Magister helps us with the “Cottier article” and Pres. Obama’s meeting with journalists

The gentlemanly Sandro Magister of chiesa has posted an examination of the piece published in 30 Giorni under the name of Georges Card. Cottier, designed to color in advance the upcoming meeting of Pres. Obama with Pope Benedict. 

I did my own examination of the rather sloppy 30 Giorni piece.

Magister posts long sections of the Cottier article translated into English, which will help a lot of folks understand what is going on.  He also alerts us that the entire English version is online in 30 Days.

Magister calls the piece "enthusiastic", "very friendly", and "gushy", and adds – properly – "points of conflict remain".  Understatement!

Neither was he taken in by the Cottier piece.  Magister opines:

Cardinal Cottier seems almost to exalt Obama as a new Constantine, the head of a modern empire that is also generous toward the Church.

Also very useful is Magister’s coverage of the meeting Pres. Obama had with a group of journalists on Friday, 10 July at the White House.  He point out that the following day, Avvenire (the daily of the Italian bishops’ conference) published it almost in its entirety, "giving it strong emphasis".

Magister presents "the passages from the interview dealing with the most controversial issues, from abortion to homosexuality. In his replies, Obama offers an olive branch to the Church, as he tried to do on May 17 with his speech at the Catholic University of Notre Dame. But he also notes the points on which there is no agreement, and never will be."

Here is the section from the Magister piece which concerns the interview with Pres. Obama at the White House (in Italian in Avvenire) with emphases by yours truly as well as comments.

2. "I will always forcefully defend the right of the bishops to criticize me…" 

Interview with Barack Obama

Q: On respect for life and on marriage, the American Catholic bishops have expressed criticisms and concerns about your positions. How do you intend to address such criticisms? Or do you think that you will end up ignoring them?

A: Number one, one of the strengths of our democracy is that everybody is free to express their political opinions. There will never be a time when I decide to ignore the criticisms of the Catholic bishops, because I’m the president of all Americans, not just the Americans who happen to agree with me. I take people’s opinions seriously, and the American bishops have a profound influence in their communities, in the Church, and beyond.  [And that is why he won’t ignore them.  Note the reference to "communities"… which if the bishops really wanted to, they could organize.  One of the techniques Saul Alinsky taught was to give the impression of openess to your opponents and draw them into your agenda by earnestly listening to them.] What I would say is that although there have been criticisms leveled at me from some of the bishops, there have been a number of bishops who have been extremely generous and supportive even if they don’t agree with me on every issue. So in that sense the American bishops represent a cross section of opinion just like other groups do[A telling phrase, no?  What sort of impression have the body of American bishops left with the President?  I would pick up from this that they can be divided.] I will always forcefully defend the right of the bishops to criticize me, even in strenuous terms. And I would be happy to host them here at the White House to talk about the issues that unite us and those that divide us, in a series of roundtable discussions[Enter Saul Alinsky… stage left….] I think there are going to continue to be areas where we have profound agreements and there are going to be some areas where we disagree. That’s healthy. 

Q: You have appointed a working group composed of pro-life representatives and others who defend the right to abortion, with the purpose of finding common positions. What realistic expectations do you have about the results of their work?

A: The group will have to submit a final report to me by the end of the summer, and I’m not pretending that it will be able to eliminate the differences through debate alone. [Ummm… how else would one go about eliminating the differences?  But pay attention to this next part…] I know there are points on which the conflict cannot be resolved. ["cannot be resolved"] I can tell you, though, that on the idea of helping young people make smart choices so that they are not engaging in casual sexual activity that can lead to unwanted pregnancies, on the importance of adoption as a option, an alternative to abortion, on caring for pregnant women so that it is easier for them to support children, those are immediately three areas where I would be surprised if we don’t have some pretty significant areas of agreement. But [but] there are some elements, like contraception, on which the differences are profound. I personally think that combining good sexual and moral education needs to be combined with contraception in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I recognize that contradicts Catholic Church doctrine, so I would not expect someone who feels very strongly about this issue as a matter of religious faith to be able to agree with me on that, but that’s my personal view. We may not be able to arrive at perfectly compatible language on that front. I would be surprised if those who believe abortion should be legal would object to language that says we should try to reduce the circumstances in which women feel compelled to obtain an abortion. [If put that way, fine.  But if Pres. Obama were sincere in this, why is he also aggressively pushing to extend abortion rights even overseas through pressure on the UN?] If they took that position, I would disagree with them. I don’t know any circumstance in which abortion is a happy decision, and to the extent that we can help women avoid being confronted with a circumstance in which that’s even a consideration, I think that’s a good thing. But again, that’s my view.

