President Obama, the Vatican and ‘Common Ground’: His First Year in Review

There have been a lot of seasonal "year in review" programs. 

I am a little late to this, but I thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at an important issue for the Catholic Church and the year-old Obama Administration.

Common Ground

President Obama, in an attempt to suborn Catholics, started feeding us a line about "Common Ground".

What sort of Common Ground is there really coming from the Obama Administration?

What sort of response has really been coming from the Holy See?

Judge for yourself whether or not there is a lot of "common ground" between the Obama Administration and the Holy See on the abortion issue.

The events chosen are selected, but I think representative. Leave aside the obvious problem of appointments (e.g., Kmiec, Sebelius, etc.). 

We could have waited to do this for the actual anniversary of the President’s inauguration, but it is better to get this out there well in advance of the the anniversary of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton.

Watch how the Obama Administration acts and the Holy See reacts.  Watch the flow of the action and reaction, both strong and weak.  Watch for promises of future action and then what actually results.  Do you detect changes in positions?

President Obama, the Vatican and ‘Common Ground’: His First Year in Review

Moves or reactions of the Vatican are indicated in BLUE.

January 20, 2009: The Vatican sent a telegram for the inauguration congratulating President Obama, followed by a phone call from the Pope.

January 22, 2009:  On his second day in office, which was the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion on demand, President Obama issued a statement reaffirming his commitment to defend that ruling, which he said protected “reproductive freedom.”

January 23, 2009: President Obama struck down a rule that prohibits U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics that promote abortion or provide counseling or referrals about abortion services. The memorandum reverses the “Mexico City policy,” initiated by President Reagan in 1984, canceled by President Clinton and reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001.

January 24, 2009: Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera that the repeal of the abortion-funding ban was done with “the arrogance of those who, having power, think they can decide between life and death.”  [!]

January 25, 2009: The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, called President Obama’s repeal of the abortion-funding ban “very disappointing.”

February 6, 2009: President Obama announced the creation of a new White House Office on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which will make abortion reduction one of its priorities. Obama’s strategy emerged during the presidential campaign. In his third debate with Republican John McCain, he repeated his support for abortion rights but called it “a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on,” adding: “There surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies’.”

February 27, 2009: A U.S. Health and Human Services official said today that the Obama Administration will publish notice early next week of its intentions to rescind a Bush administration rule that strengthened job protections for doctors and nurses who refuse for moral reasons to perform abortions.

March 9, 2009: In a White House ceremony today, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to allow federal funding of research that will require the killing of human embryos. This order reverses a policy instituted by former President George W. Bush in August 2001, which funded research on already-existing stem cell lines without encouraging any further destruction of human life.

March 18 2009:  the Obama Administration released $50 million to the United Nations Population Fund – an agency that had received no U.S. funds under the Bush Administration because of its involvement in China’s population-control program, which relies heavily upon coerced abortions.

April 29, 2009: President Obama declared, “The Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority. The most important thing we can do is to tamp down some of the anger surrounding the issue to focus on those areas we can agree on.”

April 29, 2009: The Vatican newspaper said President Obama’s first 100 days in office have not confirmed the Catholic Church’s worst fears about radical policy changes in ethical areas. The comments came in a front-page article April 29 in L’Osservatore Romano. It said the new president has operated with more caution than predicted in most areas, including economics and international relations. “On ethical questions, too — which from the time of the electoral campaign have been the subject of strong worries by the Catholic bishops — Obama does not seem to have confirmed the radical innovations that he had discussed,” it said. It said the new draft guidelines for stem-cell research, for example, did not constitute the major change in policy that was foreseen a few months ago. “(The guidelines) do not allow the creation of new embryos for research or therapeutic purposes, for cloning or for reproductive ends, and federal funds may be used only for experimentation with excess embryos,” it said. It added that the new guidelines “do not remove the reasons for criticism in the face of unacceptable forms of bioengineering” but are “less permissive” than expected. The article saw a positive sign in the recent introduction of the Pregnant Women Support Act, which would help women overcome problems that often cause them to have abortions.

May 7, 2009: President Obama submitted to Congress an appropriation bill for the District of Columbia which explicitly urges repeal of a law (sometimes called the Dornan Amendment) that has prevented tax-funded abortion in the District of Columbia for many years.

May 17, 2009: President Obama emphasized the importance of common ground as opponents of abortion rights protested his appearance and the honorary degree he received from the University of Notre Dame. “When we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we do, that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground,” the US President said.

