March 28, 2014 — President Obama on Thursday briefly touched on contraception and religious freedom rights during a visit to the Vatican, but he said his conversations with Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin -- the Vatican's secretary of state -- focused primarily on global conflicts and economic opportunity, Politico reports (Budoff Brown/Epstein, Politico, 3/27).
Obama said his 52-minute meeting with the Pope was a "wide-ranging session" that focused mostly on the "challenges of conflict and how elusive peace is around the world." Obama said that the conversation did not include "a whole lot about social schisms," adding, "I think His Holiness and the Vatican have been clear about their position on a range of issues, some of them I differ with, most I heartily agree with."
Contraception, Religious Freedom Discussed
However, Obama said his conversation with Cardinal Parolin delved more deeply into the subjects of contraception and religious freedom. Obama said he told the cardinal he would "continue to dialogue with the U.S. Conference of [Catholic] Bishops to make sure we can strike the right balance, making sure that not only everybody had health care but families, and women in particular, are able to enjoy the kind of health care coverage that the (health care law) offers, but that religious freedom is still observed" (Clark, Miami Herald, 3/27).
Meanwhile, the Vatican issued a short statement on Obama's visit, saying that the talks were "cordial" and touched on "rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection," which was a reference to the federal contraceptive coverage rules, according to the AP/U-T San Diego (Winfield, AP/U-T San Diego, 3/27).