Q: Some Catholics praise your contribution in promoting issues of social justice, others criticize you for your positions on issues of life, from abortion to research on embryonic stem cells. Do you see this as a contradiction?

A: This tension in the Catholic world existed well before my arrival at the White House. [Another telling phrase.  He again mentions the divisions among Catholics.] When I started to get interested in social justice, in Chicago, the Catholic bishops were talking about immigration, nuclear weapons, the poor, foreign policy. Then, at a certain point, the attention of the Catholic Church shifted to abortion, and this had the power to move the opinion of Congress and of the country in the same direction. [This is his way of criticizing the greater focus on abortion.  He is playing the "single issue" card here.] These are issues I think about a lot, but now, as a non-Catholic, it’s not up to me to try to resolve those tensions. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, whom I met in Chicago, was strongly pro-life, never shrank away from talking about that issue, but was very consistent in talking about a seamless garment and a range of issues that were part and parcel of what he considered to be pro-life, [The "consistent life" idea which is used to minimize the fundamental primacy of the abortion issue.  Remember: people can disagree about this or that solution for a large range of social ills.  But the issue of the right to life is not something about which Catholics may disagree.] that meant that he was concerned about poverty, he was concerned about how children were treated, he was concerned about the death penalty, he was concerned about foreign policy. And that part of the Catholic tradition is something that continues to inspire me. And I think that there have been times over the last decade or two where that more holistic tradition feels like it’s gotten buried under the abortion debate. ["more holistic"… again, he plays the "single issue" card.] Whereas I would like it to stay front and center in the national debate.

Q: Many people, and not only doctors, who work in nongovernmental institutions are very concerned about being unable to make objections of conscience in ethically sensitive areas. Your administration’s position on this is not entirely clear . . .

A: My underlying position has always been consistent, which is I’m a believer in conscience clauses. I was a supporter of a robust conscience clause in Illinois for Catholic hospitals and health care providers, [at the same time as you, Mr. President, were voting to deny medical care to children who survived attempted abortions…. but I digress…] I talked about this with Cardinal Francis George at a recent Oval Office meeting, and I repeated it in my speech at the University of Notre Dame. I understand that there have been some who keep on anticipating the worst from us, and it’s not based on anything I’ve said or done, but is rather just a perception somehow that we have some hard-line agenda that we’re seeking to push. [Perception?  Read this and this.]  I think that the only reason that my position may appear unclear is because it came in the wake of a last-minute, eleventh-hour change in conscience clause provisions that were pushed forward by the previous administration that we chose to reverse because they had not been properly reviewed. [uh huh… that’s why it appeared unclear] But we are reviewing the question, and we have asked for opinions on this from the public, receiving hundreds of thousands of them. I can assure that when this review is complete there will be a robust conscience clause in place. It may not meet the criteria of every possible critic of our approach, [go figure] but it certainly will not be weaker than what existed before the changes were made.

