By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tEver since Pope Benedict XVI set aside Vatican protocol to send a telegram of congratulations to Barack Obama on Nov. 5, ahead of his actually taking office, the Vatican has often seemed warmer to Obama than some voices in the American Catholic church, including some American bishops.
tTrying to make sense of this contrast, the key question has seemed whether the Vatican is less bent on emphasizing the “life issues” than the American bishops, preferring to accent areas of agreement such as the Middle East and climate change, or whether they’re simply more willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt despite an equally keen concern with his pro-choice policies.
tIn that regard, yesterday’s 35-minute meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Obama made two things clear:
•tFirst, Benedict XVI yields pride of place to no one in the depth of his pro-life commitment, and there was no mistaking the forceful message the pontiff delivered to Obama on that score;
•tSecond, the Vatican still seems inclined to a more benign reading of Obama’s positions than his fiercest American critics.