The Pope and The POTUS

You may have heard that Pres. Obama met with Pope Francis today.

Some people are asking me to comment on this historic event, which liberals will surely say is the first time a Pope smiled at an American President.

Popes meet with world leaders.  Presidents visit Popes.  Ho hum.

As usual, photos were taken, gifts were exchanged, benign statements of common ground were affirmed.  What was said in private we don’t really know.

I doubt there were arguments.  Just what would that look like, anyway?  Francis threatens the intervention of angels as to Attila the Hun, if Obama doesn’t back off on the HSS Mandate?  Obama threatens drone strikes on the Casa Santa Marta, if Francis doesn’t personally conduct sodomitical marriage ceremonies and distribute condoms from the balcony of St. Peter’s?

Beyond the photo op and the feel good seed-box gift story, which was admittedly better than an iPod, the substance, as I can tell from the Press Office release, comes down to both Pope and POTUS being for freedom and against human trafficking, which is like affirming a generally accepted position such as “ignoring stop signs is bad” … unless, perhaps, those stop signs are at borders of nations.

By the way, Pres. Obama arrived with an escort of some FIFTY vehicles as well as heavily-armed special forces, as one does when visiting the Vatican.

Unless you are Pres. Bush…. or any president before this one.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Magpie says:

    If I was Pope (Vindictive or Insidious?)…. I would have firm words of admonishment and rebuke for Obomba. He probably would have to be escorted off the premises by my Swiss Guards. And I certainly wouldn’t let any armed SS agents onto my sovereign territory.

  2. acardnal says:

    I hope the Holy See kept the altar wine locked up and away from POTUS’ Secret Service agents. Seems a few ran in some trouble in this area while in Amsterdam . . . and Miami and Columbia. . . .

    [Right… those SS Agents aren’t exactly altar boys, after all.]

  3. Magpie says:

    Did anyone see the vid of Obama in Europe? He received no applause after his speech. Well, one person clapped.

  4. wolfeken says:

    Today illustrates the huge difference between Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

    Recall less than five years ago:

  5. donboyle says:

    No one should be surprised, relieved, disappointed, or gratified that the Holy Father didn’t express disagreement with the President in public. Pope Francis has met twice with President Kirchner of Argentina since his election, and has always been publicly cordial, despite a long and bitter history with her and her husband back in Argentina.

    [Popes meet with world leaders. Paul VI met with Idi Amin Dada.]

  6. BLB Oregon says:

    Although he would not have let any untruth go unchallenged, my sense of Pope Francis is that he did far more listening than lecturing. As for the military escort, he is a gracious host, and is unlikely to have been anything other than accommodating. I would imagine the President found him unexpectedly disarming, however. He might have given the Pope a great deal of information, but he was greatly mistaken if he thought he could “evangelize” him.

  7. majuscule says:

    I skipped through the hour and a half Vatican YouTube video of the visit. My main interest was looking at expressions. Very telling.

    I would like to speak to the priest who appeared to be interpreting. Or the veiled woman on the other side of the desk with Obama.

    Toward the end Obama and Pope Francis are standing side by side for a photo op. Obama has a huge grin on his face. Pope Francis has a not-so-happy expression…and you know how pleasant he usually looks. But then, maybe his feet were hurting?

    I am sickened by the spin the US media is putting on this visit, repeatedly bringing up the Who am I to judge? remark, as if it had been discussed…which I doubt.

  8. chantgirl says:

    Hmmm. I wonder if any of the cassocked men in the room were silently praying a maledictory psalm during the encounter- or perhaps a prayer of deliverance.

  9. Singing Mum says:

    Obama rejects freedoms for Catholics living in America. He rejects freedom for the vulnerable preborn among us. Is the Church serious about those things, or not?

    With great love and respect for our pope, I cannot defend the photo op. And I can’t see why this action was needed. Protocol can be bent- isn’t that what we’ve learned over the last year? What is the message to religious orders and business owners- and bishops- who are fighting the mandate/ jizya of this administration? Some freedoms matter, and others… don’t need to be addressed?

