By Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Newsweek
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Tomorrow Pope Benedict XVI and President Barack Obama meet for the first time, an affair much anticipated and in some circles frowned upon by American Catholics in the wake of Obama’s controversial Notre Dame commencement speech in May. Conservatives in the church denounced Obama’s appearance as a nod by the premier Catholic university to a conciliatory politics that heralds the start of a slippery moral slope.
In truth, though, Obama’s pragmatic approach to divisive policy (his notion that we should acknowledge the good faith underlying opposing viewpoints) and his social-justice agenda reflect the views of American Catholic laity much more closely than those vocal bishops and pro-life activists. When Obama meets the pope tomorrow, they’ll politely disagree about reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, but Catholics back home won’t care, because they know Obama’s on their side. In fact, Obama’s agenda is closer to their views than even the pope’s.
It’s fitting that Obama’s visit comes just days after the publication of “Charity in Truth,” a Vatican encyclical that declares unions, regulation of capitalism’s excesses, and environmentalism to be ethical imperatives. The document gives moral credence to Obama’s message and to progressive politics writ large.