The Corner

Culture

Obama’s Selective Praise of the Pope Took No Courage At All

Praising the Pope for his writings on climate change this morning, President Obama said the following:

Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example. And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency. All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true and right. But I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better. You shake our conscience from slumber; you call on us to rejoice in Good News, and give us confidence that we can come together, in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just, and more free. Here at home and around the world, may our generation heed your call to ‘never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!

Okay. But here’s the thing: Obama isn’t actually being “reminded” or “shaken out of” anything, and nor for that matter is his “conscience” being awoken. As he has made clear for seven years now, he already agrees with the Pope on climate change, and, as such, has to sacrifice precisely nothing in order to bring himself into line with his position. There was no struggle or “discomfort” on display at the presidential dais; there was only rhetorical ease and the pleasure of holiness by association. Indeed, what Obama really meant is that his opponents need to be reminded and shaken and awoken and made uncomfortable. If that’s what he believes, that’s fine. But let’s cut the “us” and the “we.” Obama already considers himself to be on the side of the angels here. What does he need Francis for?

Obama’s willingness to embrace the Pope’s “profound moral example” seems to be rather limited in scope. If the president were earnestly hoping to better himself by observing the “gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another”; if he were genuinely looking to be made uncomfortable in his complacency; if he were truly aiming to see his conscience shaken out of slumber, he would also thank Francis for his teaching on abortion or marriage or homosexuality or religious liberty. He didn’t. As a non-Catholic I obviously have no problem with Obama’s disagreeing with the Church. But it does ring a touch hollow to stand there and invoke all of the man’s moral authority on one supposedly pressing question, but to ignore it completely when it doesn’t suit. That’s not courage, it’s editing.

Most Popular

Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More
Elections

Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More
Culture

What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More