May 18, 2009: The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said President Obama sought common ground on the divisive issue of abortion in his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. The newspaper said the president also confirmed that pushing for a more liberal abortion law would not be a priority of his administration. “The search for a common ground: This seems to be the path chosen by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, in facing the delicate question of abortion,” the newspaper said. It said Obama had set aside the “strident tone” of the 2008 political campaign on the abortion issue. “Yesterday Obama confirmed what he expressed at his 100-day press conference at the White House, when he said that enacting a new law on abortion was not a priority of his administration,” it said.

In this same issue, L’Osservatore carries a news story on the U.S. bishops’ campaign against the Obama administration’s policy on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

May 19, 2009: Vatican newspaper editor-in-chief, Gian Maria Vian gives an interview to Il Reformista concerning L’Osservatore Romano’s coverage of President Obama’s Notre Dame speech. Said Vian, “What I want to stress is that yesterday, on this precise and very delicate issue, the President said that the approval of the new law on abortion is not a priority of his administration. The fact that he said that is very reassuring to me. It also underlines my own clear belief: Obama is not a pro-abortion president,” he told Rodari.

May 22, 2009: L’Osservatore Romano publishes a short article quoting two U.S. bishops who had criticized Notre Dame’s decision to honor Obama.

May 2009: Cardinal George Cottier, 87, former theologian of the papal household under Pope John Paul II and Vatican adviser, praised President Obama’s “humble realism” and measured approach to abortion. Cardinal Cottier compared the president’s approach to abortion to the thinking of St Thomas Aquinas and early Christian tradition about framing laws in a pluralistic society. His views, published in an essay in the May issue of 30 Giorni, analysed two Obama speeches – a May 17 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame and a June 4 speech to the Islamic world in Cairo.

June 10, 2009: The Obama Administration (through the OMB) announces support for the State Department Authorization Bill (H.R. 2410), Section 334 of which would establish an Office for Global Women’s Issues, headed by an official with the rank of ambassador-at-large, charged with promoting “women’s empowerment internationally.”  Questioned by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 22, 2009,  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared, “We are now an administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care,” and that “reproductive health includes access to abortion.” 

July 2, 2009: President Obama met with religious correspondents in advance of his visit to the Vatican on July 10. He admitted to reporters that his administration rescinded “conscience clause” provisions promulgated by the Bush administration as Bush’s term drew to a close. But he added, “my underlying position has always been consistent, which is I’m a believer in conscience clauses.” He continued, “I can assure all of your readers 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, but it certainly will not be weaker than what existed before the changes were made.” On abortion, the President said he expects to receive recommendations from a working group that includes both pro-choice and pro-life advocates later this summer. [So… where are those recommendations?]

July 10, 2009: Pope Benedict XVI received President Obama in an audience at the Vatican. The President promised the Pope that he will try to reduce the number of abortions in the United States. “Mr Obama told the pope of his commitment to reduce the number of abortions and of his attention and respect for the positions of the Catholic Church,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

July 21, 2009: President Obama on Tuesday said he would “rather not wade into” the issue of whether or not health care reform should include federal funding for abortions.  The president told CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric that he is “not trying to micro-manage what benefits are covered.”  “I’m pro-choice, but I think we also have the tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care,” he said.

August 19, 2009: In a conference call with supporters this afternoon, President Obama said that it is a “fabrication” to say that the legislation backed by the White House would result in “government funding of abortions,” and that this is “untrue.”

September 9, 2009: President Obama addressed a Joint Session of Congress over his health care legislation in which he stated, “One more misunderstanding I want to clear up — under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”

October 2, 2009: Pope Benedict XVI received the credentials this morning of Miguel Diaz as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the Holy See. The Pope pledged to the new envoy cooperation on international issues, but insisted upon “the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death,” as well as “the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens.” However, in his formal address, the Pope did not mention the word “abortion”.

October 12, 2009: The Vatican is one of the first global institutions to congratulate President Obama on the announcement that he was to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The statement issued by the Holy See Press Office expressed “appreciation” for the choice and encouraged what it described as Obama’s commitment to “peace in the international arena,” especially nuclear disarmament. 

November 8, 2009: In an interview with ABC News, President Obama said he did not support any change in current abortion laws through the health care bill — an implicit rebuke to the House for passing an amendment that would prohibit federal funding for abortions. The president said that he doesn’t want to change “the status quo” one way or another.

