Following years of strained relations between the Obama Administration and the Catholic Church, Pope Francis and President Obama met for the first time at the Vatican last Thursday. The meeting got off to an interesting start when the President presented the Pontiff with a chest filled with fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House garden. And the aftermath of the jaunt has resulted in a bit of a schism – with the Vatican and White House giving starkly different versions of Thursday’s conversation.
“The President goes to the Vatican and he says, ‘Man, we talked about socialism and how great it is. And that is pretty much all we talked about. And the Vatican comes out and says, ‘No, we talked about religious freedom,’” Glenn explained on radio this morning. “Obama said that didn’t even come up… Now, which one do you believe?”
“Oh, this is a tough one,” Stu quipped. “You’re putting me on the spot like that.”
The president’s account downplayed the Catholic Church’s concerns about religious freedom in the United States and Obamacare’s mandate to pay for contraception.
The pontiff and the president were cordial in the televised portions of their meeting, but a subtle competition to set the agenda played out after the meeting, which went well beyond its scheduled half-hour.
“We actually didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference in Rome. “In fact, that really was not a topic of conversation.”
The Vatican, however, issued a statement after the meeting saying the president’s discussions with Francis and two other top Vatican officials focused “on questions of particular relevance for the [Catholic] Church in [the United States], such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection” — issues that have fueled divisions between Mr. Obama and the church.
“Who goes to see the Holy Father and then lies about it? That is absolutely incredible,” Glenn concluded. “And, Catholics, are you even outraged? Was anybody saying: Wait a minute. He lies about the meeting with the Pope? So much of the pope and the Vatican have and Pope have to come out and say, ‘No, that’s not what happened.’ That’s unheard of.”
Front page image courtesy of the AP