Obama has made no secret of his affection for the outspoken pope, calling him a "transformative leader" whose influence has transcended the Roman Catholic community. The pope has embraced many of the issues Obama has sought to advance, including global warming, poverty and diplomacy with Iran and Cuba.
A “transformative leader” to help “fundamentally transform” the country.
Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, said the pope's Sept. 23 visit will mark an important moment not only for Catholics but for all Americans.
"Pope Francis has breathed new life into what I believe is the central mission of our faith: Catholic social doctrine," Biden said in a statement to The Associated Press. Invoking key elements of Obama's agenda, Biden added that Francis "has become a moral rudder for the world on some of the most important issues of our time, from inequality to climate change."
Our faith: Catholic social doctrine. Since Biden is a Catholic, this is the nation’s faith.
Despite deep differences on some social issues such as abortion, Obama and the pope are expected to focus on areas of agreement. The White House said economic opportunity, immigration and refugees, and protection of religious minorities were high on the agenda.
Protection of religious minorities. I wonder how much Obama is going to alter Obamacare based on that high agenda item.
For Obama, the visit offers a chance to imbue his remaining goals with a sense of moral authority as he approaches the end of his presidency.
Imbue his remaining goals with moral authority from the Tyrant Theologian.
The White House has praised Francis for involving himself in issues usually left to politicians. In a rare move, Francis personally intervened to help the U.S. and Cuba restore relations, writing leaders of both countries and hosting their delegations at the Vatican for final talks. And on climate change, a cornerstone of Obama's desired legacy, Francis added the weight of the pulpit by publishing a landmark encyclical calling climate change real and man-made.
There you have it: if the Tyrant Theologian says climate change is real and man-made, it must be true.
Yet there are risks for Obama if he glosses over other, stark differences in views.
When he visited Francis early last year, Obama contradicted the official Vatican account of their meeting by saying they hadn't discussed social issues in any detail. Papal aides insisted the two leaders indeed discussed religious freedom, life and conscientious objection — buzzwords for abortion, birth control and parts of Obama's health care law.
"That's the delicate dance," said Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. "The idea is to point out common areas of concern, rather than say, 'We are total allies.'"
In other words, don’t worry about Planned Parenthood butchering babies. We will only concern ourselves with our common areas of concern.