1. The Pontiff and the President: Donald Trump and Pope Francis may be more alike than anyone realizes

By William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2017, Pg. A9, Opinion

The irony here is that Pope Francis and President Trump are more alike than commonly supposed. The similarity begins with how insulting both can be to folks they disagree with. In his presidential bid, Mr. Trump turned name-calling into an art. Jeb Bush became “Low Energy Jeb,” Marco Rubio “Little Marco,” Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” and, most notable of all, Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary.”

But the Holy Father casts a mean first stone himself. The same man who famously said who-am-I-to-judge had no problem—in the thick of a U.S. presidential election—anathematizing anyone who would even think of building a border wall as “not Christian.” Scarcely a year later, just as Mr. Trump was being inaugurated, the pope was back at it, saying he didn’t like “to judge people prematurely” even as he invoked Hitler as a warning about the danger of electing populist leaders.

Mr. Trump is not the only one to feel the papal sting. Manifestly Pope Francis regards a good part of his own flock as deplorables. Whether he’s warning Catholic women not to “breed like rabbits” or suggesting that anyone who disagrees with him must suffer from some psychological defect, there is something distinctively Trumpian about the way Pope Francis speaks about his critics.

With all this, the penchant for insults is not nearly as dispiriting as another Francis-Trump commonality that gets almost no attention: The zero-sum mentality each brings to the debate about trade and a liberalized global economy.

Mr. Trump famously rails against trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement as helping Mexicans and other foreigners at the expense of Americans. Long before he arrived in the Oval Office, he campaigned on the idea that U.S. companies were unpatriotic if they relocated factories overseas. In this cramped view, whether they labor in these factories on their home soil or come here to find work, Mexicans are no more than job-stealers.

Alas, the pope is the other side of the same materialist coin. He treats commerce from North America as but the latest form of yanqui imperialism rather than the liberating investment ordinary Latin Americans so desperately need. He betrays not the slightest understanding of the difference between a genuine free market—in which a little guy with a good idea can challenge the business status quo—and the crony variety that predominates in his native Argentina and much of his home continent.

Typical is the pope’s railing against “unfettered” or “unbridled” capitalism—an abstraction that exists nowhere on this planet.

The pope complains about “an economy that kills,” but it isn’t free-market Hong Kong where citizens are being killed by their economy. It’s socialist Venezuela.

Never does it occur to Pope Francis that one reason economies supposedly based on greed do better by the poor than socialist or “third way” rivals is that, in a system of voluntary exchange, competition means that to succeed businesses must please their customers.


2. Pope Francis, Donald Trump to Seek Common Ground at Vatican: Leaders aim to get past public rancor but are left with few key points of agreement

By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2017, 5:30 AM

When President Donald Trump visits Pope Francis on Wednesday, at the halfway point of a trip the White House has cast as a pilgrimage of peace, the two leaders will have a chance to reset an acrimonious public relationship.

Yet the two men, famously divided on the pope’s signature issues of migration and climate change, could struggle to find significant areas of agreement.

As of last week, representatives of the White House and the Vatican working on the agenda for the meeting had found few common policy priorities, according to someone familiar with the preparations.

Abortion, an issue uniting the Trump administration and American Catholic bishops, is a point of common ground, but isn’t a priority for the pope.

Pope Francis has made a priority of addressing global warming, describing it as a real threat to life on the planet and calling for cutting fossil fuel use to stem it. The White House, to the contrary, is deciding whether the U.S. should withdraw in full from the Paris Agreement to cap emissions.

A main goal of Mr. Trump’s foreign trip—outreach to the Muslim world—is in principle one that could appeal to Pope Francis, who has fervently promoted close relations with Islam. On Sunday in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Trump addressed leaders of dozens of Muslim countries on the need to confront extremist ideologies and promote a peaceful version of Islam.

That could offer a point of convergence with Pope Francis, who issued a forceful call against religiously inspired violence in a speech in Cairo, Egypt last month.

Pope Francis and Mr. Trump have both voiced concern for besieged Christian minorities in the Middle East, but the Vatican’s call to increase aid for displaced Christians and other minorities in the region clashes with the White House’s aim to cut budgets. The topic of Mideast peace is a thorny one, with Vatican diplomats wary of what they view as the Trump administration’s pro-Israel tilt.

With the two differing on migration, only narrow areas of that theme, such as combating human trafficking, are likely to bring them together.

The White House’s announcement Friday that the president would nominate Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, removes one potentially awkward element from the meeting with the pope.

By moving to fill the job while many other ambassadorships and other posts in his administration remain unfilled, Mr. Trump shows the pope that he values Washington’s relationship with the Vatican.


3. Trump to meet with Pope Francis in Vatican City: Cordial meeting is expected between two leaders

By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, May 23, 2017, Pg. A6

The world’s most powerful president and religion’s most visible voice with meet for the first time Wednesday — but not before President Trump has to cross through the Vatican wall that divided the two men, metaphorically, last year.

