t saddens me that Pope Francis refuses to recognize the pro-life intentions and actions of President Trump. The president has made good on his promises to pro-life voters, starting on his first day in office with his restoration of the Mexico City Policy, which he later expanded. Federal funds can no longer pay for abortions overseas. And there is more, not the least of which is the presence of Justice Neil Gorsuch on the U.S. Supreme Court.
But rather than applauding the president’s actions, Pope Francis has attempted to co-opt the meaning of “pro-life” to include his preferred immigration policies. Speaking to reporters on his flight back to Rome from Colombia, the pope was asked about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which the president had ordered phased out in six months. “I hope they rethink it a bit,” the pontiff said, “Because I heard the U.S. president speak: He presents himself as a person who is pro-life.”
There are so many things wrong about this, it’s hard to know where to begin. We might note what Trump said about DACA when he announced his decision: He explicitly gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution, adding if Congress did not act he would revisit the issue himself. The president clearly does not intend to send “Dreamers” out of the United States, but does not want to act unilaterally as President Obama did in June 2012. Pope Francis ignored the president’s stated intention. In addition, DACA is a nullity, born of an unconstitutional assertion of executive power by Obama. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually would have struck it down.
Then there is the doctrinal problem with what Pope Francis said: He effectively used a prudential matter—immigration policy—to override a matter of settled moral teaching—prohibition of abortion. In prudential matters, Catholics are free to come to different solutions based on general principles. “Welcome the stranger,” the Church teaches. But how a nation chooses to welcome strangers does not require open borders. The Church also teaches that a nation’s leader has a duty to protect all citizens. The pope, it must be said, got the issues backward.
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