I’m really embarrassed — and irritated — that our President can’t even have the decency to be forthright and open about his meetings with the Holy Father and the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
Why do I think that the President — and not the Vatican — is telling tales? Because, prior to Pope Francis receiving President Obama in audience earlier today, a story ran on the Vatican Radio website on March 26 (Vatican Radio is under the direction of Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office) entitled “Pope Francis to meet with President Obama on Thursday“, the last paragraph of which states:
His [Obama’s] upcoming audience with Pope Francis will take place in the context of a complex phase of the administration’s relations with the Church of the United States, marked, in particular, by controversy on the implementation of health care reform (the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” commonly known as “Obamacare”) having to do with rules on mandatory health care coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortion; and on other issues at the centre of public debate in the United States, such as the legalization of homosexual marriages.
According to this, the news article was sent to the press by Fr. Thomas Rosica, who is Fr. Lombari’s “English language assistant.” In other words, it was likely issued with Fr. Lombardi’s approval and not by some low-level functionary. We can take from this that these issues were important enough to the discussion to mention publicly before Pope Francis received the President in audience.
Then, earlier today the Vatican issued a statement following the President’s audience with Pope Francis, which described the topics of the meeting:
…there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.
Both statements are direct and to the point. The issues were identified. The one released before the audience mirrors the one that followed it. Neither explicity mentioned the issue of “economic equality” that the President and White House kept trumpeting. Instead — almost uncharacteristically — the Vatican/Fr. Lombardi endeavored to clearly define the principal issues on the table, both before and after the meeting.
And, you would think that the President’s handlers — or good ‘old common sense — would tell Mr. Obama that the Vatican would have set forth the issues discussed, even if he did not have a chance to read the statements beforehand. You would think that the President would check his words carefully, so as not to be seen as contradicting or disputing the Vatican.
Apparently, only the photo opportunity actually mattered to the President, because during a press conference after the audience, the President could not even bring himself to admit what was actually discussed.
President Obama said, “We actually didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness. In fact, that really was not a topic of conversation…” According to this, “Obama was vague in his description of the extent of his discussion of the ACA’s contraceptive mandate with the pope, saying that Francis ‘actually did not touch in detail’ on the issue:
Obama described two main topics of conversation during his meeting with the pope — “the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity and growing inequality” and conflicts around the world, especially in the Middle East and Latin America. The common theme throughout their discussion was “a belief that that in politics and in life the quality of empathy — the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes and to care for them even if they don’t look like you, talk like you… — that’s critical,” he said.
The Vatican says both before and after the audience, these are the issues that matter to us. These are the things we want to discuss and in fact did discuss. But the President, perpetually operating in his own “truth sphere“, says “Not really.”
It’s one thing to say, “What the Holy Father and I discussed is between me and the Holy Father.” But that’s not what the President said.
On to MEGABREW.