A Catholic Response to Trump/ism

“Thus saith the Lord: Execute judgment and justice, and deliver him that is oppressed out of the hand of the oppressor: and afflict not the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, nor oppress them unjustly: and shed not innocent blood in this place.” – Jeremiah 22:3

Trump won. And in some sense, that’s understandable. The issue isn’t with Trump per se. He is surely not a virtuous man, and will come and go. The issue is that Trumpism has capitalized on a large segment of the working class that has been abandoned, to a large extent, by the left. The question that should be asked then is: what must be done to combat these reactionary ideas? We must remember that, as Catholics, we have a long tradition of resistance to fascism and xenophobic nationalism. Let us utilize that tradition by resolutely opposing fascism and xenophobic nationalism in all of its forms by providing an alternative conception of a just polity to counteract the rising tide of nationalism.

With a Trump presidency being a reality, it is reasonable to expect three things. Firstly, a rise in nationalism. This is obvious and is already happening, but as a result of this (because, let’s remember, we are dealing with American nationalism/nativism here) we will also see a rise in anti-Catholic sentiment (in fact, we are seeing this with some Trump supporters already. Some who, paradoxically, are Catholic themselves.) Secondly, we will then probably see a cooptation of Catholicism à la German Positive Christianity (something which can be seen by the many clergy who supported Trump.) And thirdly, an increased targeting of racialized religious minorities and ethnic minorities. We must be prepared to fight against all of these things. Therefore, it is crucial that we be in solidarity with all those who will be affected by his policies and actions.

Yet, “why should we oppose any of this?” you may ask. The answer is simple: because fascism and xenophobic nationalism strikes at the very core of Catholicism in a multitude of ways. Fascism and xenophobic nationalism either explicitly or implicitly deny the universality of the common good, that of their being a “common end” to humanity. In some cases, fascism and xenophobic nationalism sometimes even calls into question the very existence of “humanity” or of their being any such thing as human solidarity in the first place. Thus, Pope Paul VI rightly warns of those “other obstacles to creation of a more just social order and to the development of world solidarity: nationalism and racism”: obstacles that we are surely dealing with now.1 Moreover, fascism and xenophobic nationalism seeks to dehumanize and instrumentalize some segment of the population. There is always some Other which must be dehumanized and viewed as less than human so that either the State, Europe, The White Race, etc., can exist. In short, fascism and xenophobic nationalism are both a type of political paganism; for both engage in what Pope Pius XI’s calls in his encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno the “pagan worship of the State.”2

Furthermore, Trump’s plan of deporting undocumented immigrants and their families violates the natural right to a stable existence for families, regardless of whether or not they are “citizens.”3 We must be firm in our opposition to it. Additionally, Catholics must also pressure the state to affirm the “inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance”4 and oppose “whatever is opposed to life itself”5 such as “subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation.”6 Moreover, against Trump’s temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the US, immigration laws must conform to the “criteria of equity and balance”7

Thus, Catholics must therefore engage in real concrete solidarity with those individuals and families, because, as St. John Paul II stated in his 1996 message on World Migration Day, the migrant’s “irregular legal status cannot allow the migrant to lose his dignity, since he is endowed with inalienable rights, which can neither be violated nor ignored.”8 (Something which is reaffirmed by Benedict XVI.) Indeed, we must work as Catholics to combat the xenophobia that exists in our own parish. What form must this solidarity take, then? According to St, John Paul II, “the first way to help these people is to listen to them in order to become acquainted with their situation, and, whatever their legal status with regard to State law, to provide them with the necessary means of subsistence.”9

In short, Catholics should engage in concrete opposition to laws and actions that seek to deny the rights of the migrant. Yet, we must not demonize those individuals who supported Trump (though it may be necessary to confront them as a social group) because nature abhors a vacuum, and Trump filled that vacuum. Nonetheless, we must struggle against those groups in society that seek to perpetuate xenophobic nationalism and division. An effective way to combat these forces is for Catholics to focus on organizing itself as a politically force. And to put forward a vision of society which, contrary to the xenophobic nationalism of Donald Trump/ism, seeks to “integrate all within a communion that is not based on ethnic, cultural or social membership, but on the common desire to accept God’s word and to seek justice.”10

1 Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter. Popolorum Progressio. 26 Mar. 1967.
2 Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Letter. Non Abbiamo Bisogno. 29 June. 1931.
3 http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jul/28/karen-bass/mass-deportation-latino-families/
4 Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter. Caritas in Veritate. 29 June. 2009.
5 Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World — Gaudium et Spes, Promulgated by Pope Paul VI. [Vatican City]: 1965.
6 Pastoral Constitution On The Church In The Modern World — Gaudium et Spes, Promulgated by Pope Paul VI. [Vatican City]: 1965.
7 “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.” Vatican: The Holy See.
8 John Paul II, World Migration Day, 1996
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.

Anthony Fisher, formerly Albrecht Bastian, is a freelance writer.


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