November 15, 2009: White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod suggested that President Obama will intervene to make sure a controversial amendment restricting federal funding for abortion coverage is stripped from final health care reform legislation.  [Increase funding for abortions, the number of abortions will rise.]

December 6, 2009: President Obama met with Senate Democrats in a closed door session on Sunday and told them to support the Harry Reid-sponsored bill that includes massive abortion funding and could force insurance companies to cover abortions with taxpayer’s premiums.

December 17, 2009: President Obama signed into law an omnibus spending bill that eliminates a longstanding ban on government funds for abortions in the District of Columbia. The President’s action revoked the Dornan Amendment, which has barred federal and local funds for D.C. from paying for abortions since 1996. The spending measure’s language says it prohibits federal funding of abortions in D.C. but permits local money to be used. Pro-lifers, however, point out such language is meaningless because federal and local funds are combined for the district. As a result, the D.C. government can specify as local the money used to underwrite abortions.

December 22, 2009: US Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) author of the “Stupak Amendment”, which is the anti government funding of abortions amendment in the House version of the health care bill claimed today that he is now being pressured from both President Obama and Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives. According to CNS News, Obama and the House Democrats want Stupak to keep quiet on the “compromise” abortion language in the Senate version of the health care bill. “They think I shouldn’t be expressing my views on this bill until they get a chance to try to sell me the language,” Stupak told in an interview today.

So, dear readers, you decide.

Is there "common ground"?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    None whatsoever and never has been, and those who think so delude themselves or are just plain stupid.

  2. GregY says:

    It makes one wonder what it will take for some in the Church to realize that President Obama has no intention of compromising on anything unless he is forced to do so, and therefore must be met with forceful opposition on these issues.
    Not only is it on life, but on marriage. Mr. Obama speaks of not supporting same-sex “marriage,” while his administration quietly works behind the scenes to undo the Defense of Marriage Act, which is the only barrier standing in the way of every state being forced to recognize SSMs from Vermont, etc.
    As the first commenter said, either they’re not paying attention to the ACTIONS rather than the WORDS, or they just don’t want to.
    The same issue could be said of the UN, EU, etc. On the most foundational issues, these organizations are NOT friends of the Church, and while I’m not advocating completely abstaining from participating (which would be counter-productive), a stronger stance from the Vatican would seem to be in order as the rosy talk and playing nice is not accomplishing anything. That’s my 2 cents at least.

  3. JohnE says:

    There’s no common ground between killing and not killing or between publicly funding killing and not publicly funding killing.

  4. wanda says:

    How this man can look people in the eye and straight-up lie to their faces is mind-boggling.
    The man who yelled out ‘you lie’ was the one telling the truth.
    There is no common ground on this issue. The babies die.

  5. irishgirl says:

    wanda-what you said!

    I keep hoping and praying that Obama will have a ‘St. Paul moment’ and gets knocked off his high horse!

    Good thing I don’t have TV now-I’d either hit the mute button everytime I see his face, or else kick the TV in!

    Grrrr…..and to think that 54 percent of CATHOLICS voted for this guy!

  6. Bryan says:

    No. Common. Ground. To think so is to naively think (probably describes most of the hierarchy…if not something worse…) that there is something in common with a radical proabortionist president and a moral code stretching back to the time of the Apostles that condemns the practice.

    In this instance, the only thing common about this “Common Ground” is that there are 50 Million Dead Babies, and entire generation in this country who maybe, just maybe, would have contributed to society (not to mention Social Security, income tax, more children, and as examples of cooperation with God’s plan instead of dead.

    Common Ground? Yeah. That’s two wolves (Congress and the President) and a sheep (us, The People) deciding what’s for dinner.

  7. DisturbedMary says:

    Apr. 24, 2009 Catholic News Service reported these comments from Cardinal George about his private meeting with Obama on March 17 at the White House: “It’s hard to disagree with him because he’ll always tell you he agrees with you,” he said. “Maybe that’s political. I think he sincerely wants to agree with you. You have to say, again and again, ‘No, Mr. President, we don’t agree (on abortion).’ But we can agree on a lot, and we do, and that’s why there is so much hope. I think we have to pray for him every day.”

    Sounds like talking “common ground” is at best a word game at worst spiritual warfare.

    More troubling to me is the Cardinal saying “we can agree on a lot, and we do, and that’s why there is so much hope.” Oh my Lord, we are on “common ground” somewhere? What? What?

