Dr. Brené Brown, a professor at the University of Houston and author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers says her research shows that the people with the deepest compassion are also those with the clearest boundaries. Pope Francis demonstrated that visibly in his recent meeting with President Trump.
While the latter grinned broadly, the pope looked dour. His usual cheerful countenance was replaced by a look of the utmost gravity. He refused to smile for any of the photo ops., leading commentators to wonder what had happened to his sunny personality.
One expert explained it this way: Pope Francis spent most of his adult life fighting fascism in Argentina, so he can smell a fascist a mile away. He could not possibly approve Trump’s plans to take health care coverage from 23 million people, to enrich the billionaires (the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart empire, would receive a $52 Billion tax cut if the administration gets Congress to destroy the Estate Tax) and gut the safety net for the poor, to trash the environment, build an outrageously expensive and ill-considered wall with Mexico and deport even innocent immigrants.
At the time, when Francis gifted Trump with his encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si,” he couldn’t have predicted how blatantly it would be ignored. Several days later, the president pulled the US out of the Paris accords on climate change. Trump might as well have tossed the careful, thoughtful document out the window of Air Force 1 over the Atlantic.
No one knows for sure the papal motives, but his stance seemed to say, “I’ll have this meeting because it is my job. But in no way will you imply my support for your terrible agenda with its total lack of compassion.”
Perhaps if the pope’s photo could be taken with the governors of CA, NY and WA, along with the numerous mayors who’ve independently signed on to the Paris agreement to reduce greenhouse gas, a trace of his smile might return.