    The photo will be used, over and over, to minimize or work against the message of our bishops. Very sad.

  10. acardnal says:

    “Popes meet with world leaders. Presidents visit Popes. Ho hum.”

    True. Woodrow Wilson was the first U.S. President to meet a Pope at the Vatican when he visited Benedict XV in 1919. Some photos here of presidential visits:

    I hope that in addition to the Pope giving Obama a copy of Evangelii Gaudium, he also gave him copies of Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae. Well . . . I can hope.

  11. Magpie says:

    Singing Mum: It’s all politics. I can’t imagine St. Peter or St. Paul giving Obama a pass, and I wouldn’t either. I’d rebuke him with my wagging finger on the spot, just as Pope JPII did with that liberation theologian in South America.

  12. The_Scott says:

    According to the Press Office release, it appears like the issues of religious freedom (Obama and the HHS mandate?) and issues with life (Obama and abortion?) were raised. It seems like, based on that, it wasn’t completely flowers-and-puppies-and-kittens-everywhere type of meeting. I take it to mean there was negativity present.

  13. sisu says:


    [Please don’t post unexplained links in my combox. Thanks.]

  14. kay says:

    If the Pope wasn’t smiling at the end of the meeting Majuscule, its because Obama stood up to him on some issue.

    Since the President can’t intimidate Putin, Obama’s probably trying out his shark smile and double talk on Pope Francis, just for fun. Its not like Pope Francis is going to annex Rome….

  15. CrimsonCatholic says:

    @ Singing Mum and Magpie

    Why do you assume that they did not speak about the issue? Catholic Vote and the National Catholic Register seem to apply that it was discussed, and it was one of the main issues discussed. If you have any evidence to contradict this, please provide. Besides, Pope Benedict met with Obama as well, do you have the same criticism for him as well? Comments like these are really sad.

  16. I imagine the conversation was very similar to the one had by Cardinal George and President Obama in 2009. Afterwards, Card. George said:

    “It’s hard to disagree with him because he’ll always tell you he agrees with you,” he said, according to CNS. “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).'”

  17. Johnno says:

    An interesting point about that box of seeds, is that the wood of the box holding the White House seeds is made from recycled Church pews, how very cleverly subtle of Obama…

    LifeSiteNews reports that Pope Francis did speak to Obama about the HSS mandate and about abortion. So at least there’s that, but I don’t expect we’ll see Obama change his mind, nor do I believe he’ll even bother with the book.

    So the Pope is left holding his box of seeds, and Obama leaves with what he came for, smiling photo-ops with everyone’s man of the year. I’m sure the discussions between Putin and Pope Francis about concern for Christians was more fruitful.

  18. birgit says:

    I sure wish they hadn’t allowed a photo opp. Seeing the Holy Father and his clergy yuck it up with O makes me ill.

  19. NBW says:

    Obama arrives with 50 vehicles to protect him and our Pope rides public transportation. Enough said.

  20. I dislike President Obama as much as any good traditionalist Catholic, but do we really need to complain about how many cars he showed up with? It’s pretty common knowledge that Presidents do not generally micromanage their own security. Let’s stick to the credible critiques of President Obama, such as his complicity in the mass murder of millions of unborn children.

    With that said, there are tactful ways of expressing extreme disapproval of other dignitaries with whom one feels obligated to meet. For example, you could avoid smiling gratuitously. I would have liked some effort on His Holiness’ part to express this kind of disapproval.

  21. Singing Mum says:

    Crimson, I thought I was clear. I object to the photo. It did not need to happen.
    The happy-smiley publicity for Obama will be used to divide and confuse Catholics. It will minimize efforts of bishops.

    This is a both/and situation. We need to be innocent as doves AND shrewd as serpents.