  8. Melania says:

    Obama’s actions should not surprise anyone who knew his background. He and his minions have only held the most radical left-wing views on the life issues. During the campaign they tailored their message for the center and worked to deceive and/or confuse Catholics into believing they could vote for O and still be acting ethically. O was aided by George-Soros-funded organizations like Catholics for Choice and Catholics United. His fellow-travelers in the media covered for him in this deception. It took the aid and cooperation of a lot of people to pull this off.

  9. mrteachersir says:

    Interestingly enough, I seem to recall an incident (left off our dear father’s list), in which the President (as president, not candidate), admitted that not only was he not going to change his mind, but that there really was no “common ground” between his side and our side. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it…

  10. Geremia says:

    Common ground = tolerance. It is what the Freemasons want.

  11. paladin says:

    Ergh. The existence of the (currently) morally confused L’Osservatore Romano makes commenting on this rather more difficult…

    But I second the above: unless we’re sticking to assumptions so fundamental that (as Douglas Adams said) “even the lawyers could be excused for missing them”–such as an “unprecedented” mutual agreement to continue Earth’s gravitational constant at roughly 9.8 m/sec/sec at sea level, an impressive bipartisan accord about the non-binding resolution that Earth should maintain an average distance of 93,000,000 miles from the sun, and so forth, then no… I don’t see much in the way of common ground.

  12. LaudemGloriae says:

    Then state senator Obama voted against a “born alive” bill in Illinois in 2001. I don’t know how you find common ground when you start with some one that far afield of the middle.

  13. Correct me, Father, but the term Common Ground originated with Cdl. Bernardin who was looking for a common ground between Progressive and Traditional Catholics on such issues as abortion. 15% of the population of the U. S. has been aborted as this is what successive governments of both parties in this country have wanted. Our Government supports Planned Parenthood with millions of dollars each year. We worry about 230 people on a plane to Detroit when 50 million Americans have been aborted? The whole idea is laughable. Muslims are not our enemy. Our Government is! That is what is and will be killing us. Obama is able to suborn American Catholics because they want to be suborned!

  14. KAS says:

    Life and Death have no common ground.

    This president has a forked tongue, his words are only intended to fog the minds of those who stand for life.

    It would be easier to simply hold the position that the federal government should not be subsidizing businesses, nor funding anything that so many are against.

    Anyone who thinks they can put life issues, such as health care, in the hands of this government and not end up paying extra taxes to fund DEATH is fooled by the smooth talk of this president.

  15. “Common ground = tolerance. It is what the Freemasons want.” I completely agree with you Geremia.

    And if I may add.

    The only common ground here is for people to lose their morality all in praise of Obamanation!

  16. The Cobbler says:

    Looked surprisingly reasonable, until we got to breaking with what he’d said and increasing funds for abortion and removing restrictions and such. I’d love to be able to break the tone and cut him slack, since removing abortion restrictions and doing stuff to lessen their “need” and/or wantedness would be about as much as we can really hope for (I’m not inclined to believe underground abortions would be an even bigger problem, but I am inclined to expect efforts to reverse bans if we don’t first wean the culture off the evil), but it’s true: “You lie!” was the most straightforward thing said about it.

  17. Dr. Eric says:

    ??????????, ?? ???? ???????, ????? ?? ????????? ?? ?????? ????????!

    That’s what it read when I tried to post.

    Anyway, I think that things will get much worse for everyone before Mr. Obama leaves office (hopefully in 2013.)

  18. Dr. Eric says:

    It posted something in Church Slavonic. It doesn’t show in the above post.

  19. Norah says:

    When I first logged in I got the Church Slavonic!

    Pope Benedict doesn’t come out of this too well.

  20. Truth has nothing in common with evil.

  21. This Administration is lying about almost everything.
    The protection of human life from conception to natural death is a part of natural law and to make this a “Catholic issue” is pure balderdash (I’m using decent words now!, PRAISE GOD).
    From the rights of all, unborn and born, the whole “health care” debacle, the security threat on airlines and on American soil, all of it is just pure baloney from B.O. and friends.
    The sooner the American electorate gets this into their heads, the better.
    But, get ready friends…this arctic weather may be nothin’ compared to what we, as Catholics, and as those who revere God’s Law have to go through. No mystical revelation here; just instinct!

  22. wanda says:

    Yes, Nazareth Priest, the battle is ‘heating up’ (Fr. Corapi).

    We should strive to be in a state of Grace (speaking for myself) and have our weapons at the ready for battle. The Rosary, Prayer, Penance, Fasting and Acts of Reparation to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.

    Put on the whole armor of God, eh? Let’s take our places on the battle line!

    St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle..

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