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obama-popeNo doubt you have heard that President Obama met with Pope Benedict XVI yesterday. By all accounts the meeting was cordial on both sides, and both men got their respective points across. This is in keeping with reports from the Vatican, that insiders there actually have great hope for working with this President, contrary to the beliefs and dare we say hopes of the reactionary conservative Catholic branch in this country. As one  forum poster put it, “I just don’t understand why they were smiling at him like they actually were happy to have him there!” Another answered cryptically, “Why it’s perfectly understandable that the Pope would be friendly with Obama, the last Pope is friendly with the antichrist.” So much from the peanut gallery.

Such bizarre thoughts are no doubt fueled by the release of Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, or Charity in Truth. In it, while addressing as one would expect, the usual issues of abortion and other life issues, the Pope took a bold step in calling for a move away from a free market economy so beloved by the religious right in this country. In fact, he called for what some would argue sounds much like a “new world order.”

Now, to some in the extreme right of the Roman Catholic Church, and surely to all those fundamentalist evangelicals, such talk is dare we say apocryphal? It brings forth all that noise about the antichrist and Armageddon and all that jazz. Right in line with the barely subtle argument that Obama will be the leader of the NWO and that will make him, according to some, the antichrist, which brings on Jesus and his legions returning from heaven, all just after I guess the faithful are gathered into the clouds in a twinkling, no doubt to get their horses to join in the Jesus army.

This all comes from our dear friend Jack van Impe, linked above. He’s been a preachin’ the end times for 50 or more years, always that said times were “any minute now.” He’s been claiming that Benedict was on the same page with him, though I find that highly doubtful. Jack has a way of stretching the scripture and most else he reads (400 periodicals a month he claims) a tad. So I’m not sure if the encyclical supports or not his current views of how close we are to Jesus return. He can improvise pretty darn quickly in my opinion.

In any event, the Catholic right is not so very pleased with the Pope’s pronouncements. More or less, they tend to be in favor of business, and free markets, and against any such nonsense as global warming, labor unions, and stuff like that. Worse, the Pope actually talked about REDISTRIBUTION of wealth. You remember the horror that caused with Plumber Joe and all the sanctimonious Fox Noise people as they screamed that Obama was a socialist about to “redistribute wealth” across the nation.

The political left, and religious left, as you might imagine are rather more warming to the Pope on this encyclical. They find much to be pleased with, and see in some sense that the Roman Church is acknowledging what they have believed for a long time, namely that the Church has always evinced a strong socially aware message to the world. Echoes of Rerum Novarum cannot be missed here.

A more reasoned approach comes from Catholic Culture, which sees this as a clash between Benedict and his more liberal Pontifical Council for peace and justice.  Benedict, it is claimed rejected 2-3 drafts of the encyclical, determined to keep it within his theological framework. Still, it seems the progressives in the Church have much to be happy about, for it is being widely reported that it leans to left, and as we have seen again and again, perception is everything in politics.

I don’t know what all this means in practicalities since it doesn’t seem that the Vatican wields much power across the globe in terms of real pressure. But it is gratifying to see that the progressive arm of the church still seems to have some input into the decision making process, and it seems the Obama administration can feel that in some sense it has a ally in the Vatican City. Meanwhile, the ultra conservative left will attempt to spin this in a manner than most favorably supports their views.

It seems, that both sides got something, but on balance, I think politically the left is a bit happier today.

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