Ben Johnson


Obama to Pope: 'I have appreciated our work together over these last four years'

Ben Johnson

President Barack Obama has released a statement on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and, as usual, it's all about himself. In three spartan sentences, he manages to use the word “I” four times.

The use of the first-person singular is Obama's own Holy Tradition, a hallmark of both his rhetoric and his governing style. His administration is a Magisterium of one.

Nonetheless, one line is particularly galling: “Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years.”

That mutual work has consisted of:

In other words, Obama thanked himself for a four-year relationship that has been purely adversarial.

As Bill Clinton might say, that takes a lot of brass.

One is tempted to interpret Obama's strange show of appreciation as a sign of good sportsmanship, rather like opposing teams shaking hands after a basketball game. One could also detect an oblique sense of gloating, as he congratulates himself on outflanking the Church in the United States, often with the active aid and participation of the Catholic laity and hierarchy.

Compare Obama's statement with that of House Speaker John Boehner, who is Catholic:

The prayers and gratitude of American Catholics are with Pope Benedict XVI today. The Holy Father’s decision displays extraordinary humility and love for the Church, two things that have been the hallmarks of his service. Americans were inspired by his visit to the United States in 2008, and by his quiet, steady leadership of the Church in uncertain times. People of all nations have been blessed by the sacrifices he has made to sow the seeds of hope, justice, and compassion throughout the world in the name of Our Lord and Savior.

Note the reverence, the attention to the good the other person has done, the beneficial impact someone else's actions have had, and the reference to a Higher Being.

Obama essentially read the pontiff out of his own statement, indulging him only insofar as the pope happened to coincide with his interests and those of the coalition that elected him.

Note to Speaker Boehner: This is how the conservative grassroots expect you to “work together” with President Obama in his second term.

Cross-posted at

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