“Bush [told Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state], ‘Not all the American bishops are with me’ on the cultural issues. The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism. Other sources in the meeting said that while they could not recall the presidentâs exact words, he did pledge aggressive efforts on the cultural front, especially the battle against gay marriage, and asked for the Vaticanâs help in encouraging the U.S. bishops to be more outspoken.
As you probably know, there has been a movement afoot in a number of Roman Catholic diocese to deny communion to Roman Catholic politicians who oppose certain Catholic moral teachings as matters of public policy, as opposed to ones of personal conscience. The key example is abortion.
One bishop, I believe, has even held out the option of denying communion to ordinary voters who don’t vote a consistently pro-life line.
According to today’s Times …
In his recent trip to Rome, President Bush asked a top Vatican official to push American bishops to speak out more about political issues, including same-sex marriage, according to a report in the National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper.
In a column posted Friday evening on the paper’s Web site, John L. Allen Jr., its correspondent in Rome and the dean of Vatican journalists, wrote that Mr. Bush had made the request in a June 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state. Citing an unnamed Vatican official, Mr. Allen wrote: “Bush said, ‘Not all the American bishops are with me’ on the cultural issues. The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism.”
Mr. Allen wrote that others in the meeting confirmed that the president had pledged aggressive efforts “on the cultural front, especially the battle against gay marriage, and asked for the Vatican’s help in encouraging the U.S. bishops to be more outspoken.” Cardinal Sodano did not respond, Mr. Allen reported, citing the same unnamed people.
I guess on one level we can say we’ve come a long way since 1960 when John F. Kennedy had to foreswear that he’d follow the instructions of the Pope in his decisions of governance. Today we have a Protestant born-again who tries to enlist the Pope to intervene in an American election.
Now, let’s look at this phrase ‘more explicit activism’.
The key point of activism we’ve been hearing about is that of denying communion to pro-choice Catholic pols, or perhaps those who support gay marriage — seemingly always Dems, pro-choice GOPers seem always to find a special dispensation, shall we say.
This creates at a minimum a political nuisance which affected Democrats must deal with.
Now, just what sort of activisim is it Bush is asking the Pontiff to press upon the bishops?
It seems a pretty small leap to think that pressing the denial of communion issue is one of them. And sources told the National Catholic Reporter that “while Bush was focusing primarily on the [gay] marriage question, he also had in mind other concerns such as abortion and stem cell research.”
Presidents regularly meet with Popes. Certainly they talk about matters both political and moral, perhaps even theological. But is it the president’s place to press the pope to sow religious divisions among American Catholics, a majority of whom seem uncomfortable with the efforts of some in the hierarchy to discipline pro-Choice Catholic politicians? And all that aside is it proper for the president to enlist the Vatican as an arm of his political campaign? The articles noted above make it pretty clear these requests were made for electoral political purposes.
Remember the words … “Not all the American bishops are with me”