Pontifications

Pontifications


The Pope and the Prez: Together again for the first time

posted by David Gibson

The meeting between the spiritual and political leaders is on shortly. Which one is spiritual, which political? Obama has invoked Jesus more than Bush did, at this point. And with his pointed encyclical on the economy this week, Benedict ruffled some political feathers.

But the meeting at the Vatican this afternoon is fraught for Catholic conservatives in this country, as I explain in this PoliticsDaily piece:

Perhaps the only good news for conservatives was White House spokesman Robert Gibbs’ preemptive declaration that Obama would not be joining a church in Italy during his visit. Gibbs was joking of course, but not everyone is laughing.
 
So can a photo-op at the Vatican change the political dynamic in Washington?
 
Generally speaking, that would be a stretch. But in reality there’s much more going on than a friendly handshake. Ever since Obama was elected, in fact, church officials in Rome have signaled a much greater and much more public openness to Obama than church leaders in the United States. Indeed, Obama received a telegram of congratulations from Benedict on the day of his election — “historic,” the pope called it — and the two men later chatted by phone. The Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, has been almost glowing in its coverage of Obama, especially compared to the dim view of Catholic theocons, some of whom have lobbied for the L’Osservatore editor to find a new job.
 
Such an argument would be tougher to make against Cardinal Georges Cottier, who for years was the official theologian to the papal household, meaning he vetted all papal pronouncements for orthodoxy.
 
In a lengthy essay in a prominent Italian Catholic periodical, “30 Giorni,” Cardinal Cottier rejects the talking point of Obama as “pro-abortion” and praises his “humble realism” and the president’s apparent reflection of the thinking of Saint Thomas Aquinas. High praise indeed. Or, as veteran Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister put it: “Cardinal Cottier seems almost to exalt Obama as a new Constantine, the head of a modern empire that is also generous toward the Church.”
 
Read on here


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JF

posted July 10, 2009 at 10:37 am


You cannot off-handedly compare the spirituality of a politician with that of the Pope just because God comes up often in speeches. Much of the time, politicians invoke God for political gain. This goes for any politician, including President Bush. Also, I was rather taken aback by the Obamas’ denomination shopping when they got to DC. They were not just going from church to church but from one faith to another. I am not judging him, we all have to take a spiritual journey; I certainly did. However, during my searching I wouldn’t compare my spirituality to that of the Pope.
Further, Cardinal Cottier for all of his great work in the Church, has been off the reservation for awhile. He was one of the Cardinals that Pope John Paul II waited to raise to that office until after he was past the eligible age to vote in conclave. He’s spoken out against more than one Chruch doctrine which, whether or not you agree with him, is not the role of a Cardinal. He is not exactly the golden spokesperson for the Church’s view.
I have given the president praise where it is due. He is not an evil man but he is also not even close to being on par with our Holy Father (or St. Thomas Aquinas!) from a Catholic point of view.



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Cindy

posted July 10, 2009 at 10:54 am


JF – if you’re “taken aback” by the fact that Protestants tend to move from denomination to denomination then I don’t know where you’ve been hiding out! As a Catholic who has grown up in the Bible Belt of the Deep South I can tell you that most Protestants (including the Ministers) move when things heat up, get difficult, or they get ticked off. Their “doctrines” and “dogmas” aren’t why they’re there — they are there because they believe in Jesus Christ and The Bible. If that’s what the preacher talks about then fine. I’m not being critical here, I’m repeating what many have told me. And it is another reason why many preachers (Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, and yes – BAPTISTS are converting to Catholicism and becoming our first cohort of Married Priests – they are wanting more dogma and doctrine and Tradition).
At any rate it is not an insult among Protestants and shouldn’t be seen as one by Catholics looking on. The President and his family have a multitude of considerations to deal with in choosing a church – not the least of which is logistics and security. It might be nice to be above such concerns and focus only on the spiritual needs, but that’s simply not possible.
Also, I never got the impression that David was equating Obama and Pope Benedict, or in any way putting them on a Spiritual Par. Obama is a secular President of a Secular nation. The Pope *is* a spiritual leader of the Universal Church.
As heads of their respective states they can meet on a par of respect and civility, but that doesn’t make their views, policies, actions or inspirations equal. What is equivalent is MY OWN ability to have respect for each of them in his own role.



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Cindy

posted July 10, 2009 at 10:56 am


I meant to say that “the Pope *is* the spiritual leader of the Universal Church.” Don’t take that “a” as any non-doctrinal belief of mine in multiple leaders of the RCC! :)



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JF

posted July 10, 2009 at 11:54 am


You’re right, Cindy. I don’t really think it was a true comparison between the two. Rather, my comments are more of a reaction to the fact that I believe President Obama gets more credit here for being a spiritual leader or Christian leader than any politician should receive. I do feel it’s way over the top to have President Obama’s name bandied about with those of Constantine, Pope Benedict, and St. Thomas Aquinas. Again, I would equally not be equating those names with President Bush or other politicians.
I absolutely agree that they should meet in civility and try to work towards the common good. I think given the new encyclical they have a great deal to talk about.



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jeanette

posted July 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm


Hello, am jeanette and i have been going to my church as aften as i can.since i have lost my jobs,i been so depress.How can i have a book of god.I have been wanting to have one but its hard for me to buy or get one due to crisses.I would like to buy one from our church.I was born catholic and still catholic at this time.



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JF

posted July 10, 2009 at 12:52 pm


Hi Jeanette,
Talk to your local parish priest after Mass or, even better, set up a meeting with one through the parish office. They will be happy to provide you with books and reading material free of charge. I’ll keep you in my prayers.



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Cindy

posted July 10, 2009 at 7:39 pm


JF – good comments that I don’t necessarily agree with. But it sounds to me like you’re holding President Obama responsible for his name being bandied about like that. As if that is something he has said he is entitled to, or that this is a way he sees himself.
I think if you read his books, or even his speeches, you will never find him referring to himself as any kind of a spiritual leader at all. You will find him referring to himself quite humbly, but with the confidence that he can do what he is seeking to do – lead our Country. Which is a secular, political job.
He most certainly discusses his spiritual life and I think that is because it is an important part of his humanity. Certainly it has been a comfort and a guide to him as he has dealt with family traumas and also the joys of a seemingly happy, healthy marriage.
As Pope Benedict is the head of the Vatican State, and President Obama is President (and head) of the US it is every bit appropriate to have their names “bandied about” together when they’re meeting.
If the media lapses into hyperbole then they should be admonished, and people should have enough sense not to go there. But to blame Obama for that is simply wrong. Sorry, not trying to bust you just saying.
Take care.



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Cindy

posted July 10, 2009 at 7:46 pm


Jeanette – Please DO reach out at your Parish. There are all kinds of ministries and people who are wanting to reach out to you too!
I’ll surely pray for you, too!
Cindy



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Cindy

posted July 10, 2009 at 10:11 pm


JF – I meant “good comments that I don’t necessarily DISagree with…”
Sheesh! That’s what happens when I answer the phone while typing!



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JF

posted July 11, 2009 at 10:45 am


Cindy-
I agree with you. I was actually somewhat unclear. I don’t blame the president, I blame those who compare him to these leaders. I certainly don’t criticize him for being open about his faith.
It just really annoys me when people who are supporters of President Obama, including some in the media, step over the line and begin to put him on a par with great men of faith. No politician that I know of from either party deserves that sort of praise.
Certainly as world leaders the Pope and the President should be able to meet and their interaction be discussed.
Thanks for you thoughts!



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