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Vatican: Bush wants bishops to back his agenda

From Suzanne Malveaux
CNN Washington Bureau

• Archbishop enters communion debate
• Gay supporters denied communion at Chicago Mass
Same-sex marriages
George W. Bush
Angelo Sodano
Roman Catholic Church

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush has urged the Vatican to ask U.S. bishops to become more involved in promoting his conservative social agenda, a Vatican official told CNN on Monday.

Bush favors a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and restrictions on abortion rights in the United States.

He pressed his case during a brief discussion with the pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, on June 4, shortly after Bush's visit with Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy.

The president "complained that the U.S. bishops were not being vocal enough in supporting [Bush] on social issues like gay marriage, and abortion," a Vatican official privy to the discussion said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan confirmed that Bush met with Sodano, but would describe the meeting only as "a good private discussion" in which "they discussed a number of shared priorities."

The Vatican official said Bush asked Sodano to "push the bishops to become more actively involved" in promoting those issues that are part of his social agenda.

The Vatican official said Sodano did not respond to Bush's request. The official said "it was the Vatican's interpretation that [Bush] wanted [the bishops] to get involved in time for the campaign."

McClellan, pushed to give details about the discussion, said, "The positions of the president and the Vatican are well-known on those issues. ... I would just leave it at that."

The church opposes abortion, same-sex marriage, the death penalty, unjust wars and a host of other issues that are debated in the political mainstream.

The Roman Catholic Church appears to have taken a greater role in U.S. politics after Francis Arinze, a top Vatican cardinal, called on priests to deny communion to Catholic politicians who support legalized abortion.

The cardinal did not mention Sen. John Kerry by name, but when asked about the presumptive Democratic nominee, the cardinal said U.S. bishops should decide the question of whether he should receive communion.

Forty-eight congressional Roman Catholic Democrats later signed a letter to protest the idea that politicians who support abortion rights should be denied communion.

The letter was sent to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, chairman of the Task Force on Catholic Bishops, and was signed by legislators on both sides of the abortion issue.

The legislators said denying communion to Catholics based on political beliefs would have "the effect of miring the church in partisan politics and allowing the church to be used for partisan purposes," and would "bring great harm to the church." (Full story)

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