Comparing Pope Francis and Donald Trump

Discounted beer was offered to students.  Photo by Vendanti, Pexels.

By Mary Elsen, The Circuit.

Food, drinks, friends and a speaker made for a engaging Friday night for students.  A Theology on Tap event was offered at Monte Casino Inn (MCI) on Feb. 17.

“We want to do one (Theology on Tap) every month,” said Anna Jacobs, junior, who helped organize the event.

“The goal of this event is really to… build community, especially with people who are over 21,” Jacobs said.  “I feel like there’s a lack of events on-campus that really cater towards people who are over 21.”

Another goal is to have fun while enriching our minds, Jacobs said.

Tom Hoopes, Vice President of College Relations, was the invited speaker and titled his talk, “Is Pope Francis Our Donald Trump?”  He has written columns on the topic and recently published a book called “What Pope Francis Really Said.”

The title of the talk sounds a bit deceiving since the two leaders appear very different, but Hoopes went on to reveal five similarities and five differences he sees in the two figures.

The similarities he included are as follows:

  • Both Trump and Francis have impromptu speaking styles

Both “let the chips fall where they may.”  They tend to give their staff headaches with their managing styles and are “very free with their criticisms.”

  • Both intuitively know how to speak to modern society with their need for images

For example, Trump holds big rallies and Francis performs public ministry.

  • Both are considered independent men who stir up “trouble.”

However, the two differ greatly on this point: Francis is free from “selfishness for the interest of others, where as Donald Trump’s freedom is from interest in others for his own self-serving need.”

  • Both attract those who feel abandoned by their party, country or church.  

On this point, Hoopes proposed that Francis leaves the faithful 99 sheep (as in the parable of the shepherd and his sheep) and goes after the one stray – the pope is reaching out to those who feel lost.  Hoopes compared Trump’s actions to those of Francis.  Trump goes after those who feel abandoned as well.

  • Both reach out to the economically forgotten.

The last similarity Hoopes touched on is also the first difference:

  • Although Francis and Trump reach out to the economically forgotten, they do it in different ways. Francis is principle centered, while Trump is a pragmatist.

“To a principle centered man the truth is a rock, our job is to stand on the truth and never move,” Hoopes said.  “The principle here is that every human being is made in the infinite dignity and image and likeness of God.”

Hoopes addressed Trump’s pragmatism as well saying, “Pragmatists see truth as a spectrum.  They aren’t interested in what the truth is, they’re interested in what truth is most expedient.”  Pragmatists flip flop on issues.

  • Trump is a mirror while Francis is a magnifying glass.

Trump reflects the culture of our society today; he’s a showman.  Francis on the other hand “draws attentions to our weaknesses, rather than feeding off of them.”

  • Trump aims for economic greatness while Francis shoots for simplicity. 
  • Trump stamps his name “on tall buildings” while Francis asks others to not shout his name – rather he wants others to shout Jesus.
  • Trump wears a red hat while Francis wears a white hat, literally.

To close out his speech, Hoopes offered a proposal for those who criticize Pope Francis.

“Why not behave as if Pope Francis was a pope you’re enthusiastic about?”  Hoopes asked.

Hoopes told attendees to share the Lenten plan with others, to read the Pope’s writings, remember that Pope Benedict XVI said many of the same things Pope Francis says, to try incorporating the Pope’s habits into your own and finally, practice encountering Christ and others daily.

“I know Pope Francis has said troubling things, but I think we have a duty as Catholics to find out what he really said and defend our pope,” Hoopes said.