Yesterday Rome spoke on The 100 Days and found that they were…not as bad as feared. According to the front-page story in L’Osservatore Romano, President Obama has operated with laudable caution, including on matters of ethics and morals. Notably, the pope’s paper found reason to praise the administration’s proposed guidelines for funding stem cell research and applauded the re-introduction in Congress of the Pregnant Women Support Act. The latter, as Tom Reese points out, is a “common ground” undertaking that has received the active lobbying support of Philadelphia’s archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and certified Big Dog In The Church.
In the face of the anti-Notre Dame campaign of conservative Catholic activists, this looks very much like push-back. Archbishop Raymond Burke, removed from St. Louis to Vatican City last year, has blotted his copybook by calling down the wrath of pro-lifers on those of his fellow bishops who decline to deny Communion to pro-choice politicians. The idea of layfolk like Randall Terry ginning up campaigns to oust church hierarchs who fail to live up to their pro-life standards sitteth not well with Rome.
The conservatives who would like to cast Obama into outer darkness now find themselves confronted with de-demonization from on high and a president happy to play ball. At last evening’s press conference, Obama was asked about his support of the Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that, while showing nary a sign of life, has agitated the bishops no end since the election. Pro-choice I may be, he replied, but:
The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I
would like to reduce the number of unwanted presidencies that result in
women feeling compelled to get an abortion, or at least considering
getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen
pregnancies, which has started to spike up again.
And so I’ve got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in
the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in
the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp, to see if we can arrive
at some consensus on that.
Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not [my] highest legislative priority.
I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that
the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger
surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on.
And that’s–that’s where I’m going to focus.
Hear that, angry people?
It’s worth noting that the biggest Irish Catholic in New York is no longer Bill Donohue but the freshly minted archbishop, Timothy Dolan. Dolan carried water for Rigali in St. Louis and is close to him. Albeit vigorously pro-life, neither has taken the “deny Communion” approach of Burke and company. They are Roman through and through and, as such, they believe in engagement with the secular powers-that-be. Indeed, Dolan supports inviting pro-choice politicians to Catholic campuses, just not giving them honors.
In his inaugural address, Obama said, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the
silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history;
but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” In Rome, it is Dolan’s glad hand that now seems to be the order of the day.