Inevitable: Obama to meet soon with Pope Francis

Makes sense. One’s the leader of a messianic religious movement that’s recently been hobbled by scandal, the other’s Pope Francis.

I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t happened already.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the President was “looking forward” to visiting the popular new leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican.

Kerry did not say when the trip would take place…

Kerry, a Roman Catholic, met with Vatican leaders on Tuesday to discuss foreign policy and economic issues, including Francis’ outspoken stance on income inequality worldwide.

He did not meet with the Pope.

Normally the president meeting the Pope is a simple goodwill-building gesture towards America’s Catholics but O’s got more at stake this time. Five years ago, at the height of Hopenchange, The One’s own endorsement might have been enough to persuade swing voters that God hates income inequality and wants government to do something about it. Five years later, at the depths of Hopenchange, he needs to appeal to a higher power:

When a White House speechwriter turned in a draft of a major speech on economic policy this month, President Obama sent it back with an unusual instruction: Add a reference to the pope…

Quoting the pope isn’t likely to yield direct electoral dividends for Obama’s party — the once-vaunted “Catholic vote” largely disappeared long ago. But in a string of effusive praise, the president has made clear he sees the pope as a like-minded thinker and potentially useful ally in a crucial battle of ideas, particularly on the importance of shrinking the gulf between rich and poor, a subject Obama has pushed repeatedly but with limited success…

To others, Obama’s interest in the pope exemplifies the way some liberals, cheered by Francis’ new focus, have expressed their hope for a church that puts less emphasis on issues like abortion or gay rights and more on immigration, welfare or poverty programs.

Obama is the “preeminent example of a liberal falling in love with Francis,” said Candida Moss, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Topics like O-Care’s contraception mandate and infanticide will, I take it, be discreetly avoided. Serious question: Will aligning himself with the Pope do anything to move O’s income-inequality agenda forward? Francis is popular with Americans generally and fantastically popular with American Catholics specifically, but as of late November, there was no evidence that his popularity was bringing people back to the Church in the U.S. People like him, but maybe not enough to act on it. Meanwhile, who’s listening to Obama’s sermons on sharing the wealth and remaining unmoved by them unless/until they know the Pope would like to see a bit more wealth-sharing too? My hunch is that people’s views of redistribution are similar to their views of contraception: They may admire the Vatican’s position as nobly motivated but ultimately they have to protect themselves.