Long a symbol of the Vatican’s majesty, the wall also became for Mr. Trump evidence of Pope Francis’s hypocrisy, after the pontiff last year, responding to a reporter’s question about the U.S.-Mexico border, said wall-builders are “not Christian.”

There are some potential areas of cooperation for the two powerful men: The U.S. has been a leader in combating human trafficking, and Mr. Trump has used his administration to promote pro-life issues and religious freedom, and to raise the plight of Christian refugees in the Middle East.

But the areas of dissonance are legion. The pontiff has made combatting global warming a hallmark of his tenure, has sought a better dialogue with Islam, and demanded from the world’s wealthy countries a more welcoming approach to immigrants and refugees.

Vatican-watchers said to expect all the usual ceremony for Mr. Trump, with the two men exchanging gifts and then having a talk with perhaps just a few advisers present.

Mr. Diaz [former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See] said Pope Francis’s exhortation about walls last year was less about concrete and brick, and more about an approach to the world.

“To me, the pope is hitting a much more profound belief which is the time we’re in now is not a time for walling each other off ideologically,” the former ambassador said. “Do nations have a right to maintain their boundaries, their borders? Of course they do. The question is not that, the question is how to we deal with the challenges in a humanitarian way.”


4. Pope and Trump will look to leave the past behind in Wednesday meeting

By Inés San Martín, Crux, May 23, 2017

When Pope Francis meets President Donald Trump on Wednesday, it will be the first time a pope meets a sitting president whose Christian credentials he questioned during the campaign. In spite of that, both men have had some nice things to say about the other, and both appear determined to find common ground.

During the same Saudi Arabia stop where Trump signed his arms deal, he also showed the beginning of what could be a change in his rhetoric over Islam, calling this one of the world’s great religions, and urging leaders of all religions to work together. In style, his speech differed greatly to that of Francis’s, but there was an echo of the pope’s call during his recent trip to Egypt.

During his flight back to Rome from Fatima, Portugal, on May 13, Francis was asked about his expectations from a meeting with “a head of state who seems to think and act in a way contrary to your own?”

The pope answered by saying that he doesn’t make judgements about people without hearing them first.

Last but not least, Francis offered a glimpse of what he wants to talk about with the U.S. president: peace.

When Trump sits down with the spiritual leader of America’s 50-plus million Catholics, he’s going to be meeting the only person who, arguably, has a bigger megaphone than his own, one reason why he wants the meeting to go well.

If history and tradition hold, little will be known about what transpires in the papal library where the two will talk. Both the Vatican and the White House are bound to send out press releases, but at least the ones from the Church’s side are famous for being ambiguous and lacking much content.

One bet is safe. No matter the before, during and after, the meeting of these two modern titans is bound to be described as “cordial.”


5. Pope Francis says he won’t ‘make a judgment’ about Trump without ‘listening to him first’

By Anthony Faiola and Julie Zauzmer, Associated Press, May 22, 2017, 11:27 AM

When Pope Francis and President Trump, arguably the most influential voices in the West, meet on Wednesday, two men with radically different approaches on everything from migrant rights to climate change to the rhetoric of politics itself will be face to face.

Nevertheless, the U.S. president and the head of the Roman Catholic Church will try to find common ground in a meeting ripe with potential benefits and risks, particularly for Trump. Should they pull off a congenial discussion, it could serve as a much-needed diplomatic salve for the American leader. A gaffe, meanwhile, could quickly stoke fresh controversy for a president facing a mounting crisis at home.

On the plus side for both men, papal visits are not designed for controversy. They typically last 20 to 30 minutes — with anything longer seen as a sign that the discussion may have taken a deeper path. After the broad-brush discussion with the pope, Trump is set to discuss finer points later that morning with senior Vatican officials, including the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“It’s in nobody’s interest to try to win arguments,” said a senior Vatican official who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue. “The Holy See and the U.S. government will have their differences — as they always do — but there’s a whole range of issues they can work together on, and this kind of meeting can serve to get them off to a good start.”


6. Catholics challenge St. Louis’ ‘abortion sanctuary’ law

By Jim Salter, Associated Press, May 22, 2017, 5:43 PM

A group of St. Louis Catholics filed a lawsuit against the city Monday over a local ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on “reproductive health decisions,” saying the law could force employers or landlords to go against their religious beliefs.

Opponents say they law makes St. Louis a sanctuary city for abortion. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Roman Catholic grade schools operating under the Archdiocese of St. Louis; Our Lady’s Inn, a home for pregnant homeless women; and a private company whose owner is Catholic. It seeks to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance.

Sarah Pitlyk, an attorney for the nonprofit anti-abortion law firm the Thomas More Society, said the law prevents the archdiocese from hiring only teachers who support Catholic teachings on abortion. Pitlyk also said there’s no exception for faith-based “crisis pregnancy centers” such as Our Lady’s Inn, and no provision for private companies led by devout Catholics, such as O’Brien Industrial Holdings LLC and its owner, Frank Robert O’Brien Jr.