March 13th, 2013
08:21 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama: An American pope would 'preside just as effectively'

(CNN) - As cardinals gather at the Vatican to elect a new pope, President Barack Obama said he believes U.S. politics wouldn't stand in the way of an American pope doing his job.

"It seems to me that an American pope would preside just as effectively as a Polish pope or an Italian pope or a Guatemalan pope," the president said in an interview that aired Wednesday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Since Benedict XVI resigned at the end of last month, some American names have circulated in media reports as possible contenders for the papacy, including U.S. cardinals Sean O'Malley of Boston and Timothy Dolan of New York.

Critics argue an American pope would be controversial, saying the Vatican would then be too closely tied to Washington.

Asked if an American pope would take orders from the president, Obama made a joke about the at-times thorny relationship between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church.

"I don't know if you've checked lately but the Conference of Catholic bishops here in the U.S. don't seem to be taking orders from me," he said, chuckling.

Last year, the administration faced tense scrutiny after it issued a ruling that required religiously-affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and universities, to include contraception coverage in health insurance plans for employees–a measure met with strong pushback from Catholics. The White House eventually proposed an amended ruling, allowing those institutions to opt out of the mandate.

Obama, who's not Catholic, offered no preference for the pope in the interview.

"My hope is based on what I know about the Catholic Church–and the terrific work that they've done around the world and certainly around this country helping those who are less fortunate–is that you have a pope who sustains and maintains what I consider the central message of the Gospel. We treat everybody as children of God. We love them the way Jesus Christ taught us to love them."


Filed under: Faith • President Obama
soundoff (121 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    Last year, the administration faced tense scrutiny after it issued a ruling that required religiously-affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and universities, to include contraception coverage in health insurance plans for employees–a measure met with strong pushback from Catholics.
    -----------------
    The strong pushback did not come from "Catholics". The resistance was mostly from those who call themselves Christian conservatives.

    March 13, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  2. v_mag

    I'm curious how this works. The Vatican is an independent country, so if an American becomes pope, does he give up U.S. citizenship, since he would be the CEO of a foreign country? Dual citizenship, maybe? And is the ex-pope a citizen of Vatican City or Germany? Anybody know?

    March 13, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  3. Carolyn

    Read the book of revelation chapter 16! See if the pope is still holy. He is describe as the beast or 666!

    March 13, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  4. Red Pill

    Surely, he doesn't thing a new Pope would denounce his enslavement of the people to the State.
    At least most religions let membership to their religion be one of free will and choice.
    Statism does not give their subjects such a choice.

    March 13, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  5. Name Rod MacInnes

    What President Obama said about spreading the central message of the Gospel is very beautifully said. THANK YOU

    March 13, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  6. Red Pill

    An American Pope that would be complicit in the enslavement of people to the State would be a disaster for the World.

    March 13, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  7. Ed1

    Obama would know for sure he is in to his own faith what ever that is.

    March 13, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  8. goddessluckystar

    Ohhh good answer. Touché

    March 13, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  9. Renee

    In other words, he doesn't care.

    March 13, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  10. Sniffit

    What an asinine question. Of course an American Pope would result in the far right conservative religion-fascists trying to leverage it to destroy the separation of church and state...and of course the far right conservative religio-fascists would attempt to leverage it to put ever more pressure on GOP/Teatroll politicians to kowtow to their far right conservative religio-fascist demands. Would the Church itself do so? Perhaps, but not as publicly as you might expect. Can a sitting POTUS, regardless of party, answer this stupid question honestly and say all of that outright on national television? Of course not.

    March 13, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  11. goddessluckystar

    Clarification:

    I meant "ohhh good answer. Touché"
    to president Obama's answer not the 666 sign of the beast posting.

    March 13, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  12. Sniffit

    "The strong pushback did not come from "Catholics". The resistance was mostly from those who call themselves Christian conservatives."

    To be fair the Conference of Catholic Bishops made some public statement about it through a letter. Of course, they did the same to the GOP/Teatrolls, calling Ryan's idiotic budget proposals blatant social darwinism, but you won't see CNN or the MSM weaving the same kind of "omg, look at the schism" narrative there like they will if it's a Dem involved. IOKIYAR

    March 13, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  13. zisee

    As an American I believe the pope should not be an American.

    March 13, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  14. zisee

    The pope should come from another country than the US.

    March 13, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    "We treat everybody as children of God. We love them the way Jesus Christ taught us to love them."

    Yes, Mr. President, I agree. It is THE message of the gospel we all ought to remind ourselves of daily.

    March 13, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    The right wing is absolutely nuts. Fifty years ago or so, they were worried about the POTUS taking orders from the Pope. Today, they're supposedly worried about the POTUS givng orders to the Pope. In fact, if the new Pope gave a few orders to Pres. Obama, the right wing would be particularly pleased about it. Go figure.

    March 13, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  17. SafeJourney

    So, is this the last Pope. Just wondering

    March 13, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  18. principaldad

    The only conceivable American Cardinal that could get elected would be Dolan, and that would be a disaster. Dolan is an activist who has inserted himself into US politics. If elected pope he would attempt to run the US government, not the other way around.

    March 13, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  19. Peter

    Read the book of revelation chapter 16! See if the pope is still holy. He is describe as the beast or 666!
    -–
    Considering that the Catholic Church created the Bible and it is a Catholic tradition do you really think they would have put anything in there that said they were the beast? Come on Man!!!!! That is following a tradition of men or more specifically Loraine Boettner and baring false witness against Catholics.

    March 13, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    is that you have a pope who sustains and maintains what I consider the central message of the Gospel. We treat everybody as children of God. We love them the way Jesus Christ taught us to love them."
    -------------------------------------------------
    Beautifully put by a President who strives and works to not only live by this credo in words and deeds.
    The President is a class act. He has nothing but words of encouragement and support for the possibility of an American Pope in spite of the fact that the Pink Hat Brigade has treated him, shall we say, less than Christian-like.
    This is coming from someone who is a Catholic by the way.

    March 13, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  21. Lynda/Minnesota

    "In fact, if the new Pope gave a few orders to Pres. Obama, the right wing would be particularly pleased about it. Go figure."

    Oh, no, no, no ... Rudy. The idea of a Roman Pope giving orders to an American President absolutely turns my stomach in knots.

    And to your "go figure" point: I gave up trying to figure out right wing ideology a decade ago. You know they're losing when my husband has also given up on them. He's been my GOPer barometer for 8 years now on how ineffective the GOP has become in his conservative world. I'll let you know if he changes his mind anytime soon.

    March 13, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  22. Peter

    The only conceivable American Cardinal that could get elected would be Dolan, and that would be a disaster. Dolan is an activist who has inserted himself into US politics. If elected pope he would attempt to run the US government, not the other way around
    ---
    Cardinal O'Malley from Boston is more than qualified.

    March 13, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  23. Peter

    Carolyn, the 666 beast does not refer to the Pope in Rev. Sounds like you've been lead astray, however this is not the appropriate forum to discuss one's own personal religious ideas. It's about political influence on a religious institution, I agree with Pres. Obama. It would have no more affect than when we had a Catholic president, and some feared the Pope would have too much influence on American politics.. which it did not.

    March 13, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  24. Peter

    Dolan is an activist who has inserted himself into US politics. If elected pope he would attempt to run the US government, not the other way around
    - When did following Church doctrine become activism? Not for anything there is a reason why you have never seen priest or bishops in political office because the Catholic Church forbids it. If you are looking for a cardinal who is going to champion fornication and sodomy, you are going to be sadly disappointed.

    March 13, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  25. v_mag

    It is well understood by scholars that 666 in Revelation referred to Nero, an emperor who presided over a major persecution of early Christians. The writer of Revelation was speaking metaphorically about events of his own time, not predicting events 2000 years in the future. That kind of thinking has been responsible for massive injustice and outrages imposed on simple folks since the church and state melded under Constantine.

    Time to quit with the magical thinking and come into the modern world. Nobody can predict the future using the Bible. All who have tried have failed. The best we can do is predict based on verifiable facts, and that will not yield 100% correct results either.

    March 13, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
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