Vatican City, Jun 13, 2008 / 05:50 pm (CNA).- Today as President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI met at the Vatican, the English newspaper, The Telegraph reported that Bush may be considering converting to Catholicism at the end of his presidential term. The Telegraph indicated that various Italian newspapers have been commenting on the news, especially Il Foglio.
A friend of President Bush, Fr. George William Rutler, who converted to Catholicism in 1979, stated that Bush respects how Catholicism was founded by Christ who appointed Peter as the first Pope. “I think what fascinates him about Catholicism is its historical plausibility,” said the priest. “He does appreciate the systematic theology of the church, its intellectual cogency and stability.” Fr. Rutler also mentioned that the president “is not unaware of how evangelicalism – by comparison with Catholicism – may seem more limited both theologically and historically.”
According to the Washington Post, President Bush currently belongs to a Methodist church in Texas and attends an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C.
However, in recent years, the head of state has developed a strong relationship with the Pope and has made known his deep respect for Catholicism. The Telegraph noted that prior to his presidency, Bush’s political advisor invited Catholic intellectuals to Texas to explain the teachings of the Church to the president. Bush has also appointed Catholic judges to the Supreme Court, has selected Catholic speech-writers and consultants, and has read the Pope’s theological books.
In April, prior to the Pope’s visit to the U.S., the Washington Post quoted William McGurn, one of Bush’s former writers who stated, “I used to say that there are more Catholics on President Bush’s speechwriting team than on any Notre Dame starting lineup in the past half-century.”
The Post’s story detailed the likelihood of Bush’s possible conversion to Catholicism by quoting those close to the head of state. Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator, labeled Bush as a Catholic president. “I don’t think there’s any question about it. He’s certainly much more Catholic than Kennedy."
While President John F. Kennedy struggled to balance his Catholic upbringing and politics, many of Bush’s positions on ethical matters such as gay marriage, abortion, and stem cell research are in line with the Church.
Yet, Bush has received criticism from Catholics who point out that his invasion of Iraq is strictly against the teachings of the Vatican. However, the Post mentions that prior to the war, the president met with Catholics to discuss just-war theory. “White House adviser Leonard Leo, who heads Catholic outreach for the Republican National Committee, says that Bush ‘has engaged in dialogue with Catholics and shared perspectives with Catholics in a way I think is fairly unique in American politics.’”