Q: How do you reconcile your Christian faith with the promises you made to homosexuals during the electoral campaign?  [great question]

A: As for the gay and lesbian community of this country, I think that it is wounded by some of the teachings of the Catholic Church and by Christian doctrine in general. [?  QUAERITUR: Is it possible, truly, to be "wounded" by God’s will?] As a Christian, I struggle constantly between my faith and duties, [ah yes!  The overarching primacy of "the struggle".  Once you’ve "struggled", you can do as you please.] and my concerns toward gays and lesbians. And I often discover that there is a great deal of heat on both sides of the debate, even among those I consider to be great people. On the other hand, I stand firm on what I said in Cairo: any position that automatically dismisses the religious convictions and creed of others as intolerance does not understand the power of faith and the good that it does in the world. In any case, as people of faith we must examine our convictions and ask ourselves whether we sometimes cause suffering for others. [QUAERITUR: Are the tenets of Christianity, a Judeo-Christian morality and view of homosexual behavior just "convictions"?] I think that all of us, whatever our faith, must recognize that there have been times when religion has not been put to the service of the good[abusus non tollit usum] And it is up to us, I think, to undertake a profound reflection and be willing to ask whether we are acting in a way that is consistent not only with the teachings of the Church, but also with what our Lord Jesus Christ has called us to do: to treat others as we would like to be treated. [Is he proposing that the Lord would want Christian "convictions" to change because some people’s feelings are hurt?  We can all strive to be more perfect in charity, but charity does not permit us to alter the truth.]


I am always intensely interested to read what the President has to say.  His off the cuff or spontaneous remarks like these are revelatory.

And about that "Golden Rule" thing Pres. Obama wrapped up with, and people being "hurt".  If you asked around, do you think anyone, including the President, would want to be dismembered or burned with a solution or have a something shoved through his or her head? 

I’m just askin’…

In any event, folks, look at some of the sites I have linked, above, and do some close reading.

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  1. Amy P. says:

    to treat others as we would like to be treated.

    Fine. You know how I wish to be treated, President Obama? I wish to be treated in such a way that if someone truly believed I was engaging in sin that would lead to eternal separation from God that I would want them to say something to me. To correct me. To put me back on the path to salvation.

    Heck, even atheist Penn Jillette acknowledges that the worst thing a believer can do is not tell others what they believe — he says if he truly believed you were about to be hit by a bus, he’d warn you and, if needs be, physically remove you from harm’s way.

    Moreover, I want them – who never want to be condemned or criticized – to return the favor. The hostility in a minor, but vocal, group of gay-rights activists is palpable. And its effects threaten MY right to free speech and free religious expression (just look to Canada to see an example of this in action).

  2. Jim Dorchak says:

    Unfortunately now (since May 1st “HVCC”) I have to resist listening or reading anything obama says since it makes me physically ill. Kind of like a pavlovian response, or having your mouth washed out with soap, it only takes one time and you got the message.

    JIm Dorchak

  3. Joe says:

    “a new Constantine”. Constantine did many good things for the Church; he also murdered his wife and son.

  4. Mr. H. says:

    As exemplified by the case of Cardinal Cottier, I am continually amazed at how many people form their judgments about President Obama based on his speeches and words as opposed to his actions and record.

    Mr. H

  5. Never has a man so sublimely said so little with so many words, the man is a snake oil salesman in a good suit, a slick polished Chicago Politician with no scruples, no moral compass except his own, just like some of the catholic in name onlys that support him, can we say Kmiec.

