A Cautious Man
July 02, 2009
The Catholic Traffic
Interesting story via dotCommonweal -

The current president has cited the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin before, most recently in his speech at Notre Dame: ”He was a kind and good and wise man,” Barack Obama said then of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. “A saintly man.”

And the “Common Ground” approach of Chicago’s Bernardin and Chicago’s Obama have great resonances. At a meeting this morning with eight [mainly] Catholic journalists ahead of his meeting next week with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, Obama invoked Bernardin again–and, as the WaPost’s Jackie Salmon writes, he “promised a ‘robust’ federal policy protecting health-care workers who have moral objections to performing some procedures.” (I think that’s the sound of another anti-Obama talking point falling.)

The whole thing is a terrific antidote to the "manufactured outrage" of some Catholic right-wingers (ably assisted by Fox News). There are links to other Catholic publications which were represented there, including the more right-leaning National Catholic Register -

In his remarks, the president said that he had a wonderful conversation with Pope Benedict XVI right after his election. He said that he sees his visit with the Holy See in some ways like any other government in that there will be areas of agreement and disagreement. He also said that he sees the Holy See as more than a government because of the Church’s influence on this country and the world. He said that it would be a great honor to meet the Pope and was looking forward to talking about the Middle East, climate change and immigration.

“The most noteworthy thing during the meeting was his dispelling of what you might call the expectation of the worst regarding conscience clauses,” said Father Kearns [editor in chief and publisher of the National Catholic Register, who was one of the attendees]. “He said that the confusion regarding the issue was due to the timing of everything rather than what he was going to do. His administration saw the previous administration’s 11th-hour change as problematic, and so they undid that. He said that in Illinois he was a supporter of a robust conscience clause, something he reiterated in his Notre Dame speech. He added that the government has received hundreds of thousands of public comments, and he promised that there would be a robust conscience-clause protection in place, and that it would not be weaker than President Bush’s 11th-hour change. Still, he added, it won’t please everybody.”

In addition, Father Kearns noted the president’s analysis of the divide in Catholicism.

“The president said he had fond memories of Cardinal Bernardin and that when he started his neighborhood project, they were funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development,” he said. “After the first question, from the National Catholic Reporter‘s Joe Feuerherd, the president jokingly asked, ‘Was there really [a controversy at Notre Dame]?’

And as reported by the National Catholic Reporter representative, the President noted with respect to Cardinal Bernadin's "seamless garment" approach which also encompassed poverty, the treatment of children, the death penalty, and war and foreign policy -

“And that part of the Catholic tradition is something that continues to inspire me. And I think that there have been times over the last decade or two where that more holistic tradition feels like it’s gotten buried under the abortion debate.”

The president continued, “Now, as a non-Catholic, it’s not up to me to try to resolve those tensions. As I said, all I can do is to affirm how that other tradition has made me, a non-Catholic, I think reflect on how I can be a better person and has had a powerful influence on my life. And that tells me that it might be a powerful way to move a broader set of values forward in American life generally.”

Read all the links, for a variety of points of view of this sit-down, if you're interested in this sort of thing. I find it fascinating, especially the way the President seems able to, once again, disarm potential critics by engaging them in an intelligent discussion.



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