The Catholic Church and Donald Trump

by Daniel Smiechowski

There are approximately 78 million Catholics in America. Fifty percent of them voted for President Obama in 2012. Donald J. Trump has a problem if history is a window to this election.

The name Donald is a Celtic baby name meaning dark stranger. The American Conference of Catholic Bishops ought to take this stranger seriously otherwise collection plates throughout the southwest will be clean as a whistle. America’s Catholic Church is at a crossroads. Learn from the past or continue with past mistakes.

In perhaps one of the strangest presidential campaigns in modern presidential history, the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party is set to realign or redefine the GOP. The devil in the details may come back to haunt the campaign of Donald Trump. Truth may indeed be the first casualty of war, but the past one hundred years of political history offer a lesson in why Donald Trump and his supporters will follow the Dodo bird to extinction.

Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the US Mexican border is anachronistic and a throwback to building moats around castles in the Middle Ages. His vulgar, irrational and plain stupid comments regarding the Mexican people fly in the face of the Holy Pontiff.  But Pope Francis understands this inflammatory rhetoric as American Catholics have gone down this road precisely one hundred years before.  Preceding the Great War until the election of Teddy Roosevelts cousin Franklin Roosevelt to President of the United States hate was directed at immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italy and Ireland. Quota laws were standard procedure during those highbrow isolationist years. So again, the more things change, the more things stay the same. It was no coincidence that the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 1928 was a Catholic Al Smith, who lost in a landslide to Businessman Herbert Hoover.  But these are different times where the immigrants of yesteryear are being replaced by Mexicans, Muslims and others.

The massive Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson had buried Democrats in the South during the presidential general election that same year. A few months earlier at the Cow Palace, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona was nominated as the Republican standard bearer. Goldwater lost in a crushing landslide. Many in the Party of Lincoln including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are prostituting their beliefs in favor of electing a so-called Republican in name only? This is proving one of the greatest moral and ethical political dilemmas of modern times. Past Republican moderates, including Henry Cabot Lodge, Pete McClosky, Gerald Ford, Chuck Hegel and others are now relegated to the political graveyard. The Grand old Party is now the bull in a china shop.

The Democratic Party kissed Old Dixie goodbye in taking the moral high road of enacting massive civil rights legislation throughout the South in the middle sixties. Now Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States and proposes the inhumanity of building that massive wall to keep mostly Mexicans from entering the United States. Different intention same result in regard to America’s scapegoating of ethnic divisions among us.  America’s doctrine of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” is precisely what makes our nation stand out as humanitarians offering tolerance, compassion and reason within the breath of humanity. While Pope Francis had rejected the politics of division and hate led by Donald J. Trump, the deafening silence of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops may prove fatal to America’s Catholic Church.

It was not until the 1960 presidential election that John F. Kennedy broke the Catholic barrier. Those same immigrants so maligned during the Twenties were over the moon with joy. My, how they loved the Kennedys. Things are different now and the GOP is on the ropes, fighting for political relevance. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan are heavily Roman Catholic. More immigrants from Pennsylvania are buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy than any state. The former governor of Pennsylvania was a great Jesuit named Robert Casey. His son Bob Casey Jr. is Senator from the Keystone state. It would be prudent of our local Catholic bishop to take a position on Trump. But then again, we all know what happened to another great Jesuit, the late Daniel Berrigan.

Be nice, do good deeds and don’t be a stranger as we at the Clairemont Times value your participation.

Daniel J. Smiechowski has been a resident of Clairemont since 1967 and can be reached at or (858) 220-4613

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