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A Pope and a President Walk Into a Bar

Andrew Sullivan writes [1]:

It was striking to me that the Pope refused to address the president’s authorization of inhumane treatment and torture of prisoners. This was not an accidental omission. In return, the president refused to engage the Pope on his own complicity in the systematic cover-up of child rape and teen abuse by his own priests. I have a feeling that history will not be as reticent

Hmm. “This was not an accidental omission,” is a slippery phrase. Does Sullivan mean to imply the pope tacitly approves of U.S. torture? He should use plain language.

“His own priests” is also delightfully non-specific. Is Sullivan saying something about the pontiff’s time as Bishop of Munich (in the 70s), when he would have been in charge of priestly formation in his diocese? If it refers to the recent scandals, when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this is equivalent to pretending the secretary of health and human services should have devised an exit-strategy for Iraq. There are plenty of people to blame in the Church for what is euphemistically called the “abuse-scandal” – Benedict is not one of them.

“In return, the president refused” is even stranger, as if to say that Bush thought, “Hey Benny, thanks for not taking me out to the woodshed over that torture thing. I’ll do you a solid and not accuse you of covering up child-rape.”

I just don’t get it. What does Sullivan expect? That the two men sit in the Oval Office and chide each other for the camera? Strike moral poses at each other? That seems more like the work of pundits and bloggers.