  6. Peggy says:

    This may be too off-topic, I won’t be offended if you delete, Father. Barack Obama brought up the adoption option for the first time, I can see, in these interviews. George W Bush strongly promoted adoption. I think he did some public events as well as doubled the adoption cost federal tax deduction. We are a Catholic couple who married a bit late and were not able to conceive, though we are still not of an inappropriate age to bear children, anything is possible. We approached our local Catholic Charities. I appreciated the moral criteria to adopt. No objections there, but some other objections such as age limits, though again reasonable to some extent, made it impossible for us to adopt with them. Also, I have found Catholic Charities in 2 dioceses to be the most expensive provider of home studies, reports and other fees. I was very surprised by that. Further, the other issue with adoption in the U.S. is the extent of rights granted to birth mothers and the potential for those mothers and fathers suddenly discovered wanting their children back. While I appreciate those feelings, they make adoption very emotionally risky for adopting couples. My view is that states must give attention to their adoption policies to provide some greater security to adopting couples, though I appreciate the serious emotional issues of mothers giving up their children. Our own experience is that we used a secular agency, which was very good and affordable with clearly stated fees, to adopt 2 adorable, lovely children internationally. Frankly, the agency was also willing to place children with gay couples, but noted that many foreign nations would not approve and would certainly not place children with single men. [The Duke gay adoption horror comes to mind here.] We have relocated to a different state since the adoption and ended up using a Lutheran social service agency as the diocesan CC services wanted us to do all the upfront pre-adoption paperwork, approval and fees in order to file our last post-adoption report with the foreign government. I was dumbfounded at how silly and costly that was.

    Forgive me if that was too off-topic. I have been following the Obie-Catholic story and your posts. I appreciate Mr. Magister’s work on this as well. I am concerned that the Vatican folks are going to sit down to the table in too friendly a manner with Obama because Europe is generally more statist than the U.S. and Obie’s aggressive agenda might seem to appeal to some of them.

  7. LCB says:

    This entire administration’s daily game plan is taking out of Alinsky, and I would strongly urge those with the time to read Alinsky’s work.

    Here is the truth about Rules for Radicals: If you remove Alinsky’s desire to bring about a socialist revolution in America, the book is really good. It has really good and important information that we can use to better organize ourselves. [I have had the same thought and have talked about this with friends.]

  8. Steve K. says:

    “Cardinal Cottier seems almost to exalt Obama as a new Constantine, the head of a modern empire that is also generous toward the Church.”

    This gives me a case of the extreme willies.

  9. Steve K. says:

    LCB, I would be leery of that, lest we suffer Saruman’s fate.

  10. mom says:

    Peggy, we have adopted three children internationally. One was adopted through an international program with Catholic Charities. There was much publicity a couple of years ago about Catholic Charities needing families for domestic adoption of hispanic infants. (This was after Hurricane Katrina and a large influx of hispanic workers to our area.) We called and were interested, but the policy states that you cannot adopt domestically through our local Catholic Charities office unless you have no more than 2 children. We have three, so even though we were ready, willing and able, they wouldn’t even talk to us. I know this is off topic, but it is very sad when there are kids out there who need homes and Catholic Charities seems to have bought into the notion that a small family is best. I can understand salary requirements, etc, but the blanket “no more than 2 children” rule is not right.

    Sorry this is somewhat off-topic.

  11. EDG says:

    Leaving aside all his typical slippery language, airy proclamations of agreement where there is none, and somewhat infelicitous, childish phrasing (what he said in the original transcript that I read is that “some bad stuff” had been done by religions), he seems to believe it’s all about him. In his mind, everything is all about him.

  12. anastasia says:

    When you hear of anyone who “struggled” with his conscience, you can always tell who won.

  13. Rancher says:

    The Marxist Messiah is a CLASSIC Alinsky student. I agree completely with those who caution against beleiving anything he says as he changes his rhetoric to meet the audience. It is all about him and getting his way and he will say/do whatever it takes to accomplish his agenda–an agenda which is clearly socialist.

    For all of his dishonesty Obama is a very smart man. Smart enough to know that a Church united is a formidable enemy. He is not willing to take the risk of a united Church in the USA opposing him so he has adopted the divide and conquer approach.

    If he were operating solely within his comfort zone of Chicago thug politics he’d have the mob take out the Church opposition. Since he hasn’t yet figured out quite how to do that he uses an existing ‘catholic’ mob (Pelosi, Sebilius, Napolitano et al) and adds to that mob (Sotomayor, Kmiec) to do his whacking for him. Shrewd and scary.

