Catholic leaders came to the defense of President Donald Trump after Pope Francis questioned his commitment to pro-life values over his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
On the return flight from his visit to Colombia, Francis criticized Trump for ending DACA, which allows children who were brought illegally by their parents to the U.S. to remain in the country and apply for work permits.
"I have heard the President of the United States speak," the pontiff said, according to the National Catholic Reporter. "He presents himself as a pro-life man. If he is a good pro-lifer, he should understand that the family is the cradle of life and you must defend its unity," he continued.
Some Catholic leaders, however, took issue with the pope's remarks and pointed out that Trump has already produced major pro-life accomplishments during his short time in office.
Deal Wyatt Hudson, president of the Morley Institute for Church and Culture and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine, said that he was "saddened" that the pontiff had refused to recognize Trump's convictions and actions when it comes to protecting the unborn.
"He does the Church a huge disservice by doubting the president's commitment to protect life because of his views on immigration, as if persons cannot be called 'pro-life' unless they agree with Pope Francis on that issue," Hudson said, as reported by Life Site News.
Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), pointed out several pro-life measures carried out by the White House since Trump took office.
He noted that Trump had appointed pro-life consitutionalists to the Supreme Court and the lower benches, adding that the president had also taken pro-life positions at the U.N., including defunding the "pro-abortion" U.N. population fund.
Ruse also mentioned that Trump had appointed pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals to staff the Department of Health and Human Services.
Michael Hichborn, founder and president of the Lepanto Institute, accused Francis of being silent about former President Barack Obama's "full support of the abortion industry," and criticized him for appointing a pro-abortion theologian to the Pontifical Academy for Life.
He also denounced Francis for referring to Italian abortionist Emma Bonino as one of Italy's "lost greats," as well as the pontiff's decision to host population control enthusiast in the Vatican.
Robert Royal, founder and president of the Faith and Reason Institute, questioned whether the pope understands how the U.S. government works, noting that there are still some doubts regarding the constitutionality of the DACA program.
"I don't think he understands that President Trump has thrown the problem to Congress, where it belongs, to develop - constitutionally - the right response to the situation," he said.
The pope told journalists on his flight back to Rome that he had heard of the president's decision to end DACA, but acknowledged that he had not had the time to study the details of the issue.
He said that people must be very careful not to dash the hopes and dreams of young people or make them feel "a bit exploited," noting that some of them could be tempted to turn to drugs or even suicide.