On Tuesday -- just one day before he hailed the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade -- President Obama's White House issued a press advisory noting that the president would meet with Pope Francis on March 27. Naturally the dutiful Obama acolytes at the Washington Post put staff write Juliet Eilperin hard at work spinning the forthcoming meeting as virtually guaranteed to be a net political coup for the term-limited chief executive.
With his papal audience, Mr. Obama has "an opportunity to highlight the problem of economic inequality, an issue he has placed at the forefront of his second-term agenda" and what's more the visit gives "the president a chance to frame one of his signature domestic issues in largely moral terms." (emphasis mine)
Yes, "the journey also highlights the continuing disagreements between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church over issues such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage," Eilperin noted in her 23-paragraph January 22 article, but "[Pope] Francis may be uniquely positioned at this moment to amplify Obama's economic message.
After all, she added, "A Quinnipiac University poll found that 68 percent of Catholic voters agreed with the pope's remarks that the church has become too focused on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraceptives."
In other words, Eilperin seemed to suggest, the pontiff could stand much to lose in terms of popular appeal were he to appear to focus the meeting with the president on abortion or on the contraception mandate, rather than allowing the focus to rest on something politically advantageous to the White House.
Eilperin then helpfully turned to the national co-chair of Catholics for Obama, Stephen Schneck, who hailed talk of economic inequality as "a particularly good fit at the moment" for the president and the pontiff to discuss.
To be fair, Eilperin did quote from a few conservative Catholics who are critical of Obama, and even mentioned -- in paragraphs 13 and 14 -- how the president stands staunchly opposed to a major economic justice priority of the Church which tends to be favored by conservative Republicans but opposed by liberal Democrats and Mr. Obama, school vouchers:
Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Social Development — which includes anti-poverty programs — said in an interview that several of Obama’s policies are at odds with those of the church, including his opposition to using taxpayer funds to finance vouchers in the District of Columbia so parents can spend them on tuition at Catholic schools.
“If Obama would see our way with the voucher system, we could help get a lot of kids out of poverty by giving them the tools to have a successful life through Catholic schools,” Wenski said.
That said, yes, President Obama probably does stand the chance to have a PR coup with his Lenten visit to the Vatican, in large part because the liberal media will make sure to spin it positively but also in no small part because it's unlikely the bishop of Rome will publicly rebuke the president for his decidedly anti-Catholic policy pursuits, including, yes, bullying the Little Sisters of the Poor.