Monday, June 09, 2008

President and Pontiff [UPDATED]

From The San Antonio Express-News:
VATICAN CITY — When President Bush pays a visit to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican next Friday, it will be his sixth meeting with a pope, and his third meeting with Benedict in just over a year.

Never in U.S. history has a president consulted so often with the leader of the Catholic Church. Carl Anderson, a former Reagan aide who now heads the Knights of Columbus, calls it “remarkable.”

“Less than 50 years ago,” he said, “it was a question as to whether a Catholic should even be able to run for president.”

Bush has emphasized his admiration for the papacy, and in particular for Benedict, whom he has called a “very smart, loving man.” When Benedict arrived in Washington in April, Bush met him on the tarmac, the only time he has so honored any dignitary.

Benedict, who has warned against the increasing secularization of Europe and praised the prominent role of religion in American public life, is likely to appreciate a head of state who is “not afraid to express his faith as a Christian,” said Father Joseph Fessio, a former student of the pope who now runs Ignatius Press, Benedict's principal English-language publisher.

In the president, the pope finds a key supporter of the Catholic Church's positions on such controversial questions as abortion, stem-cell research and same-sex marriage. Bush's arguments have frequently echoed Benedict's appeals to “natural law” and even employ the terms of Catholic social doctrine (despite the fact that the president is a Methodist).

Nowhere has the congruence of their thinking been clearer than at April's welcoming ceremony at the White House, when Bush cited Benedict's denunciation of the “dictatorship of relativism,” and the pope noted the importance of American religiosity as inspiration for abolitionism and the civil rights movement.

To which Bush replied, “Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech.”


Heads explode on the Catholic left as Pope gives Bush "particular" honor:
Vatican to scrap formal protocol when pope meets president

When Pope Benedict XVI and U.S. President George W. Bush meet at the Vatican June 13, they will scrap the usual formal protocol and instead hold talks and take a leisurely stroll in the Vatican Gardens.

The Vatican opted for the "particular" and "unusual" setting as a way to show its appreciation for "the cordial welcome and meeting held at the White House" during the pope's April 15-20 visit to the United States, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said June 9.

Normally heads of state visiting the pope at the Vatican are taken with much fanfare to the pope's library in the main Apostolic Palace.

But "in light of the (pope's) recent pastoral visit to the United States and the United Nations" and for the warm welcome and hospitality shown the pope during his meeting with Bush on the pope's birthday, April 16, an informal setting at the Vatican was chosen instead, said Father Lombardi.

Father Lombardi said Pope Benedict will meet the president and his wife, Laura Bush, at 11 a.m. at the westernmost tip of the Vatican Gardens at the entrance of St. John's Tower.

The pope and Bush will go to a studio on the top floor of the tower to hold closed-door talks after which the two men "will take a brief stroll in the Vatican Gardens," the spokesman said.

This will be Bush's third meeting with Pope Benedict and his second audience with the German pope at the Vatican. As president, Bush met with Pope John Paul II three times...
Or as one email correspondent noted that it's likely to be spun:
“Vatican refuses to dignify President Bush with traditional formalities in another snub designed to emphasize papal disapproval of Iraq War. Instead, the pope will go on a “private walk” with President Bush, during which anonymous sources inform us he will deliver his judgment that, “You suck just as much as Novak and Weigel and Fessio.”

The Opinionated Catholic mentions something that ought to make for fun watching on this side of the Atlantic:
However like the Israel trip where we learned the Obama Campaign thinks the World revolves around them perhaps Bush will mention the culture of Life and the Obama folks will make a big production about personal partisan attacks.
James H mentions this jokingly. But, unfortunately, it's also something quite likely to actually happen. I can see it now: Bush says something along the lines of what he said during the welcoming ceremony for the Pope at the White House. Something like this:
In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred, and that "each of us is willed, each of us is loved, and each of us is necessary. In a world where some no longer believe that we can distinguish between simple right and wrong, we need your message to reject this "dictatorship of relativism," and embrace a culture of justice and truth.
Is it too far-fetched that such a statement would be met with headlines like this?
Obama Slams Bush for "Politicizing" Vatican Visit
Says reference to those who "treat life as something to be debased and discarded" and description of those unable to "distingush between simple right and wrong" as part of a "dictatorship of relativism" were "overly partisan and inappropriate personal references" to him.
I can definitely see that happening. The political silly season is upon us - the Obama Catholics will be scrutinizing Bush's every word and deed looking for an opportunity such as this to turn to Obama's political advantage.

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
"Thanks, Your Holiness. Awesome Speech."

Coverage of National Catholic Prayer Breakfast [UPDATED]

Ambassador Glendon Says Pope-Bush Meeting a Proud Day for Americans

Pope Praises U.S., Warns of Secular Challenges

Pope at White House: "God Bless America"

When the Pope Meets The President

Pope Benedict's Appreciation for America's Religious Liberty

"The America of Benedict XVI, a Model for Catholic Europe"

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

Pope Encourages Americans to Defend Life, Traditional Marriage and Family

"The Pope vs. The President: Two Right-Wing Powers Collide"

National Catholic Register: "A Pro-Life President"

Why Bush Gave Pope Benedict a Walking Stick

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At 6/11/2008 9:32 AM, Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

If such a thing as you describe were to happen, Jay, and I 'm not saying it wouldn't, it would not be to Obama's advantage for his campaign or his supporters to react in that fashion.

It would instead signal their acknowledgment that they are the bad guys. And most reasonable people (that is, people who aren't wedded to abortion) would recognize that.


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