, liar etc, if they are openly (which Trump has not been), but anyone has that power. In Catholic teaching, no one can be saved except through the Church, so to comment on Trump's Christianity is actually ignorant of the Pope.

On a side note, why does Pope Francis have a problem with building a wall, only when Trump says it, and not those who also agree one is needed (there already is a wall)? And more importantly, why didn't the Pope have a problem with Obama mocking the Sermon on the Mount, considered to be one of Christ's greatest speeches. I needn't mention the needles war crimes but I'm digressing.

  • 1
    @SuperCookie47 Your sidenote has notplace in an answer. It might make a comment, but it's clearly an attempt to provoke discussion rather than answers. Feb 22, 2016 at 23:41
  • 1
    @SuperCookie47 Glad you found the quote. I've added it to the question and made sure that it doesn't invite any politics because that would be off-topic. You do bring up an interesting point, that Trump, being not Catholic, is already implicitly not Christian, according to the Catechism. However, I think Francis chose his words wisely, criticizing the act explicitly as not Christian. He did not say "Trump is not Christian", but he did say that a certain unique policy of Trump's is not Christian. I think the question at it's heart wants to know if the Pope moved against any Catholic mores.
    – user3961
    Feb 23, 2016 at 0:28
  • 1
    If you want this answer to be better received on this site, then you should at least remove the side note at the end. I would also refrain from calling the Pope ignorant. Some of our users are Catholic and that word choice will be perceived as rude.
    – user3961
    Feb 23, 2016 at 0:32
  • 1
    @DJClayworth I did no such thing. The Catechism allows for salvation outside the church as a maybe (it literally uses the word "may"). Of course this depends on God's ultimate judgement and the heart of the person at hand. That is a separate issue from Protestants being considered Christians, in the Catholic sense of the word, by its criteria. Feb 23, 2016 at 14:38
  • 1
    @DJClayworth Also, the Catechism says that Protestants have an "imperfect" union, so to speak, with the Church. It doesn't mean they are practising the faith we Catholics believe to be the "One, Holy, Catholic and apostolic Church". Feb 23, 2016 at 14:41

891 of the Catechism states:

The Roman Pontiff, head of the College of Bishops, enjoys the infallibility of the virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful--who confirms with all the brethren of the faith--he proclaims as a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.

It seems clear he is within his bounds.


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