Blog Post

Will President Bush Become Catholic?

by Susan Brinkmann Staff Writer, OCDS (June 16, 2008) President George W. Bush enjoyed a rare stroll through the Vatican Gardens with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Rome last week, fueling rumors that he may be considering a conversion to Catholicism at the end of his presidential term. According to the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI greeted the President and First Lady Laura Bush, and Mary Ann Glendon, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, at the entrance to the Tower of St. John located in the Vatican Gardens during the President’s June 13 visit to the Vatican. Normally, VIPs are greeted in the Apostolic Library, but the Pope wanted to give the President a unique welcome in return for the gracious greeting he received from the Bushes during his historic visit in April. After the greeting, the Pope and the President held a private meeting in a study on the upper floor of the tower. “During the cordial talks, the Holy Father firstly reiterated his gratitude for the warm and exceptional welcome he had received in the United States of America and at the White House during his visit there in April, and for the president's commitment in defense of fundamental moral values,”said a press release from the Vatican Press Office. “The discussions then turned to the main themes of international politics: relations between the United States of America and Europe, the Middle East and efforts for peace in the Holy Land, globalisation, the food crisis and international trade, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.” At the end of the meeting, and following the customary exchange of gifts, the Pope and President Bush took a brief stroll in the Vatican Gardens to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes where they were joined by Mrs Bush and the entourage. While there, the Choir of the Sistine Chapel sang two hymns. President Bush has met with the Pope several times during his Presidency and this latest encounter has fueled rumors that he may follow his brother Jeb Bush into the Catholic Church when his presidency ends in January. To some, it wouldn’t come as a surprise. Father George William Rutler, a friend of President Bush, told the Catholic News Agency that Bush has a deep respect for how Catholicism was founded by Christ who appointed Peter as the first Pope. “I think what fascinates him about Catholicism is its historical plausibility,” Fr. Rutler said. “He does appreciate the systematic theology of the church, its intellectual cogency and stability." Fr Rutler also mentioned that the president “is not unaware of how evangelicalism, by comparison with Catholicism, may seem more limited both theologically and historically.” Although Bush belongs to a Methodist church in Texas and attends an Episcopal church in Washington, DC, he has developed a strong relationship with the Pope and  has made known his deep respect for Catholicism. Prior to becoming president, Bush invited Catholic intellectuals to Texas to explain the Catholic faith and one of his first public outings as president was a dinner with Washington's then-archbishop, Theodore McCarrick. A few months later, Bush’s political advisor, Karl Rove, asked former White House Catholic adviser Deal Hudson to find a priest to bless his West Wing office. Bush has also appointed two Catholic judges to the Supreme Court, and has read the Pope’s theological books. In April, prior to the Pope's visit to the US, the Washington Post quoted William McGurn, one of Bush’s former writers who stated, “I used to say that there are more Catholics on President Bush's speechwriting team than on any Notre Dame starting lineup in the past half century.” Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum once labeled Bush as a Catholic president. “I don't think there's any question about it. He's certainly much more Catholic than Kennedy.” Unlike President John F. Kennedy, who maintained that his religious beliefs were private and would not influence decisions he made as president, many of Bush's positions on ethical matters such as gay marriage, abortion, and stem cell research are in line with the Church. Throughout his two terms in office, he made frequent reference to his faith and having been “born again” in Christ. The President has given no indication of his desire to become Catholic, but the Pope’s exceptional greeting has sparked rumors that he will follow the example of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair into the Church after leaving office. The move would not be unprecedented in the Bush family. The president’s brother, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, converted to Catholicism when he married his Mexican wife, Columba.    © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.