Obama Meets With Cardinal Francis George, America's Top Bishop

The president talks with the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops president, Cardinal Francis George.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

President Obama met yesterday with the nation's top Roman Catholic bishop, Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The White House emphasized that the president and the cardinal, both of Chicago, already had something of a pre-existing relationship. "The president and Cardinal George have had several conversations over the months and had planned to get together in D.C. as soon as they could," said a White House source.

At least until recently, Cardinal George has taken the opposite tack, emphasizing his distance from Obama, according to Religion News Service:

Though Obama and George have both held prominent posts in Illinois, where they met a number of times, they never developed a relationship, the cardinal said last November. Obama, who is Protestant, was a state senator in Illinois from 1997 to 2004, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

"It's always been a friendly meeting, never substantive," George said at a November meeting of the USCCB in Baltimore.

No word on what was discussed during the half-hour meeting—the White House and the USCCB both released brief, oblique statements—but I have to believe it was pretty tense. Consider the three news releases that the Catholic bishops have issued about the White House since Obama took office:

Executive Order on Embryonic Stem Cells 'A Sad Victory of Politics over Science and Ethics,' Says Cardinal Rigali

Bishops' Pro-Life Official "Gravely Concerned" Over Threat to HHS Conscience Protection Regulation

Gallup Poll: Most Americans Disapprove of Mexico City Policy Reversal