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James Martin, S.J.July 02, 2009

Fr. Drew Christiansen, SJ, editor in chief of America, reports on his visit, along with a small group of Catholic press representatives, with President Obama this morning (Thurs., July 2) at the White House. (Fr. Christiansen is pictured in the photo at the far left of the table.)  The quotes are taken from the official White House transcript.

In a wide-ranging interview with Catholic editors and religion reporters in advance of his July 11 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, President Barack Obama expressed his admiration for Catholic social teaching and the quality of its social action. He voiced particular gratitude to the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Catholic parishes of southside Chicago where he first worked as a community organizer in the 1980s.

“Cardinal Bernardin was strongly pro-life,” the president reported, “never shrank from speaking about that issue, but was very consistent in taling about a seamless garment and a range of issues that were part and parcel of what he considered to pro-life, that meant he was concerned about poverty, he was concerned with how children were treated, he was concerned about the death penalty, he was concerned about foreign policy.”

The Catholic social tradition, President Obama added, “still impresses me” and it can be a powerful force still in American society. “Establishing a relationship with the bishops, the president commented, “is important to me because I have very fond memories of Cardinal Bernardin . . . And so I know the potential that the bishops have to speak out forcefully on issues of social justice.”

President Obama will meet with Pope Benedict following a meeting of G-8 leaders in L’Aquila, Italy, whose agenda will include examining the impact of the world economic crisis on the poor. Promoting basic security for all at home and abroad, he said, should be a goal of the eight leading industrial countries. “I want to talk to the Holy Father about some core reforms not just overseas, but here in this country that assure basic security for individuals, the middle class as well as the poor.”

He continued, “I believe capitalism is the most effective means of generating wealth,” but it does not insure economic protection for all. By contrast, in the president’s estimation, “the Catholic Church has always been a powerful moral compass on questions of distribution and how we make sure that opportunities are extended to everybody. . . . And we want to build a society that is not only wealthy in the aggregate, but is also just.”

At L’Aquila, the president hoped the G-8 would review the commitments made in London with the G-20 last April. The U.S. has committed $100 billion to the IMF to cushion the effects of the global economic recession on the world’s poor. The president also plans to double the U.S. contribution to world food security and direct U.S. development aid to poor countries to agricultural development for the sake of food self-sufficiency. He also intends to press other wealthy nations for matching contributions to international food security as well.
On his own current religious practice, President Obama allowed that he and the First Lady have still to settle on membership in a local church. He acknowledged rumors that they were very comfortable with the small congregation at Camp David, the president’s weekend retreat in Catoctin, Md., but that they are still looking for a local congregation in Washington. He confessed that the controversies over the Reverend Jeremiah Wright during last fall’s election campaign had taught them both that as public figures they could be too easily associated with the views of a particular pastor or congregation. In addition, they have learned that the security arrangements associated with a president’s movement anywhere creates a heavy burden on any congregation they attend. They hope to settle on a congregation this fall.

In the meantime, the president leans on a group of pastors and religious advisors who provided pastoral support during his campaign for the presidency, including some Catholics, and he begins his day with reflection on a devotional sent to him each morning on his Blackberry by Rev. Joshua DuBois, the director of the White House Office for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership.
For more, see the July 20-27 print and online editions of America

Drew Christiansen, S.J.

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14 years 11 months ago
Mike, there was no ax, nor was there a "right" or "left. Your argument is old, worn, and silly given the context of Patrick's post and the Cardinal's own words. As I understand your logic, if capital punishment, war, or food embargos exist, then the "nuance" of Catholics (Right or Left) opposing Abortion is unreasonable. This is sophistry at best and lousy argument at worst. Abortion should be paramount on ALL Catholic's agendas. As for father mike's comment about our Holy Father's intelligence compared to Obama's, I would bet that the Pope is wiser, more righteous, and morew intelligent than anyone the US has had to offer as President in our lifetime. What he lacks is the marketing and polling capacity of our President and I daresay the ability to bend truth (a characteristic of every politician I have ever seen).  
14 years 11 months ago
An authentic, non-partisan, reply to the President, when bringing up the "seamless garment" point would have been to note that Cardinal Bernardin himself said: ""I don't see how you can subscribe to the consistent ethic and ... [feel] that abortion is a 'basic right' of the individual."   He also said: "I know that some people on the left, if I may use that label, have used the consistent ethic to give the impression that the abortion issue is not all that important anymore, that you should be against abortion in a general way but that there are more important issues, so don't hold anybody's feet to the fire just on abortion. That's a misuse of the consistent ethic, and I deplore it." It is completely unsurprising, but no less disappointing, that America continues to ignore this point, preferring to bow before our President instead. 
14 years 11 months ago
Clearly the earlier comment by Patrick evidences that he does not really subscribe to Cardinal Bernardine's 'seamless garment' approach across the board.  Controlling peoples behavior by law has never really worked and the Church herself has violated the Gospel mandate in her tactics at times. When people do not accept the values behind the law, the law becomes a joke, especially when as citizens we say we are a people who value the rule of law.  Only force, coercion, and even violence is brought to bear to enforce law.  The burden of Catholics and all who say they value life as sacred is persuasion.  It is much harder than rewriting law.  Enshrining values to which people [the majority in a democratic society of law] subscribe by creating laws only works if the values held are more than lipservice.  Won't it be interesting if the current President is perceived as putting flesh and blood on the social teaching of the Catholic Church to a greater extent than our own bishops?  God's ways are truly inscrutable.
14 years 11 months ago
The first two comments are interesting in a sense of exegesis.The first believes that to understand what Cardinal Bernardine  taught and held one should start with his own actual words.The second scolds the first and laments that he is not authentically into the seamless garment argument put forward by the late cardinal.  The President spoke very well out of  both sides of his mouth and set forth his vision of a very maleable bishop ,a la Bernardine.But ,the late Cardinal is allowed to speak from beyond the grave thanks to Patrick and the free speech loving editors of America.The second commentator  fails to see that bypassing the argument and the voice of Bernardine ,in favor of mudslinging is not going to carry much weight in a Jesuit mag .There are  a thousand laws in the USA that are broken daily including those on rape and murder and yet nobody has like William come to see them as  redundant. I hope that it remains so.I wish to thank America and Patrick for showing me a side to the late Cardinal that is very admirable and helps me to appreciate him more ,a la Obama  
14 years 11 months ago
it would be soooooooooooo cool have have a pope as bright as the President!
14 years 11 months ago
those first to reply, as usual, seem to have an ax to grind. Whether it is the seamless garment or not, the right conveniently ignores the directives of the last several Holy Fathers who specifically opposed capital punishment, the war in Iraq, food embargos, etc.  If abortion is paramount on the moral agenda, ignoring all the other issues/problems of the seamless garment is tantamount to judicial "activists." Back to the seamless garment; yes, accept it all without prejudice.  If not, don't expect people to embrace your nuances.
14 years 11 months ago
Ah yes, the seamless garment.  Interesting to see Bernadine pop up with this collection of left leaning and supportive so called catholic media.  If this was an honest effort to speak to Catholics, why not invite in the over 80 bishops that came out vocally against his ND shame visit.  Or at least put on the fig leaf of outreach by having the conservative catholic media there and asking questions. 

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