The White House announced on Tuesday that President Obama will meet with Pope Francis on March 27 at the Vatican. This will be the first meeting between the president and the Pope, and it could not come at a more precipitous moment. Across the globe and across the United States, profound questions of religious freedom and human liberty confront both leaders.
In Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, and China, Christians face daily persecution. In Africa, millions starve and millions more face threats from deadly infections and violent Jihadist movements. And in Europe, civilizational decline is marked by falling birthrates and endemic recession as the Continent slides further away from its Judeo-Christian, capitalist heritage and towards an Islamic identity that portends grave consequences for free speech and religious freedom.
Closer to home, biblical marriage is under attack, and Christian merchants and employers are being forced to provide goods, services, and health insurance that conflict with their deepest religious beliefs.
Against the backdrop of such tumult will meet two men who are unique in the historicity of their respective ascensions to office. Pope Francis was the beneficiary of Pope Benedict’s unexpected retirement, an occurrence unseen in centuries. President Obama became the first non-white to occupy the Oval office, a first in America.
Their history-making elections marked the professional culmination of lives devoted to service. Both men speak of the poor and the downtrodden, and both advocated for the marginalized before attaining high office. Both are avid writers, one about faith, the other about himself, and both command an audience of billions. Thus, their meeting is an occasion worthy of attention.
In anticipation of their meeting, here are five questions Pope Francis should ask President Obama, a fellow professing Christian.
Why are you persecuting nuns? In 1868, the Little Sisters of the Poor, known as “the begging order,” came to the United States to serve the poor. They lived out their mission without compromise until January 1, 2014. That was the day the Affordable Care Act kicked in, requiring them to provide life-ending contraceptives to their employees, or pay a hefty fine.
Being women of conviction, the Sisters chose to fight in the courtroom rather than comply. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a fellow Catholic, heard their plea and enjoined enforcement of the mandate. Their case is now pending before the Court, along with suits brought by 45 other religious groups who refuse to bow the knee. The Pope might consider reminding the president that caring for the poor requires not attacking those who commit their lives to doing just that.
Why are you persecuting the unborn? Since the Supreme Court invented a constitutional right to abortion in 1973, 55 million innocent children have been killed. In other words, America has aborted the entire population of Spain, and then some. President Obama has supported the abortion movement his entire political career, and Obamacare’s mandate requiring employers to provide abortifacients is but the latest example. Jesus said “let the little children come to me.” Pope Francis should ask the president why his philosophy of judicial empathy abides no legal protections for the unborn.
Why are you persecuting those who believe in biblical marriage? State senator Obama and U.S. Senator Obama embraced the biblical view of marriage – one man, one woman— until 2012. After his re-election, President Obama’s view on gay marriage allegedly “evolved,” after which his administration refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and instead threw its weight behind the legal effort to undermine traditional marriage. Pope Francis would be wise to remind the president that those who honor their religious convictions in how they run their churches, hospitals and businesses are not bigots or homophobes, and should not be treated as such by the federal government.
When will you embrace the biblical view of work? The Bible notes that God created men and women to work, but President Obama apparently skipped that part of Genesis. By denigrating entrepreneurs and business owners, attacking industries and incentivizing long-term unemployment, President Obama has lowered labor participation and increased government dependency. The Pope might invite the president to visit Italy, where generations of wealth confiscation by similarly minded socialist governments have turned Italy into the poor man of Europe.
When will America lead in the Middle East? Fresh off his recent capitulation to Iranian nuclear ambition, President Obama relaxed the economic sanctions that crippled the Iranian regime and created space for Iran to pursue uranium enrichment for weaponization purposes, thereby strengthening its influence in the Middle East. American withdrawal in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and Syria invites further religious persecution and Jihadist terror. The Pope would be wise to remind President Obama of America’s indispensable role as protector of human rights and human freedom.
What is actually discussed between the Pope and the President may never been known. (Hopefully the president does not give to Pope Francis, as he gave Queen Elizabeth, a DVD collection of his speeches.) But the Pope could do worse than to focus President Obama’s attention on the questions above. Prior popes, especially John Paul II, successfully partnered with American presidents to support religious and political freedom and oppose tyranny. Whether Pope Francis can enlist President Obama in such a partnership remains to be seen. The conversation begins on March 27.