YESTERDAY’s Inquirer had a page 1 photo of Pope Francis and President Obama. The Holy Father was his usual smiling self, the image of the warm friendliness of a pastor who cares for the soul of the man he is dealing with. The US President is ecstatically joyful. He has after all managed to have this photo op, which will confuse a lot of Catholic Americans.
And the Inquirer caption even called the Pope and the President “kindred spirits.”
But if you read Kathleen Parker’s column in this Times issue’s OpEd section you will see why she is warning her Washington Post and Manila Times readers why they should not think the happy smiles mean the Pope is endorsing Barack Obama.
The White House press releases about the meeting of course spin the opposite of Kathleen Parker’s warning.
The Vatican reports are more honest.
The American delegation had come with a box of coins to present to the Pope. But the lid came off so the coins spilled into the marble floor. Then when everything seemed all fixed, the lid fell off and the coins spilled again. I’m sure a lot of Obama haters will give a lot of doomsday meaning to this. But all it did was make the President and the Pope share a laugh.
What the Pope gave President Obama was a bound copy of the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium [The Joy of the Gospel]. It spells out what the Holy Father wishes his pontificate to focus on. Veritably every paragraph of this encyclical diametrically opposes the Culture of Death that the Obama Administration’s policies are making more concrete in the lives of the American people than ever before.
President Obama is reported to have said he would read it in the White House library whenever he felt frustrated to calm him down and give me strength. “I hope,” the Pope replied with a laugh.
The meeting between pope and president lasted 52 minutes.
The White House press people made a big thing of the issues where Mr. Obama and the Holy Father were supposed to have the same views. These were, said the White House spinmeisters, the shared resolve to vanquish poverty and inequality and promote social justice.
But the Vatican, obviously not wishing the meeting to help Obama’s PR lies to confuse US Catholic, specifically said that the discussion was about differences in policies and goals.
The Vatican report made it clear that the Papacy was concerned about how the Catholic Church and Catholics were being treated badly in America.
The emphasis of the Vatican reports was the Pope’s concern that in the US there were now more serious threats than before to the “the exercise of the rights to religious freedom.” The Vatican reports also said there were serious concerns about the issues of “life and conscientious objection [to abortion]and immigration reform.”
The Catholic News Service report by By Francis X. Rocca begins with the sentence: “In their first encounter, Pope Francis received US President Barack Obama at the Vatican March 27 for a discussion that touched on several areas of tension between the Catholic Church and the White House, including religious freedom and medical ethics.”
It continues that “The mentions of religious freedom and conscientious objection presumably referred to the contraception mandate in the new health care law, which has become a major source of conflict between the administration and the church.”
The Vatican statement after the meeting said Pope Francis and Obama also had an “exchange of views on some current international themes, and it was hoped that in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.”
Last September, Rocca writes “Pope Francis launched a high-profile campaign against Obama’s proposal for military strikes to punish the government of President Bashar Assad for its presumed use of chemical weapons. The pope wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of a G-20 summit, decrying the “futile pursuit of a military solution,” and a few days later led a prayer vigil for peace in Syria that drew some 100,000 people to St. Peter’s Square.
Rocca also writes, “In a December speech, Obama quoted a passage from the exhortation in which the Pope lamented: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”