Obama and Vatican Differ on Content of Yesterday’s Talk

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The contents of yesterday’s private meeting between President Barack Obama and Pope Francis differ according to who’s talking, with the Vatican insisting that they discussed social issues and the president saying they weren’t a topic of conversation.

According to the Vatican Information Service, the meeting, which took place on March 27 at the Vatican, the pope and the president “discussed questions of particular relevance for the Church, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection.”

However, immediately after the meeting, the president told reporters at a press conference: “We actually didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness. In fact, that really was not a topic of conversation.”

The President was a bit more forthcoming about a meeting he had with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, who apparently raised the issues of conscience and religious freedom which was particularly relevant after this week’s Supreme Court hearings on the controversial birth control mandate.

“I explained to him that most religious organizations are entirely exempt,” Mr. Obama said, according to the Washington Times. “Religiously affiliated hospitals or universities or [nongovernmental organizations] simply have to attest that they have a religious objection, in which case they are not required to provide contraception — although employees of theirs who choose are able to obtain it through the insurance company.”

While discussing the differing versions of the meeting on Fox News’ Special Report last evening, contributor Charles Krauthammer asked whose version we ought to believe, the one coming from the leader of the world’s largest religious denomination, or the one coming from a man who promised the country that if they liked their health insurance policy, they could keep it.

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