The Pope and the President: What to Expect
By Jacqueline L. Salmon
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs yesterday predicted a "frank talk" on abortion between President Barack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI when they meet on Friday. But don't expect anything like the lecture that the pope gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she visited him earlier this year.
He reminded her, reportedly in no uncertain terms, of the Catholic Church's teaching "on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death." But keep in mind that Pelosi is a Catholic who supports abortion rights and the president, while also supporting abortion rights, is not of the faith.
This time around, it will be instructive, predicts George Weigel, senior fellow at Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center. The pope, he says, might point out that the Catholic Church regards abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research as the "premier civil-rights issues of the moment."
But the pontiff and the president have plenty in common, as the president pointed out last week in our interview with him. He said he hopes to find cooperation from the Vatican "on everything from Middle East peace to dealing with worldwide poverty, climate change, [and] immigration."
They may also find much in common on the economy. In his encyclical, the pope expressed suspicion of the profit motive and advocated sharing of the wealth in order to help the poor. He also proposed establishing a "true world political authority" to manage the economy and work for the "common good."
Obama certainly didn't go that far in our interview, but he did express a skepticism of unbridled capitalism.
"I continue to believe that capitalism is the most effective mean of generating wealth," he said. But "the invisible hand of the market does not always assure that everybody is able to have enough to eat and have a roof over their heads, send their kids to college. And we want to make sure that we continue to build a society that is not only wealthy in the aggregate, but is also just."
Jacqueline L. Salmon
July 9, 2009; 8:08 AM ET
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