In the weeks leading up to President Obama's May appearance at the University of Notre Dame, almost 80 AmericanCatholic bishops, in response to his pro-choice stance on abortion, voiced their disapproval of the honorary degree being bestowed upon him. If the bishops of Obama's own electorate were that harsh, you'd expect the Curia at the Vatican, the church bedrock where the president will meet Pope Benedict XVI tomorrow, to distance themselves from him furiously.
That expectation would be wrong. President Obama is much more popular at the Vatican than he is with the most vocal American bishops. American monsignori in Vatican City "are all Fox News, Bush-loving Republicans," a Vatican reporter told me on the condition that I not use his name and harm his access. "The Italians, however, are another story. They love Obama." Indeed, most Vatican officials are just as excited to meet the new president as their secular counterparts have been elsewhere in Europe.
One reason church officials swoon for the president like their counterparts across European capitals is that the Monsignori often come from the same families as those who work in high civil-government offices. They consult the same magazines and newspapers. They attend the same boarding schools and universities. They even vacation at the same resorts. The view from Rome and the view from Brussels are similar on most issues of international importance.