Friday, July 10, 2009

Letter from Rome, #18: The Little Green Book

insidethevatican - Jul 10, 2009

The Pope gave a little book to US President Barack Obama after their meeting today in the Vatican. “This is a document about bioethics,” the Pope said. And the president replied, “Oh, what we discussed earlier. I’ll have some reading to do on the plane"...

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome


"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color. I'm so glad I'm a Beta." — Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932), Chapter 2 (a description of five types or "levels" of human beings being created in test tubes in a future society in which biotechnology is far advanced and triumphant)

"Human cloning is dangerous, profoundly wrong." —US President Barack Obama, March 9, 2009 (See:

"When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless stage of their existence are selected, abandoned, killed or used as pure 'biological matter', how can it be denied that they are no longer being treated as 'someone' but as 'something', thus placing the very concept of human dignity in doubt?"—Pope Benedict XVI, January 31, 2008 (See:


This morning, I wrote a newflash in which I imagined a conversation between Pope Benedict XVI and President Barack Obama during their meeting this afternoon.

This evening, after hearing reports about the contents of the meeting, I think it unfolded almost as I imagined it would.

As the quotes above suggest, on some bioethical issues, like the cloning of human beings, the positions of Obama and Benedict (that is, of Obama and the Church) are not far apart. And their views on many issues in the social and economic sphere also are not in grave conflict.

But on some issues concerning human life, and the dignity and inviolability of that life, the positions of the two diverge quite sharply.

The Vatican, officially, was at pains after the meeting to emphasize the areas of convergence.

That explains why, in the official communique issued about an hour after the meeting by the Pope's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J. (see below), there is no mention of any areas of difference whatsoever.But there were areas of difference.

And those areas were discussed frankly by the two men. We know this from hints received just after the meeting, as I will explain below.

But we do not know precisely what was said. That remains a mystery.


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