Thursday, April 10, 2008

No Partisan Politics for Pope in US

Associated Press reports:
NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States next week have taken great pains to keep him out of presidential politics. [ED.: The danger is not that the Pope might involve himself in presidential politics - he won't; the danger is that those involved in presidential politics might cynically try to score political points from his visit.]

But the Roman Catholic teaching he's expected to emphasize — on abortion, human rights and other issues — has policy consequences that partisans will inevitably spin for their own ends. [ED.: I think the greater likelihood in this political climate is that "partisans will inevitably spin" his opposition to the Iraq War "for their own ends".]

"The pope will probably speak in broad enough and general enough terms that anybody who is determined to read endorsement of his or her political position will find an endorsement there," said Russell Shaw, a former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. "But when and if that happens, it is going to be people reading things into the pope's remarks that aren't there." [ED.: Exactly.]

Catholic leaders don't always avoid politics.

Pope John Paul II's emphasis on human dignity, religious freedom and absolute truth helped bring down communism. [ED.: How is stating universal truths that are encompassed within Church teaching somehow evidence that "Church leaders don't always avoid politics"?] During a 1999 visit to St. Louis, John Paul convinced then Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan to spare the life of convicted killer Darrell Mease, who was days away from execution. [ED.: Again, how is that "political"? It's certainly not "political" in the "partisan" sense that the following sentence implies that it is.]

However, Catholic beliefs aren't meant to be partisan.

Church teaching doesn't fit neatly into any one political agenda, a hard lesson American presidential candidates have learned as they have courted Catholic voters in recent years. Catholics make up about one-quarter of the electorate nationwide and don't vote as a bloc.

The church opposes abortion and embryonic stem cell research, while supporting immigrant families and aid to the poor. Catholic teaching says marriage should only be the union of one man and one woman. Yet Benedict also supports the U.N. and protecting the environment. [ED.: A LOT of assumptions and generalizations about both the Church and America's respective political parties are being made in this one paragraph.]

"Catholic teaching, taken in its full integrity, will have something to both please and aggravate Democrats and Republicans," said the Rev. James Heft, professor of religion at the University of Southern California. "Politics is not the first concern of the church. Basic moral issues, issues of justice, are a preoccupation."

At other events, the pope's public appearances with political figures will be limited.

In Washington, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush will host the pontiff Wednesday at the White House, as they do for visiting heads of state. Church leaders expect the event to be bipartisan. The pope doesn't meet with candidates for political office, but the three contenders for the U.S. presidency, all senators, could participate in events that include congressmen or are open to the public.
[ED.: Keep an eye on whether any of them try to sneak a photo op - my money's on Hillary! to be the most shameless in going about accomplishing that feat.]

Despite the extensive Vatican safeguards against partisanship, political activists are already trying to anticipate what the pope will say and how it will benefit or hurt them.

"The Republicans are just hoping and praying he'll say something strong about abortion and gay marriage and the Democrats are dreading it," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a political scientist and senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. "But when he goes to the U.N., he's going to say things that are going to be to the left of Hillary and Obama."
[ED.: Looks to me like the only one "hoping and praying" the Pope will say something to benefit his particular agenda is that fearful Jesuit, Thomas Reese, S.J.; the fact is that he knows bupkis about what the Pope will say on any subject. Looks like this particular media outlet has failed to follow Amy Welborn's admonition to update their rolodex.]

(emphasis and editorial commentary added)

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
When the Pope Meets The President

Can Obama Use Iraq to Win the Catholic Vote?

Will the Pope "Interfere" in U.S. Elections?

George Weigel: Pope Unlikely to Denounce "Great Satan Bush"

Inside Catholic: "McCain and the Pope"

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