  14. Catherine says:

    …on caring for pregnant women so that it is easier for them to support children,…

    Except, Mr. President, when you do everything in your power to make sure they do not remain pregnant…
    Everyone seems to be passing over a very important group of people here who know a great deal about this issue: post-abortive women (and men). They know exactly what is going on, but have been ashamed, frightened and silent for too many years. But now is the time for women to come forward and fight this great evil.

    I know what I am talking about. Sadly I am one of them….

  15. Germanist says:

    What he says is pure Muslim-Talk.
    Just compare it to speeches by any Muslim politician.
    They always pronounce their great principles, but what they do in the end, is always very different from their words.

  16. Matt Q says:

    There is something very underhanded about this, some dark, ulterior motive. Why does Obama think it important to meet with Catholic journalists and then tell them how to proceed? Has he gotten together with any other group or entity to carry on like this, or just the Catholics he’s obsessed with?

    I picked up on David Osterloh’s comment:

    “Never has a man so sublimely said so little with so many words, the man is a snake oil salesman in a good suit, a slick polished Chicago Politician with no scruples, no moral compass except his own, just like some of the catholic-in-name-onlys that support him, can we say Kmiec.”

    This is true. First off, Kmiec is one those typical Bohemien slimebags. Just by his manner of speech and his body language, you can tell he’s one of those Northeastern elitists who think they always know better and everyone else is just the unwashed peasants in need of them.

    Secondly, what happened to us over the years? Spineless mush-heads, and I wonder how many of those “Catholic” journalists just wet their pants over Obama after drinking in all that kool-aid of his. This cardinal too yet. Is Cottier pronounced with an S? It ought to be. Fits perfectly.

    = = = = =

    Mr H wrote:

    “As exemplified by the case of Cardinal Cottier, I am continually amazed at how many people form their judgments about President Obama based on his speeches and words as opposed to his actions and record.”


    Really? If someone went around all day telling everyone how important it is we should start burning crosses in people’s yards, you’d have no problem with that whatsoever until you actually saw it happen? On the face of it, you have an amoral personality. It couldn’t be seen any other way.

    You may wish to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, which we all must extend to everyone but, there are certain kinds of consistent speech which indicates a mindset, and we can’t stand around waiting for an act. If you go about your days ignoring it all, you’re the one in greater danger because you can’t see it coming when it does hit you in the face. The rest of here aren’t stupid enough just to stand around like idiots waiting!

  17. Baron Korf says:

    Everything he says just seems so fake and patronizing. Reminds me of the scottish nobles from Braveheart.

  18. Germanist says:

    “I will always forcefully defend the right p
    of the bishops to criticize me …,”
    Well,I wonder – even if it amounts to “hate speach” ?

  19. Clinton says:

    One detail strikes me especially: the President’s rationalization of his reversal of the conscience clause exemptions enacted under the Bush
    administration. Pres. Obama explains that the previously existing “last-minute, eleventh-hour … provisions… we chose to reverse because
    they had not been properly reviewed.” Given this administration’s taste for forcing votes on major legislation before Congress has time to
    review the bill (cap-and-trade, most recently), I cannot take his excuse seriously.

    If the President has to field such a patently absurd rationalization, it can only be because he knows that his audience would not like to hear
    his actual reasons. I doubt that principled health care and social services workers will be in love with this administration’s idea of what
    constitutes a “robust conscience clause”.

  20. LCB says:

    Steve K.,

    I would highly recommend reading it. It’s advice for how to do things like conduct boycotts, engage in forming political power blocs in communities, etc, are incredibly effective.

    A lot of things in the book are natural fits with Catholic communities, and in a lot of ways these are how Catholic communities USED to naturally act in politics and the public square, but quit doing after our patrimony was sold for a bowl of porridge.

    Do I disagree with Alinsky’s 100% total abandonment of ethics? Of course. Do I think that Obama has internalized that? Yes.

    But if you get past that, just like if you get past some stuff in “The Prince”, is there a lot of truth and useful advice and information? Yes.

