Trump And The Catholic Schism No religion can survive long, or fruitfully, in fundamental conflict with the culture of its time.

Pastors from the Las Vegas area pray with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a visit to the International Church of Las Vegas, and International Christian Academy, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Pastors from the Las Vegas area pray with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a visit to the International Church of Las Vegas, and International Christian Academy, (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump, while speaking to his conspiracy-theory-fueled Commission on Election Integrity on Wednesday (44 states have in part rejected its demands to hand over voter information in a search for millions of fraudulent votes; many consider it more a voter-suppression effort), described its work as a “sacred duty.”

As with anytime the president veers towards the religious, the phrase did not convince.

Trump has less spiritual depth than a puddle. And yet, remarkably, his presidency has been characterized by an unusually high pitch of religious rhetoric.

It’s not just the Muslim ban and Islamophobic sentiments, which have driven some Muslim Americans to fear for their safety or view once-welcoming towns as suddenly hostile places.

It’s not just Trump’s sucking up — particularly on abortion and contraception — toward Evangelical Christians, 75 per cent of whom voted for him, and 64 per cent of whom still strongly approved of his presidential performance in April, according to the Pew Research Centre.

The general schism wrought by his leadership (such as it is) between progressives and moderates on one hand, and ultra-conservatives on the other, has revealed a divide within American Christianity, particularly Catholicism.

Pope Francis’ criticisms of Trump began during the campaign, when he disapproved of the Mexican wall, and extended to the presidency with his criticisms of anti-environmentalism policies. Last week, a Vatican-vetted op-ed from a member of the Pope’s inner circle eviscerated what it deemed “evangelical fundamentalism,” condemning its ideology, accusing leaders of twisting biblical teachings, calling out Steve Bannon by name and comparing evangelicals to Daesh, deeming each a “cult of an apocalypse.”

On the weekend, the New York Times ran a front-page article comparing two New York cardinals — the conservative Joseph Tobin and the Francis-appointed progressive Timothy Dolan — as illustrations of a wider breach in the faith that is less about doctrine, and more about modern politics.

And some Pennsylvania American nuns (a group known for progressive activism) have built an outdoor chapel on what they claim is holy land to block a proposed gas pipeline.

When Trump was ramping-up deportations of undocumented immigrants in the spring, it was U.S. Catholic bishops who decried the efforts (though they supported Trump’s reinstatement of a ban on U.S. funding for any international organization which offers abortions).


There is no simple way to slice the divide. In 2013, Pew found that three-quarters of U.S. Catholics approve of birth control and only a third view homosexuality as a sin — clear contradictions of Catholic doctrine. Race plays a role, too: White Catholics were more likely to support abortion rights than Hispanics, the survey found.

As a Catholic myself, however, the divisions make perfect sense. No religion can survive long, or fruitfully, in fundamental conflict with the culture of its time. This is a world, particularly in the West, resolutely and doggedly walking towards greater acceptance of one another and our responsibilities to our planet. Many Catholics are on that path, and it’s not as if the church’s history isn’t strewn with examples of radical lefties committed to Jesus rather than the church hierarchy.

Trump is merely an instigator; a man who’s far less important than what he has revealed about the American public itself.

He is forcing religious progressives to stake claim to their politics, in opposition to his. And complicating Christianity for the rest.


The Pope’s New Message: Quit Your Whining – “Stop complaining and take steps to improve your life.”


Thou shalt not whine. 

Pope Francis has posted a sign on the door of his residence at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican warning complainers to cut it out and get busy making things better:

The sign, written in Italian, warns that people who violate the “no whining” policy are “subject to a syndrome of always feeling like a victim and the consequent reduction of your sense of humor and capacity to solve problems,” according to Reuters. 

It also says the penalty is double for people who gripe in the presence of children.  

“To get the best out of yourself, concentrate on your potential and not on your limitations,” the sign states. “Stop complaining and take steps to improve your life.” 

Motivational speaker Salvo Noé presented the pope with the sign last month, reports Vatican Insider, which first posted the image of it.

The pope has repeatedly spoken out against complaining, at one point warning that Christians who whine too much “have more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life,” according to Crux. 


Pope Francis Calls For ‘Revolution Of Tenderness’ In Surprise TED Talk

Pope Francis speaks during the TED Conference, urging people to connect with and understand others, during a video presentation at the annual scientific, cultural and academic event in Vancouver, Canada, April 25, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Glenn CHAPMAN (Photo credit should read GLENN CHAPMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

“A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you.”

Pope Francis delivered a stern warning to the world’s powerful, saying they need to be more humble or face ruin, and he called on the masses to join him in a “revolution of tenderness.” 

In a surprise appearance via video at the TED 2017 conference in Vancouver, Canada, on Tuesday evening, the pontiff said that tenderness is “the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women.”

“Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

The Washington Post reports that Bruno Giussani, TED’s international curator, spent a year trying to snag the pope for a talk. The newspaper reports that when the pontiff appeared on screen, “the room erupted in applause.” 

He spoke in Italian, with the comments translated in subtitles, from Vatican City. 

Francis spoke of being from a family of migrants, urged more “equality and social inclusion” in science, decried the “culture of waste” and called on people to listen to the “silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth.”

He also said we all have the capacity to “react against evil.” 

“Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.” 

But the pope’s unifying message for a conference themed “The Future You” was one of a revolution of tenderness … a revolution, he said, that begins with hope.

“A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another ‘you,’ and another ‘you,’ and it turns into an ‘us.’ And so, does hope begin when we have an ‘us’? No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ When there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.”


