Barack Obama at the Vatican

Pope Benedict shows him charity in truth.

As a senator, Barack Obama received a 100 percent voting rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League. The Catholic Church gives no such rating to politicians, but if one were to construct a similar scorecard, using only non-negotiable moral issues as the measure, Obama’s rating would be zero.

He stands against the natural moral law not “just on one issue,” as fatuous left-wing Catholic commentators claim, but on every contested issue directly tied to it. In late June, Obama invited the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community to the White House for an unprecedented reception that showcased the scope of his contempt for the natural moral law.

“Welcome to your White House,” he told the cheering crowd, before belittling morally traditional Americans for their “worn arguments and old attitudes.” To impatient “LGBT” activists, he cooed, “We’ve been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration.”

Then, a few days before his visit to the Vatican in early July, he authorized guidelines for the destruction of human embryos by scientists that exceeded even earlier grim assessments. As Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the US Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro- Life Activities, noted on July 7:

In April I criticized the National Institutes of Health’s draft guidelines for destructive embryonic stem cell research, saying that under these guidelines “federal tax dollars will be used to encourage destruction of living embryonic human beings for stem cell research—including human beings who otherwise would have survived and been born.”

The final guidelines issued yesterday are even broader. Parents who are asked to consider having their embryonic children destroyed for research will not even have to be informed about all their other options—only about the options that happen to be available at their particular fertility clinic. Moreover, under the final guidelines, stem cell lines that existed previously or that are produced in foreign countries may be made eligible for federally funded research even if they were obtained in ways that violate one or more of the NIH’s own informed consent requirements.

Law professor Doug Kmiec, Obama’s chief “Catholic” apologist, had promised in April that these guidelines would be “more strict” than those contained in George W. Bush’s policy. In July, Obama tossed a small plum to Kmiec for his tireless defense, nominating him US ambassador to Malta. “Why Douglas, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world,” one can imagine Robert Bolt’s St. Thomas More saying to Kmiec. “But for Malta?”

In view of Obama’s actual record, which derives not from fine rhetoric but from the fine print of his policies, the pro-Obama noises that have emanated from the corridors of the Curia are unfathomable. “Obama is not a pro-abortion president,” Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L’Osservatore Romano, has said, while former papal household theologian Cardinal Georges Cottier congratulates Obama for his “humble realism.”

Left-wing Catholics, such as Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, continue to crow over these sympathetic statements, watching gleefully as traditional Catholics in America get their wires crossed with ostensible allies at the Vatican. The “Vatican clearly views Obama through a broader prism,” sniffs Dionne. Apparently it is okay for the spirit-of-Vatican II-style liberals in the Curia to stop listening to the “local Church” once it takes an interest in defending the magisterium.

But for all their pro-Obama excitement, they must have felt a bit downcast after his visit with Pope Benedict. After all, some of them had hoped that Obama would receive as warm a welcome there as the one he received at Notre Dame. It didn’t quite turn out that way: Notre Dame gave Obama an honorary degree; Pope Benedict gave him the pro-life document Dignitas Personae.

Offering Obama that pointed papal gift is the one moment likely to be remembered from the meeting. According to media reports, Obama, in an exchange bordering on parody, handed Pope Benedict a letter from Ted Kennedy and left with Dignitas Personae (Pope Benedict also gave him his new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate). Obama seemed a little thrown by the swap, saying with inappropriate glibness that the papal documents would give him something to read on his short flight to Ghana, and that he expected good relations “between our two countries.”

While Pope Benedict accorded Obama the gentlemanly respect due a visiting head of state, he gently reminded him in their conversation that the true measure of hope and progress is fidelity to the natural moral law. The meeting had “turned first of all to questions which are in the interests of all and which constitute a great challenge for the future of every nation and for the true progress of peoples, such as the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience,” read a Vatican statement after it.

Far from confirming Obama in the dangerous sentimentality that is his “audacity of hope,” Pope Benedict’s charity in truth exposed it.


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