    Just like we took the best that was to be found in Roman culture and set aside the immoral, so we should do with this.

  21. LCB says:

    It is important to recall that this book shaped Obama’s life in tremendous ways, by his own admission.

    The original preface was written by Alinsky and read as such:

    “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, The President of the United States’ hero. We must know what is in that book.

  22. Warren says:

    Having stated unequivocally what he intends to do, why would any rational person believe that a president who, having made little effort (outside of consulting his cadre of PC sycophants) to consult with bona fide religionists, would now be interested in protecting those who choose to conscientiously object (to his stated agenda)?

    If a group with coercive power is able to manipulate the judiciary and government into believing they can restrict responsible free speech, and/or, e.g., change the definition of marriage and thus the definition of the family, you better believe that those conscience protections being tossed around are more likely to be tossed aside if, in the eyes of the state, they amount to a hindrance to an agenda . A conscientious objector who merely appears as a kook is likely to be dismissed as such. However, an objector who is actually making an impact is more likely to be targeted as a threat to national security, in which case the state will do an end run around those conscience “protections” in order to curb the perceived threat.

    Two older folk were recently arrested for peacefully protesting outside a Vancouver, B.C. abortuary. They conducted their protest within a “bubble zone”, a public area outside the abortion mill intended to protect clients and staff from being “harassed” by pro-life protestors. These bubble zones have been upheld by the Supreme Court. Thus, the right to responsible free speech has been suspended in these bubble zones. Watch for farther reaching restrictions to emerge.

    And to LCB – thanks for that quote. Chilling, to say the least.

  23. Warren says:

    A quick note…

    Saul Alinsky was awarded the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in 1969. The Award was created by the Davenport Catholic Interracial Council of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.

  24. Kevin in Texas says:

    Reply to Matt Q at 2:35pm:

    Matt, just so you know, Mr. H. is a pro-life conservative. It looks like you misunderstood what he had written–he was indirectly criticizing Europeans, including Vatican officials like Cdl. Cottier, who seem to give Obama points for what he says, but ignore what his later actions actually are. He wasn’t criticizing pro-life Catholics for disbelieving Obama on what he says.

  25. Matthew W. I. Dunn says:

    C’mon, if it weren’t for the “Notre Dame Scandal,” many people here wouldn’t otherwise give a sideays glance at Pres. Obama’s meeting with the Pope. Popes meet with world leaders, as someone once wrote.

    Who follows these things, anyways? His Holiness will probably give Obama and Family some little religious curio (maybe, a cross or icon) and Obama will probably give him the DVD collection of the “Fr. Brown Mysteries.”

    There will be a nice, albeit noncommittal, meeting between both leaders.

    Pics will be taken, and Obama will be able to say: “I got to meet the Pope!”

    Although the Popes qua bishops are consecrated to share in Christ’s ministry of Priest, Prophet, and King, the Popes are not prophets. They haven’t been for a while.

  26. taad says:

    It would be great if the Holy Father and the bishops would read up on Saul
    Alinsky and his methodolgy. Maybe they would have a better understanding of
    what is going on.

    Another thought that comes to mind, how much of this praise for Obama is a
    result of Homosexuals within the priesthood and the bishops? Are they willing
    to give him a pass on issues such abortion because
    he’s a defender of homosexuality?

  27. Steve K. says:

    LCB – thanks for that, it bears reading. What an awful quote, Kyrie eleison!

  28. Michael says:

    Obama reminds me much more of the English King in Braveheart, talking of peace while planning for war. The fake and patronizing nobles are the beltway Republicans who are just looking for a way to get along and get back some of their personal power and prestige without really upsetting the order of things.

  29. Kimberly says:

    Catherine – The difference between a saint and a sinner is, the saint gets back up. You got back up. Keep going! Fight the fight.

  30. Veritas says:

    Michael and Baron Korf. Braveheart was excellent Hollywood but poor history, why quote from it as if it proved anything?

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