Ahead of his July 10 visit with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, President Barack Obama met this morning with seven reporters, editors and publishers of the Catholic press, and with a religion writer for the Washington Post.
The president made brief remarks, and then each participant was allowed one question. The encounter lasted 46 minutes, according to an internal White House transcript.
No, Our Sunday Visitor, the nation's most-circulated national Catholic weekly newspaper, was not invited (although our friends at the two other lower-circulation Catholic nationals were). I strenuously protested today to the White House Office for Media Affairs, and received an apology. Hopefully that will translate into future concrete proof of amendment.
American Papist, Thomas Peters, flatteringly suggests we weren't invited because the Obama team was afraid of tough questions. Thanks.
In his opening remarks, Obama said his upcoming meeting with the pope was a "great honor."
"Hopefully coming out of this meeting we will be able to continue to find areas where we can cooperate on everything from Middle East peace to dealing with worldwide poverty, climate change, immigration, a whole host of issues in which the pope has taken extraordinary leadership," he said.
Then he went around the Roosevelt Room table for a question each. Here they are in list form. I'll also post longer on each one, and identify the questioner when the transcript makes it clear; the hyperlink will be active once they're up (momentarily).
1) Some U.S. bishops have "hammered" you. Do you write them off?
2) After your G8 meeting, what will you report to the pope on progress toward helping the world's poor?
3) What about the conscience clause for pro-life health care workers?
4) What do you expect to accomplish with the "common ground" group you've organized on the abortion issue?
5) You have spoken against hostility towards religion. But what about the anti-Catholic remarks of some of your advisors?
6) What do you make of the fact that you are a lightning rod of controversy among U.S. Catholics?
7) Have you chosen a home church?
8) How do you plan to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?
Had you been in the room, what question would you have posed to President Obama?