That is the question posed at the New York Times blog Room for Debate. Among those responding is NCR Senior Correspondent John L. Allen Jr.
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.
I have just clicked on photos of President Obama’s meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. In one, I noticed First Lady Michelle Obama joining them, and she was wearing a black lace veil.
Granted, such attire is extraneous to the meeting itself, and I know this is the usual attire of “official” women when they meet personally with the Pope. But today, this veil distracted me – at least briefly – from the substantive reporting on the meeting. It conjured up images of the nuns in veils, Amish women in bonnets, Orthodox Jewish women in wigs, and Muslim women in “hijabs” (head scarves). Or I think about the Catholic women wearing little lace “doilies” in church in the 1950’s.
Whatever attention deficit some Catholics may think their church has suffered has been more than made up for in the past weeks. Obama at Notre Dame, the pope's social encyclical and his meeting with the president have stirred enough coverage to convince those who have felt neglected that the Roman Catholic church is back to its proper place as the true church.
NCR Senior Correspondent John L. Allen Jr. reports:
When President Barack Obama came calling on Pope Benedict XVI today, the two men enjoyed a “truly cordial” encounter, according to a Vatican spokesperson, but at the same time there was no diplomatic silence from the pontiff about their differences over abortion and other “life issues.”
This from Daily Kos:
Well, maybe not "pal around", and maybe "leftist" isn't exactly the right word. But, if you're looking for somebody with a fairly left-wing view of world economics, who has a big megaphone and is not afraid to use it, then consider the guy who released this material earlier this week.
Vatican radio today interviewed Vatican Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, who said that “moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church’s contribution in developing countries” were key topics of discussion between the pope and the president.
Holly Bailey filed this report:
Washington Post writer William Wan offers snippets, including this:
As Obama left, the Pope had some parting words for him, saying "I pray for you." Obama tells him, "I look forward to a very strong relationship" and "thank you, God bless you."
Okay, I admit it. I cried. The picture of President Obama being welcomed by Pope Benedict XVI in the frescoed halls of the Vatican touched my heart as well as my mind. These two men, so different in many ways – and so differently powerful – seemed to immediately transcend the bizarre aspects of such meetings, e.g., having to begin their meeting and exchange pleasantries while dozens of cameras are clicking away.