Why Do We Choose To Survive After Tragedy?

TEDxMidwest Pope Francis Calls For ‘Revolution Of Tenderness’ In Surprise TED Talk

Why did my brother warn me against reading this book? It’s so good! I thought to myself, as I quickly devoured the pages of JoJo Moyes bestseller titled Me Before You. It was an uplifting tale about a young man who rediscovers love and laughter after a devastating spinal cord injury left him in a dangerous pool of depression. Finding myself at times in my own, albeit more shallow, pool of depression, I knew this story was exactly what I needed to remind me that I could find meaning in my life after my stroke.

As I continued reading, anticipating the feel-good happy ending with a girl saving the boy’s life with the power of love, my heart began to quicken. But as I flipped the page, confusion began to silence the hopeless romantic inside of me. Wait…what’s going on?! I felt my chest tighten as my euphoria began to slip away, rushing away from me with every labored breath. NO, this isn’t supposed to be happening! I almost yelled aloud as hot tears began to sting my eyes and cloud my vision, realizing the reason for my brother’s prudence.

Unconditional support from his family, requited and irresistible love from a woman, financial stability, laughter, adventure – it all wasn’t enough for him. Spoiler alert: He chooses to end his life through assisted suicide. He chooses to die rather than to live a life with a disability. My heart broke for the loved ones he had left behind, and my heart broke for me – knowing that my tears would soon lead to dark thoughts and terrifying nightmares that would once again find their footing in my soul.

Once again, I found myself wondering, what makes life worth living? What makes life worth surviving? Before my stroke, these questions would have been the unwelcome villains in my fairytale-like world. The meaning I saw and felt in my life every single day was undeniable. My charmed world – accented by extraordinary friends, bursting with big dreams, and topped off with a whole lot of love – would have thrown any storybook princess into a fit of reality show-worthy jealous rage. But now, these questions haunted my every moment, and without a sufficient answer, I had no way of quieting them.

While I have made some tremendous progress in rehabilitation over the past several years, my life is still a struggle. It is not easy living in this body, in this life. My life is a constant circus of disabling circumstances and suffocating limitations – unyielding boundaries restricting who and what I can be, when the sky used to be my only limit. I have to accept that I rarely get to see my friends anymore, and even when I do, I feel inadequate. I have to accept my nearly complete dependence on, and burden to, every person around me for the foreseeable future, and possibly, the rest of my life. I have to accept that I will have to pursue a career I’m not passionate about but is conducive to my physical limitations. Worst of all, I have to accept the real possibility that I’ll never find love – that I’ll never get to have a wedding or raise a family of my own.

These are harsh realities, the bitterest of pills, and I’m being forced to swallow every last bit of it. The chance to end all of this, to escape this limited life I’m forced to accept – I would be lying if I said that wasn’t a tad tempting. I can’t find too much to believe in nowadays. I guess I believe, wholeheartedly, that Rory will end up with Jess in the Gilmore Girls re-revival, but not even that is guaranteed.

I do believe in three simple, yet powerful things, the antidotes to the poison – my mother, my father, and my brother – and honestly, that’s enough for me. But I used to live for more. I used to dream of more and believe in more. Paul Kalanithi stated in his memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, “Severe illness wasn’t life-altering, it was life-shattering. It felt less like an epiphany—a piercing burst of light, illuminating What Really Matters—and more like someone had just firebombed the path forward.” I think this is a universal feeling for anyone going through a hard time, but how, and more importantly, why do we choose to find a new path forward?

In a TED talk by Aimee Mullins, Paralympian, model and actress, she says that all society asks of any one person is to be of use, to contribute in some way. What if the young man in the novel had chosen to survive? He might have had to swallow a hell of a lot of pride and ego to accept his new dependent life, but he would have found his use – his purpose – in being there for his family, in planning a future with his new lady, or even in a career that made use of his savvy intellect and charm. Maybe, a life lived with a purpose is a life worth living. And a life that’s able to find its purpose is a life worth surviving – if only he had given his new life a chance.

Mullins goes on to add a piece about the act of survival that’s often overlooked. She says, “There’s evidence that Neanderthals, 60,000 years ago, carried their elderly and those with serious physical injury, and perhaps it’s because the life experience of survival of these people proved of value to the community.” It’s as if the insight gained by merely surviving a situation and enduring the pain that comes with it is rare, and powerful. In my experience, I’ve discovered that people who have survived their own personal tragedy treat me with a type of incredible empathy that cannot be taught, only felt. It’s as if their survival has given them some deeper knowledge and understanding of the world, of people, and of adversity.

I haven’t found my purpose yet, but I’m willing to keep searching, and that is the crucial difference. Because of their circumstances or because of their pain, some aren’t willing or able to keep searching, and that is heartbreaking but understandable in its own way. But, I want to give this new life a chance. I want to forge a new path forward. I want to not only survive this, but thrive in spite of this. Some may say it’s because of a survival instinct, some may say it’s because of an inner resilience and tenacity, but one thing is for sure: I want to give this life a chance to surprise me, but in a good way this time. It owes me. Whether it’s because of my family’s support, my progress in physical therapy, or even my constant distraction by Rafa Nadal’s athletic prowess on the Tennis Channel, I’ve managed to hold on to the hope that my life can be good again.

And maybe, I will be a stronger person, with something unique to offer the world because I chose to survive. Whether it’s insights expressed through my writing or compassion shared with my patients or clients in a future career, there may be wisdom to be gained and shared from the mere act of surviving. I think that maybe, my survival will give me my purpose, and my purpose will make my survival, undeniable.