Obama is to Notre Dame as…

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Notre Dame.jpegSt. Peter's.jpegSarkozy is to the Vatican? One of the pro-invitation talking points has been that in 2007 the pope himself conferred the title of Honorary Canon of St. John Lateran on Nicholas Sarkozy, the pro-choice president of France. How have opponents of the visit dealt with this apparently problematic fact? Almost entirely by not mentioning it. For a few not very impressive efforts to distinguish the Notre Dame situation (bad) from the Vatican situation (not bad), you can follow this discussion thread on Amy Welborn’s Beliefnet blog, Via Media. Along the way, there’s mention of a comment on the speech Sarkozy gave on occasion of his canonical installment by John Wauck, the prominent Rome-based Opus Dei priest who happens to be a former student of mine (in a Cantabridgian galaxy far, far away).

John, whose blog-motto is “Sanctis omnia sancta mundana mundanis” (“All things are holy to the saints, worldly to the worldly”), undertakes to praise Sarkozy’s public embrace of France’s Christian roots–a significant provocation in the Land of Laïcité. The priest is worldly enough–politique enough–not to have a problem with the fact that Sarkozy, who actually claims to be Catholic, should receive such an honor. OK, so Opus Dei priests are not going to be caught raising a public eyebrow about anything the pope might do. But as with this Zenit report on Sarkozy’s visit, the idea that you wouldn’t make with the usual diplomatic courtesies to heads of state would never occur to the folks in Rome. Unfortunately, this is not part of the magisterial teaching that conservative American Catholics and their bishops have absorbed. If only they were a little more Roman than they are.