A major and minor announcement from Pope Francis

Pope Francis is in Mexico this week, and as such he has commented on some of the pressing issues facing the country.

First up, Donald Trump. From the New York Times:

Pope Francis on Wednesday suggested that Donald J. Trump “is not Christian” because of the harshness of his campaign promises to deport more immigrants and force Mexico to pay for a wall along the border.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said when a reporter asked him about Mr. Trump on the papal airliner as he returned to Rome after his six-day visit to Mexico.

To be fair, if Donald Trump’s desire to build a big, beautiful wall on the Mexican border is grounds for excommunication, then the entire Republican field and most of the Republican Party’s rank and file are going to have to find another religion. Donald Trump is no ethno-nationalist outlier; his immigration platforms isn’t even the most conservative one that Republican primary voters have to choose from. That one belongs to Ted Cruz.

True to form, Trump hit back at the Pope with a positively bizarre response, suggesting that Pope Francis’s lack of support for Trump is inviting an attack from ISIS — and that the Pope, being a religious leader, is disqualified from commenting on someone else’s faith. As his campaign wrote in a press release:

If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.

The Mexican government and its leadership has (sic) made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The Pope only heard one side of the story – he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation.

For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.

Although, not for nothing, it isn’t exactly as if the Catholic Church has anything against walls in principle.

That being said, Pope Francis’s comments about Trump have almost completely drowned out the actually important thing he said today. While we’re all rubbernecking at the rhetorical boxing match taking place between Donald Trump and the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the leader of the Catholic faith made a huge admission: that artificial contraception is acceptable for Catholics to use in the context of the Zika outbreak in Latin America.

From ABC News:

Pope Francis. neneo / Shutterstock.com

Pope Francis. neneo / Shutterstock.com

With the mosquito-borne Zika virus continuing to spread through Central and South America, Pope Francis said today that contraception could be seen as “the lesser of two evils” if women are concerned about having children with the birth defectmicrocephaly.

The Zika virus is usually mild, but has been associated with a rise of the alarming birth defect, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain, often leading to significant developmental delays.

The pope compared the situation to a decree issued by Pope Paul VI, which said nuns in Africa could use contraception due to the threat of rape.

“Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil,” Francis said. “In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also ask doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.”

That’s a huge deal — and a reversal from a Vatican announcement last week insisting that contraception was not an acceptable precaution to take against contracting the virus. By confirming that outright celibacy isn’t the only option for the millions of Catholic women who live in the countries most affected by the Zika outbreak, Pope Francis has conceded that some things really are worse than condoms. It’s a major and unusual step for a Pope to take, but it’s a welcome one.

Now, about that whole HIV epidemic…

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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