  22. tealady24 says:

    What’s this! BO showing up with the full cavalcade as if the U.S. is better than any other country! Oh wait, that’s because he believes himself to be Emperor of the World no doubt. Shoulda ridden in on a bicycle with a big horn and a basket. That’s more his style.

    Why, given this man’s disgust and disdain for the Catholic Church and his anti-abortion voting / legislative record would a POPE meet with him?! Could it be he’s sticking his finger in OUR eye and laughing while he’s doing it?

    I’m disgusted.

  23. Facta Non Verba says:

    I saw toward the end that each member of the President’s entourage was introduced to the Holy Father, and he gave each of them a small gift. I assume it was rosary, and I would hope the President received one as well. Maybe he, and the others in his entourage, will use it. We know that miracles can happen.

  24. Gail F says:

    I see nothing wrong with the meeting and phot0-op, it’s standard protocol. “Ho-hum,” as Fr. Z. said.

    I’m interested in the cavalcade, though. How many vehicles would a previous president have had and how many do other world leaders have? Where can one find that? I’ve heard that the Obamas have siginficantly more people with them whereever they go, and require significantly more space for their entourages, than other world leaders. But I have not seen any comparisons with previous presidents and their staffs.

  25. RANCHER says:

    Perhaps they were directing Psalm 109.8 “Let his days be numbered….” @ Obama

  26. Priam1184 says:

    The Holy Father is the head of a sacred institution founded with a divine mandate by Jesus Christ that has endured for almost twenty centuries now and has seen everything at least twice. I hope that he tapped into the Wisdom granted the Church by both the Holy Spirit and by these two thousand years of experience in the world to warn Barack Obama of what is coming as a result of the rapid descent of the Western world to insane levels of immorality. It started in Crimea and it ain’t gonna stop there and we are not prepared for it. I doubt that Mr. Obama would listen, but I still hope that Pope Francis said it.

  27. BLB Oregon says:

    Did the President really give the Pope seeds from the White House garden? I was told that the lead content of the soil there was so high (due to its heavy employment as a shooting range during the Civil War) that the produce from the garden was not safe to eat. Maybe he should have faked some seeds in from Territorial Seed Co., instead.

  28. Geoffrey says:

    “Its not like Pope Francis is going to annex Rome….”

    If only…

  29. Mike says:

    Man, that shark-smile on the President says it all.

  30. Mike says:

    Man, that shark-smile on the President says it all.

  31. Random Friar says:

    I am no fan of the President’s, but I did like his gift of seeds. Our own nation’s capital glows every Spring with the gift from Tokyo of cherry blossoms, an expression of hope of flowering peace and relations between the two nations. This was from 1912, so obviously, history took an ugly turn. But it is still a beautiful and enduring tradition. It is certainly finer than a lot of pretty knicknacks that end up in museums or storage somewhere, never to see the light of day.

    As for the soil, BLB Oregon, I think the seeds should be ok, once grown in the Vatican gardens. The tree and fruit will draw most of its nutrition from Vatican soil.

  32. Lin says:

    Re-cycled church pews!?! A subtle message from the evil one?!?

  33. Polycarpio says:

    Let’s all try a deep breath and consider that perhaps the Holy Father met with Obama not out of his regard for Obama’s policies or even Obama himself, but that he did it out of regard FOR US, meaning the People of the United States, of whom Obama is the recognized political leader and in which condition he was received by the Pope. As Father points out in the main post, Ven. Paul VI met with Idi Amin, and from what I know of Ven. Paul VI, he wasn’t into genocide. The aghast reactions of some here, though understandable, remind me of the days when Liberals were all in a huff because Blessed John Paul II met with Gen. Augusto Pinochet (there were pictures) and with Kurt Waldheim–not because he approved of military dictatorship or of war atrocities from the WWII era, but because he considered it important to meet with the representatives of the Chilean and Austrian people. As one poster noted above, Pope Benedict met with, smiled at, and was photographed and exchanged gifts with, the same American politician that Francis met today with.

