CBS Labels Pope ‘Hard Liner’; Interviews Left-Wing Priest

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterAt the beginning of Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith exclaimed: "Coming to America. Pope Benedict XVI arrives on American soil tomorrow. How will Americans receive his hard line and soft style?" In the later segement, correspondent Allen Pizzey continued the "hard line" theme: "Since becoming Pope Benedict XVI three years ago, the man who used to be the Vatican's chief hard-liner has undergone an image makeover...when Americans see him next week, they may get a pleasant surprise."

Pizzey went on to describe the Pope’s "makeover":

Benedict has made what one ambassador to the Holy See called a smooth transition from scholar to universal pastor. It may not quite fit the miracle category, but it is nonetheless an extraordinary transition for a man who was once known as God's Rottweiler. As Pope he has not gone out of his way to appease the more liberal wings of the Catholic Church in the U.S., but Benedict's chief image maker is unfazed.

Following Pizzey’s report, co-host Julie Chen interviewed left-wing priest, Father Thomas Reese, who was editor of the Catholic magazine "America," until the Vatican pressured him to resign for allowing numerous liberal opinion pieces critcizing the Church to be published.

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterChen asked Reese about the Pope’s opposition to the Iraq war: "He has openly talked about how he is against the war in Iraq. Do you see this topic coming up when he visits President Bush at the White House?" Reese replied:

Well, the Pope could certainly turn to President Bush and say, 'I told you so,' because he, like Pope John Paul II, opposed the invasion of Iraq. They recognized that it would be a humanitarian disaster, and they proved to be smarter than the CIA, the Defense Department and the White House. So he will certainly talk about Iraq and the need for some kind of political and diplomatic solution to the war there and to an end to the fighting.

Chen followed up by wondering: "Do you think it's going to make a difference?" To which Reese responded: "Well, you know, the Pope is not a miracle worker...He can simply preach issues of justice and peace and reconciliation...But he can move the discussion forward."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Coming to America. Pope Benedict XVI arrives on American soil tomorrow. How will Americans receive his hard line and soft style?

7:16AM SEGMENT:

JULIE CHEN: Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Washington tomorrow for his first visit to America since his election as head of the Roman Catholic Church. CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey has a preview.

ALLEN PIZZEY: Since becoming Pope Benedict XVI three years ago, the man who used to be the Vatican's chief hard-liner has undergone an image makeover. And like the tens of thousands who flock to his weekly audiences, when Americans see him next week, they may get a pleasant surprise. One senior Vatican official said Benedict's six-day visit to Washington and to New York will be like a pilgrimage to the soul of the American people.

ANDREA CELLI: Knowing the Holy Father, knowing what he wants to do with this visit, he will not get involved in politics.

PIZZEY: Given that he is landing in the middle of an election year, will meet President Bush, make a major speech on human rights at the United Nations and pray at Ground Zero, that will be no mean feat. But those who know the Pope best say he is more than up to the challenge. Benedict has made what one ambassador to the Holy See called a smooth transition from scholar to universal pastor. It may not quite fit the miracle category, but it is nonetheless an extraordinary transition for a man who was once known as God's Rottweiler. As Pope he has not gone out of his way to appease the more liberal wings of the Catholic Church in the U.S., but Benedict's chief image maker is unphased.

ANDREA CELLI: I hope that the American people will discover the gentleness of this man.

PIZZEY: Almost everyone who meets Benedict comments on his shyness, the trait that precludes him from the pop star status of his predecessor, John Paul II, who even today does better business than Benedict.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We sell more of John Paul, much more. Because the people loved John Paul.

PIZZEY: Benedict?

MAN: Benedict needs more time.

PIZZEY: Benedict will celebrate his 81st birthday in Washington and has plans well beyond this American pilgrimage. Later this year he will host a debate on evolution and intelligent design and preside over the first summit of a Catholic/Muslim forum. Issues that strike a deep chord among Americans of all faiths. Allen Pizzey, CBS News, Rome.

CHEN: Joining us now from Washington is Father Thomas Reese, Senior Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. He is also a former Editor of the Catholic weekly magazine "America." Father Reese, good morning.

THOMAS REESE: Good morning.

CHEN: What event do you think during the Pope's six-day visit here is the one to watch?

REESE: I think his speech at the United Nations is going to be the most important speech that he'll be giving during this visit. He's coming to the United Nations to speak to the entire world, to talk about international relations and how they should be guided not simply by military power and economic might but should be really guided by ethical principles and moral values. So he's going to be talking about peace and justice and reconciliation.

CHEN: He has openly talked about how he is against the war in Iraq. Do you see this topic coming up when he visits President Bush at the White House?

REESE: Well, the Pope could certainly turn to President Bush and say, 'I told you so,' because he, like Pope John Paul II, opposed the invasion of Iraq. They recognized that it would be a humanitarian disaster, and they proved to be smarter than the CIA, the Defense Department and the White House. So he will certainly talk about Iraq and the need for some kind of political and diplomatic solution to the war there and to an end to the fighting.

CHEN: Do you think it's going to make a difference?

REESE: Well, you know, the Pope is not a miracle worker. He can simply preach issues of justice and peace and reconciliation. Will everybody love each other and will there be world peace after he goes home to Rome? Of course not. But he can move the discussion forward.

CHEN: I'm curious to know what does the Pope think of American Catholics and the way American Catholics practice their faith?

REESE: Well, I think he has great admiration for American Catholics and for America in general because of it's depth of religious faith that we have in our country. Both Catholics and Protestants attend church much more regularly in the United States than in Europe.

CHEN: Father, we are out of time. I am so sorry to cut you off, but thank you for joining us.

REESE: You're welcome.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC