Fr. Lombardi on the gift of “Dignitatis personae” to Pres. Obama

Here is an excerpt from a CNS article about the Pope giving Dignitatis personae to Pres. Obama:

"There was no intention to be polemical," Father Lombardi said. "I do not agree with the idea that the pope was trying to point out their differences."

"It is important to talk about these things and to find a path to dialogue," he said.

Excuse me, Fr. Lombardi.  Are you saying that the Pope gave him Dignitatis humanae because he and the Pope agree on its content?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Agnes says:

    No, it was just a little conversation starter… Nice stole!

  2. A Random Friar says:

    I would agree with Fr. Lombardi that he was not being polemical, but that in presenting it, the Holy Father was most definitely letting the President know exactly where he and the Church stands, minus any spin. As our Holy Father has pointed out, you cannot have real dialogue without discussing your differences and acknowledging them first.

  3. Jon says:

    Was it ‘Dignitas humanae’ or ‘Dignitas personae’? There seems to be a mix up.

  4. TNCath says:

    Father Lombardi said. “I do not agree with the idea that the pope was trying to point out their differences.”

    Look at that statement closely. It’s a master dodge ball sentence uttered for no good reason. Father Lombardi would be a great defense attorney. Unfortunately, the Vatican doesn’t need a defense attorney; it needs a spokesman who needs to give an objective account of what the Holy Father is doing and saying. Bottom line: Father Lombardi, nobody cares whether you agree with the idea or not. Just report what happened. I don’t think the Pope had to point out their differences because the differences are quite obvious. Could it be that he was trying to educate the President in what the “dignity of persons” really means beyond the President’s obvious limited understanding of the term?

  5. Verba volant, scripta manent.

  6. shoofoolatte says:

    And it could be that Benedict and Obama are closer than you think re: the sacredness of life.

    The difference may lie in what to do about it. [No.]

  7. LCB says:


    Obama thinks abortion is morally acceptable under all circumstances, up to the minute of birth. [Heck! Why stop there? He voted, twice, against legislation which would have required medical attention for babies surviving the attempted murder. Let them die in a closet.]

    Benedict thinks abortion is never morally acceptable.

    Care to explain this a bit to me?

  8. I believe one of the works of Mercy is to instruct the ignorant. Obama being ignorant on the issues of life getting an education in all things life…sounds good to me.

  9. Rob Murray says:

    Ahh, Dialogue… the vocabulary version of the enigizer bunny.

  10. mrteachersir says:


    I think you forgot some stuff:

    Obama thinks abortion is morally acceptable under all circumstances, even after birth. In addition, Obama sees great good in the murder of innocent embryos for mythical research, views children as a punishment, and thinks that contraceptive use in fine because it prevents punishments.

    Benedict rejects all of those.

    It still needs explaining, though, how Obama respects the sacredness on life as does the Pope.

  11. Peggy says:

    I confess that I feel quite vindicated by B16’s giving Obie this document. I have said since last summer that Obie exhibits a detachment from concern for another person’s suffering and has little regard for human life, eg, his allegedly “cool” demeanor in the wake of last summer’s financial meltdown was really disinterest; his support of infanticide; his not caring for the life of Terri Schiavo (hard to believe that man really cares for the constitution more); his indifference to Iraqis seeking freedom; his indifference to the nosedives in the DOW earlier this year–“just a tracking poll”…among others.

  12. Andreas says:

    I take it as a reasonable clarification: it addresses the difference between two possibilities:

    one. The Pope wants to emphasize that there is something to disagree about and as a gesture of disapproval gives the Pres a booklet even though he doesn’t think it will be read. That might be called “trying to point out the differences”.

    two. The Pope truly hopes the Pres will read the content and get a clearer a picture about the issue at hand. That might be called “not trying to point out the differences”.

  13. Holy Mackerel says:

    Recall that the Holy Father is a teacher by profession. [Okay… interesting introduction.] His inclinations have always run toward intellectual engagement, and away from polemics. [I wonder. Think of Regensburg. There is no way he didn’t know that would be also polemical.] Even his most impassioned and frustrated writing – I’m thinking of the introduction to the current edition of “Introduction to Christianity” – is framed logically, [And his commentaries on V2 docs….] and avoids criticism of specific personalities. One gets the sense that such criticism was a necessary part of his job at CDF, and he never shunned it – but he never enjoyed it, either. [And he was incredibly patient. Some say too patient.]