  34. TC says:

    At some point His Holiness’s smile disappeared:

  35. OrthodoxChick says:

    Pope Francis is smiling in many of the pictures, as one normally does in a room full of cameras, but there are also a few other pics floating around the internet. In those shots, the Holy Father looks like he’s giving Obama the stink eye. Here’s one attached to a Fox News article. The article is terrible. It’s a mish-mash and strikes me as an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink type of article, but the picture is interesting. Pope Francis has almost a smirk on his face, but his eyes don’t show signs of humor or amusement.

  36. The_Scott says:

    Regarding the box being made of church pews:

    It appears like the State Department asked the Cathedral of Baltimore if they had something, and the Cathedral obliged. I apologize if I read this wrong (my brain seems not to be working today), but it seems like the Cathedral didn’t realize that he was going to give it to Francis? “Reier said State Department staff picked up the wood — about three pounds in total — but he didn’t see what they did with it until the rest of the world did: on news footage of Obama and Pope Francis exchanging gifts.” Or am I misreading (very likely today)?

    Here’s the link to the Baltimore Sun:,0,2044180.story#ixzz2xDhH59tA

    So, it’s not a nefarious plot from Obama to stick it to Francis. I wouldn’t read it that way.

  37. majuscule says:

    Obama, when handed the copy of Evangelii Gaudium:“You know, I actually will probably read this in the oval office when I am deeply frustrated and I am sure it will give me strength and calm me down.”

    Obama: “I think His Holiness is probably the only person who has to put up with more protocol than me.”

    I was going to add my own comment but I would only say something uncharitable and I already have a big problem with that.

  38. sisu says:

    Sorry Fr. Z – the links were in response to previous posts – but the points they had have since been described. But here’s one are again with more context:
    Apparently religious freedom and the contraceptive mandate was discussed during the visit – would loved to have been a fly on the wall for that one – though in some write-ups it’s not clear the Holy Father was the one who specifically had that discussion:
    (where I read about these two points:–sector.html;_ylt=AwrTWVWPUTRTdDQAGIfQtDMD

  39. tcreek says:

    Are there any atrocities that a world leader condones that would cause a pope (or bishop) not to grant him or her an interview and photo-op?

  40. benedetta says:

    majuscule, Thank you for posting the video link. It is interesting to see, without sound, the facial expressions, body language, and gestures, not just of the President, but of all in the American delegation who were there. You really do get the sense from most of them that they are just going through the motions to obtain the ordered up photo op. Which would of course be consistent with all the issues of lack of truthiness and hypocrisy with this administration all along. “I hate your Catholics, Holy Father, but oh I love you! And my media does too! You are different, not like those pesky Little Sisters who give me so much trouble with their Supreme Court challenges…and those terrible prolifers who we just can’t seem to stamp out no matter what we do…and refusal to pay my fines…you care about the poor, and I do too, although I and my family do not live so simply as you do…”and so on and so forth…

  41. benedetta says:

    You can just hear the convo…”Now, Pope Francis, don’t you think the best we can do about the poor is to mandate zero population? Look at China. Look at some European countries. We need the big abortion, although our country is relatively prosperous. And, we must have the hormone injections on more women for their entire lives, for free for all, paid for by your Little Sisters. Do you not agree that child euthanasia is the way to go? Overall, these elimination and population control policies of mine will go a long way towards assisting the poor who I care so very much about. Your Church must comply. I am fining your people for their own good. I am speaking truth, in charity. Your Catholics are free to go wherever they wish on Sundays, but, outside of that worship time, no expression may be made of their consciences to the extent that conflicts with my aims and goals. Of course I, as a community organizer, have had much more experience in helping the poor than, say, yourself or anyone in your Church…what’s that you say, Pope…Francis…?”

