June 13, 2004

Bush/Pope '04?

Bush Asked for Vatican’s Help on Political Issues, Report Says (NYT - registration req’d)

On 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.

[…]

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the report “mind-boggling.”

“It is just unprecedented for a president to ask for help from the Vatican to get re-elected, and that is exactly what this is,” Mr. Lynn said. Linda Pieczynski, a spokeswoman for Call to Action, a liberal Catholic group, said, “For a president to try to get the leader of any religious organization to manipulate his fellow clergymen to support a political candidate crosses the line in this country.”

The article mentions that visits to the Pope from leaders are never devotional, they’re always asking for something. Bush is asking for the election. Can the Pope help him deliver it? Will he?

Posted by James at June 13, 2004 8:27 PM
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Comments

Unbelievable. This story has made the NYTimes and Boston Globe but not the McMedia outlets yet (CNN, USA Today, certainly not FOX News). I don't see that happening.

Posted by: Mike at June 14, 2004 11:16 AM

Is it 2004 or 1504? I needs to win me an election... quick, get me the Pope!

Posted by: Chuck S. at June 14, 2004 2:59 PM

Mr. Bush has succeeded in enlisting the Pope's help for reelection. Locally, the bishops are putting the screws to anyone voting for a pro-choice candidate. "You're not a good Catholic if you vote for a pro-choice candidate." Where does this put Mr Kerry? He's a Catholic, but if he compromises his own faith, what else will he compromise? How can we trust him? This must be the nastiest political tactic in history. Does no one else see this?

Posted by: Jan Chamberlin at July 6, 2004 3:41 PM

What's amazing is that only Kerry seems to be subject to this new litmus test.

I expect much worse than these sorts of attacks as the election draws near.

Posted by: James at July 6, 2004 4:25 PM

I think most voters will see it for what it is: authority figures scratching one anothers' backs. Politicians and religious figures are influential only to the extent that people think they are trustworthy. I don't think people (especially in the northeast) are as trusting of their bishops as they once were, and even fewer trust politicians. Seeing them join forces like this ought to make them suspicious right away.

Let's keep in mind that most people are not Catholic, and that not all Catholics agree with all Catholic rules anyway (I know plenty who use birth control, for example). None of these people are going to be impressed or even fooled by a Southern Baptist's overtures to the Catholic church.

Focusing on Catholics who are devout AND do not already think Bush has a big 666 somewhere on his body: In the last few years, it's been made devastatingly clear that clergy are not infallible, that they are not exempt from temptation, that vocation is not proof of moral authority, and that some bishops will put children in danger just to protect the the church's image. That doesn't mean that all or even most clergymen are child molesters, but it does show that they are as human and imperfect as anyone else. (I think most people understood that already, but now they have proof.)

So now some bishops are grandstanding about political matters and telling people how to vote, rather than simply reminding people of the Church's position and letting them connect the dots themselves. If their motives were strictly spiritual and not political, they'd also tell voters that voting for pro-war or pro-death penalty candidates also makes them bad Catholics, which pretty well eliminates Bush from the picture too.

That doesn't mean that they'll vote for Kerry. I just don't think this is going to be a deciding factor. I hope most people, Catholics included, know better than to base their decision on one issue only. But ultimately, this is actually a pretty small group of people. Which just goes to show you how frightened and desperate this administration is.

Perhaps supporting a pro-choice candidate does make one a bad Catholic. There are worse things to be.

Posted by: Julie at July 6, 2004 4:44 PM

Unfortunately, you underestimate the power of the single issue voter. Try talking to my Mother-in-law about politics some time. She is opposed to almost everything Bush does. She does not like him one bit. However, she is very strongly anti-abortion. She voted for Bush and plans to do so again. She is not unique in this sort of thinking.

Posted by: briwei at July 7, 2004 1:19 PM

I believe you meant to say misunderestimated!

Posted by: Bob at July 7, 2004 1:31 PM
Unfortunately, you underestimate the power of the single issue voter. Try talking to my Mother-in-law about politics some time. She is opposed to almost everything Bush does. She does not like him one bit. However, she is very strongly anti-abortion. She voted for Bush and plans to do so again. She is not unique in this sort of thinking.

So you can summarize her voting style has "Willing to elect anyone who pays lip service to her deepest concerns, no matter what evil they do."

You might want to point out to her that she is allowing herself to be used. Then again, maybe you don't want to do that.

Posted by: Chuck S. at July 7, 2004 2:07 PM

Try to convince my MIL she's wrong? Are you mad?!? I hope she never takes up blogging or she may see this! But yes, she feels so strongly that abortion is wrong that she is willing to vote for the candidate who agrees with her on that issue.

Posted by: briwei at July 8, 2004 1:17 AM

I fear Bri is right. Those single issue voters are pretty set. I don't see Kerry shaking them loose for anything.

Posted by: James at July 8, 2004 1:31 AM

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