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Bush's Vatican strategy

BUMPER stickers saying ``Bishops for Bush'' may soon be coming. It seems that the president who admits few faults and confesses no shame but invokes God in policy decisions to a grating degree for many Americans pandered to the pope in his recent trip to the Vatican. The National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper, published an article that said Bush asked Vatican officials to help him in the American culture wars.

The article, written by Rome correspondent John Allen, said ``During his June 4 visit, Bush asked the Vatican to push the American Catholic bishops to be more aggressive politically on family and life issues, especially a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.'' A Vatican official was quoted as saying that Bush complained that ``Not all the American bishops are with me.''

This is somewhat funny, given that during the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush spoke at Bob Jones University, well known for its racist history and for the fact that its leaders denounced the Catholic Church as a ``satanic counterfeit.'' The visit became so embarrassing to Bush that he wrote a letter to Cardinal John O'Connor of New York. Bush said, ``On reflection, I should have been more clear in disassociating myself from anti-Catholic sentiments and racial prejudice. It was a missed opportunity, causing needless offense, which I deeply regret.''

Of course, Bush did not go so far as to say he made an actual mistake by going to Bob Jones - when there were scores of colleges he could have spoken at throughout the South. He said, ``Some have taken - and mistaken - this visit as a sign that I approve of the anti-Catholic and racially divisive views associated with that school.''

Three years later, the Catholic Church was one of the global institutions that Bush thumbed his nose at in invading Iraq. But there he was at the beginning of June, still admitting no major mistakes in his presidency, shamelessly asking the church for help. His visit came at a time where approval for his Iraq occupation was falling through the floor. Nothing would be better for Bush than if he could find a divisive cultural issue to distract voters in November. On that, he thought he could find common ground at the Vatican. The pope, despite restating his opposition to the war in Iraq, did praise Bush for his ``commitment to the promotion of moral values.''

Such a blatant request by Bush to enlist a global religious institution in his policy making and, by extension, his reelection campaign is yet one more sign that Bush is trying to ram selective chunks of religion down the throats of all Americans in the most multicultural nation on earth. Once again, the president who once boasted, ``I'm a uniter, not a divider,'' and says he wants to get government out of our lives, is trying, more clearly than ever, to get the pope in bed with him so both of them can camp out in our bedrooms.   Continued...

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