  42. benedetta says:

    “What’s that, why did I prioritize free abortion and artificial hormones for all women paid for by all Catholics over paying for drugs, therapies, and treatments for children with chronic diseases?? Why do you ask? Is it not, um, self-evident?”

  43. Kerry says:

    Orthodox Chick, note the headline does not read, ‘Pope Francis hosts the O’, but ‘The O holds meeting…” One wonders if the press even notices their contriving all events in terms of ‘the O’ is impacted, and not the American people, or the welfare off the country. Remember the headlines when President Reagan met Pope Francis…” [?!?] “Francis scolds Reagan over (insert smear here)!!”
    Dear Politico, for “cool”, Mr. Scratch outpaces ‘the o’ by leagues.

  44. benedetta says:

    As imagined by a fly on the wall. “You see, Holy Father, when I was younger and just starting out in my career in politics and leadership, I believed as you do, and I agreed with the half of my county that abortion needs to be restricted. I recognized, as you do, that the numbers are horrific, for a civilized, prosperous, free nation, and I saw that in places such as nyc, the numbers of children lost to abortion is approaching a genocide. When I heard that there are more children lost to abortion every year in this country than all the numbers of lives lost through all the World Wars combined, well… I realized that there must be more hopeful ways to go and I wanted to help be a part of the solution, to let this next generation live and prosper. But see then I talked with my friends Joe, and Nancy, and, John over there…oh hey, John, come over and say hello to the Holy Father, your Pope…and anyway they said, ‘No no no you don’t understand. What’s tens of millions more on top of those already gone? See, you can get elected with the campaign money from the people who want still more abortions and are not satisfied that we in this country have had enough of them. And you need the blessing of the media who loves it. For them, abortion is considered a sacrament, and the more, the better. Plus, if you expand abortion, then, the government will have more money to distribute to people in the way of cell phones, flu shots, or whatever we want. If we have to provide for ALL THESE CHILDREN, the government will go out of business surely. Look at China, Joe understands. At some point you can’t fight it. Forget the great statesman and visionary and prophet and hope and change. It’s just politics after all, nothing more. Forget the moral vision part, what is morality anyway, what is truth? That’s not what we are about.’ I did actually still try, for awhile, like when I went to Notre Dame and said that we could work with prolife, we could compromise, we could listen…I don’t know what happened there. I’m not telling you how to run your shop, Holy Father, but abortion has been good to me, and my party, and we really can’t change our minds on it now. It would be like Lincoln…oh, you have a book for me? How lovely. I will admire this volume and keep it always…No, I hadn’t heard that David Cameron in England concurs that selective abortion by gender ought to be restricted…where did you hear that?”

  45. robtbrown says:

    When the President travels, it’s not just Air Force One that moves. There are fighter escorts, planes carrying personnel (incl media), and cargo planes. Once in Rome I was out with friends who were visiting. Walking back home after midnight, I noticed the Via dei fori imperiali was blocked off and wondered why. Soon I saw the Presidential caravan come down the street–limousine, cars with the SS, and communications truck. It was an imposing sight, compared with all the small Italian cars. There are also advance planes that (obviously) arrive before the President. Sometimes helicopters are also transported.

  46. benedetta says:

    Perhaps one day Obama will reflect on the tolerance and charity and forgiveness the Holy Father has shown towards him and show the same for those who do not agree with his policies.

  47. SKAY says:

    There seems to be two different versions of this meeting. One is fromObama and his administration and one is from the Vatican.
    As a US citizen familiar with this President’s history with the truth—I know which one I believe.

  48. Eric says:

    I think a copy of Rerum Novarum would have been an appropriate gift to our president.

  49. chantgirl says:

    In all seriousness, the Pope is responsible for the souls of all men on earth as the vicar of Christ. He has compassion for the poor, and who could be more poor than a soul in darkness? He has a duty to speak the truth even if it will likely fall on poor soil. A head-of-state or military leader could very well refuse a meeting with a known enemy, but it is a little more difficult for a pastor-of-souls to refuse.

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