February 10, 2017


Trump’s actions: good and bad

Pope Francis said that “we must wait and see” what President Donald Trump does before passing judgment on him. We didn’t have to wait very long.

No one should be surprised that Trump is doing exactly what he said he was going to do. He is keeping the campaign promises he made, which obviously connected with enough voters for them to elect him president.

From a Catholic perspective, that’s both good and bad.

The good part concerns efforts to restrict abortion. On his first working day in office, one of his executive orders was to reinstate the “Mexico City Policy” that bans foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortions.

Then, on Jan. 27, he sent Vice President Mike Pence to speak during the annual March for Life in Washington, and he sent his own message of support to the marchers, thereby causing the secular media to give more attention to the march than they usually do.

On Jan. 31, he nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch has a track record of supporting religious liberty. He sided with the family that owns Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor in two cases involving the Health and Human Services mandate regarding contraception, abortion and sterilization.

Gorsuch wrote a book against assisted suicide and euthanasia in which he said, “Human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Many Catholics voted for Trump precisely so that he, rather than Hillary Clinton, would choose justices for the Supreme Court.

The bad part of Trump’s actions, from a Catholic perspective, concern immigrants and refugees. First, he issued an executive order to start building a wall on the border with Mexico and ordered the hiring of more immigration officers to enforce the country’s broken immigration laws.

Then he issued an executive order—which is already being challenged in the courts—that temporarily bans entry into the United States of any citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries—Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. It affected many people who already had valid visas to enter the country, even some who were already on planes. It also caused protests throughout the country from people who understand that this is unfair.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, former Archbishop of Indianapolis, for example, said that Trump’s actions were “not rational acts” and called the orders “inhuman policies.” He also vowed to continue resettling refugees in the Newark, N.J., area where he is now archbishop.

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said, “The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values.”

In Indiana, the presidents of the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University and Indiana University all issued statements condemning Trump’s order. So did other university presidents across the country.

Trump has said that he is issuing this temporary ban to protect our country from acts of terrorism, and that it will be lifted after new procedures are in place for more stringent vetting of Muslims seeking to enter the country. However, the current procedures are stringent indeed, including multiple interviews and background studies that usually take three to four years. Those refugee families who were helped to come to Indiana through the services of Catholic Charities were severely vetted before they arrived.

There is every reason to believe that Trump’s presidency will continue much as it has started, i.e., mixed from a Catholic perspective. However, how is that different from the previous presidency of Barack Obama? He, too, did many good things from a Catholic perspective, and many bad things. It’s just that now the roles are reversed.

We praised Obama’s good actions and criticized his bad ones. We will continue to do the same for Donald Trump. Let’s pray that we can praise his actions more often than we criticize them.

—John F. Fink

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