The meeting of the Holy Father with President Barack Obama has come and gone, and the Apostolic Palace is still standing. To be sure, the pope and the president were far from being on the same page on every subject. What two heads of state are? The Holy Father teaches that abortion is an intrinsically evil act that should never be permitted. President Obama sees abortion as a tragedy in every instance, which the law should seek to limit but not prohibit.
On this topic and a few others, they evidently agreed to disagree, not in polemical anger, but in a clear understanding that such issues are difficult ones in a pluralistic society, in which well-meaning people, “exercising the right to abide by one’s own conscience,” in the words of the post-meeting Vatican press release, might have different moral solutions to the same problem.
The remarks of Cardinal Georges Cottier, Dominican theologian emeritus of the papal household, published early last week, in which the Cardinal praised the president’s position in seeking a common ground “to reduce the number of women seeking abortion,” were an obvious Vatican-planned prelude to this result.