    The Holy Father also has a history of seeking dialogue with people who are quite different from him, even on core issues. I’m thinking particularly of the Regensburg speech, [yes] and his dialogue with the “neo-Marxist” philosopher Jurgen Habermas in “The Dialectics of Secularization.” [Good reminder!] Now Habermas, an accomplished philosopher, has a far better claim to intellectual peer status vis-a-vis the Holy Father than the President does. [Absolutely.] Still, though, President Obama is demonstrably intelligent. [But he isn’t as brilliant as some claim.] He can read the document and understand it. Why shouldn’t the Holy Father have invited him to intellectual dialogue on these issues? The worst that can happen is he refuses. I disagree with the notion that the Holy Father caused scandal in any way. [GREAT COMMENT. However, I think the whole thing should have been handled differently.]

  14. Maynardus says:

    Now if the Pope was really trying to be provocative he\’d have given “The Big 0” a personalizd gift, say, an iPod containing recordings of B16\’s speeches, encyclicals, etc…

  15. LCB says:


    We should really tone down the rhetoric. Asking for contradicting facts to be explained is clear hate speech.

  16. little gal says:

    Thank goodness for Mons. Gänswein,the pope’s secretary. He told reporters the document would “help the president better understand the position of the Catholic church.”

  17. P. McGrath says:

    Father Z, you’re not the only one disturbed by Father Lombardi’s statement. Here’s Catholic Culture’s take on the issue. Note the following:

    Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that the Pontiff was impressed by the American president. Father Lombardi emphasized in his own comments to reporters that President Obama had spoken at length about his commitment to reduce the number of abortions performed in the US. Thus the papal spokesman– who has issued public statements reducing the force of papal pronouncements on several recent occasions– delivered the message that the White House had clearly hoped to convey to the world’s media.

    Nice one, Father Lombardi. You allow the event to be photographed in the first place, and now you carry the White House party line for them. Thanks a lot. [Listen. The Vatican spokesman isn’t… SADLY…. C.J. Cregg, who can influence anything.]

  18. Hidden One says:

    I motion that we (WDTPRS readers) start a “Pray for Fr. Lombardi” campaign. I think that it might have better results than complaining about him roughly every time he opens his mouth while somebody’s listening. I think that our prayers could do more good than our jabs.

    [Sorry about the double “I think” statements… my “Anti-spam word” is “THINK THEN POST”.]

  19. Hiberniensis says:

    Is Fr Lombardi the new Piero Marini? [No. Fr. Lombardi is a Jesuit.]

  20. Hiberniensis says:

    “Is Fr Lombardi the new Piero Marini?”

    I mean by this, of course, to ask is he the new object of unreasonable hyper-scrutiny and criticism, in the way that Mgsr Marini formerly was.

  21. Tony says:

    HH wouldn’t give Dignitatis Humanae to anyone. He knows why!

  22. joe says:

    My take on this is Fr. Lombardi was trying to explain the Holy Father was not trying to “score points” at the President’s expense. Instead, he was (as Mons. Gänswein noted) trying to make pellucidly clear to the President what the official Church position is on these issues.

    The intent was not to engage in polemics (although, as Fr. Z. has noted, he has sometimes engaged in polemics) but rather, leave no room for plausible deniability for those who might want to take up the mantra of “we’re closer on these issues than you think.”

    Just one man’s opinion.


  23. Aaron says:

    This quote shows that when people say things like “path to dialogue,” they don’t really mean dialogue, which of course has to start with outlining your differences. If they had no differences, there would be nothing to have “dialogue” about. What they really mean by dialogue is nodding along with whatever the other guy says.

    Also, keep in mind that Obama’s people came out before the meeting and said he would have a “frank discussion” with the Pope about abortion. That put Benedict on the spot; he couldn’t have a quiet word with Obama without letting the press spin it as agreement the way Pelosi tried to do. He had to do something fairly public.

  24. Paul Haley says:

    The Holy Father’s words and actions speak for themselves and we don’t need Fr. Lombardi to explain them to us.

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