The Pope and His Fence Thing

Once again, events “out there” have intruded into our parochial little world of land use law and such. Behold the strange subject of border fences in general,* and the Pope’s interest therein in particular. First, it was that business of the Pope’s visit to Jordan a while back, and his swing over the West Bank, no longer occupied by Jordan which has conceded that it has no interest in that area, but is separated from Israel by a fence with walls in places, to keep Arab terrorists from sneaking across the Israeli border in order to set off bombs and commit other acts of terrorism. That fence has been quite successful and has largely interdicted terrorist activity, thus saving lives.

But the Pope didn’t like that. When he visited that area, he seemed unconcerned with the loss of Jewish lives by cross-border Arab terrorists. Instead, he made a point of pausing on the Arab side of that border fence/wall where he expressed concern over the plight of Arabs who are concededly inconvenienced when crossing the border, even if their delays and inconvenience are not all that different from the inconvenience suffered by persons having to stand in line to cross the fence that separates the U.S. from Mexico. Now, the Pope has repeated his performance more aggressively, by observing disapprovingly during his current trip to Mexico that people who would build fences rather than bridges, are inter alia not Christian, thus inspiring Donald Trump who is Presbyterian and who wants to impose strict controls on our border with Mexico, to take umbrage at this slur.

It seems clear to me that whatever your political or religious inclinations may be, the Pope was out of line on that one. Whatever the Pope’s exalted status may be among his coreligionists, who is he to be telling adherents to other religions what it is that makes them  proper adherents to their faiths? One would think that the Catholic Church has enough problems of its own without going out afield and lecturing others on the proprieties of observance of their faith.

But though important, that is not the point of this post. The point is that the world is full of border fences (of which more anon) but His Holiness has singled out just those two for his criticism. Strange. Why only these two? Why single out the two fences that are maintained by two Western liberal democracies, United States and Israel, as defensive measures while giving all the others (including some bad actors) a free pass? Strange, isn’t it?

So let’s take a moment and check out some of the other fences all over the world and see just how morally skewed have been the papal criticisms of only those two border fences  erected to interdict the inflow of illegal migrants who respectively (a) violate American law by crossing our border illegally, and (b) try to violate Israeli laws — and simple common sense — by trying to cross that border in order to engage in  murderous terror attacks. Actually, pertinent research is easy; all you need to do is go to Wikipedia where by clicking a mouse you will get a long list of border walls/fences that separate countries pretty much as does our fence on the Mexican border. You may be surprised. So here we go:

There are border fences/walls between the following countries. In no particular order, Wikipedia lists the following border fences:

Hungary-Serbia, Hungary-Austria, Bulgaria-Turkey, Belgium-Netherlands, Bangladesh-India, Afghanistan-Uzbekistan, Korea-China, China-North Korea, North Korea-Nepal and Bhutan, United Arab Emirates-Oman, Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan, Kyrgizystan-Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia-Iraq,  Russia-Ukraine, Slovenia-Croatia, Iran-Pakistan, Austria-Slovenia, and Macedonia-Greece.

Is that all? Not on your life. We saved two of the best ones for our grand finale. Get this: Spain is also maintaining two border fences separating Spanish territories in North Africa — Melilla and Ceuta — from the rest of Africa whose inhabitants risk serious harm and death trying to climb those fences, while the Spaniards shoot rubber bullets at them. If you don’t believe us, check out this link to a photograph from the British Telegraph newspaper, showing multitudes of desperate sub-Saharan Africans trying to make it across the Melilla fence in an effort to get into Spanish occupied African territory in an effort to get a leg up on their journey to Europe.

Sub-Saharan migrants scale a metallic fence that divides Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla

Sub-Saharan migrants scale a metallic fence that divides Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla.


We also can’t touch on this subject without asking: What the hell are Spaniard doing occupying parts of Africa? Haven’t they heard that the days of colonialism are over? Evidently, not. Or maybe it’s another one of those free passes granted to some occupiers but not others. As George Orwell put it in his book ANIMAL FARM, all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

But for some strange reason, the Pope, to the best of our knowledge has not come down morally on any of the  countries involved in these activities. Not a peep. He has reserved his disapprobation only for the United States and Israel, giving the others a moral free pass by his silence. Strange, isn’t it?

Follow up. For a New York Times take on the Pope’s involvement in politics, see Jim Yardley, Francis and Trump: Populist Leaders Preaching Diverse Messages, Feb. 19, 2016 — go to

For a sampling of N.Y. Times letters to the editor commenting on the Trump-Pope kerfuffle, go to

For a more up-to-date inventory of border fences all over the world, complete with pictures, go to


* Actually, as is the case with just about everything, there is an eminent domain angle to this. Uncle Sam has used the power of eminent domain to take land on the Mexican border to facilitate the construction of our fence. Making things worse, our fence is so located that in places it cuts off some of the American soil, leaving it on the South (Mexican) side of the divide, which pisses off the American living there mightily, and rightly so. See Richard Marosi, Some Angry Texans Are Stuck South of the Barrier, NY Times, Feb. 28, 2014 .