Sunday, July 12, 2009

Benedict-Barack, White House Edition

While the Holy See both released its customary communique and briefed reporters in the wake of Friday's first meeting between the 44th President and the Pope, the lone White House follow-up to the session was a 20-minute gaggle with its press-pool as Air Force One flew from Rome to Accra, Ghana an hour later.

Joining WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in the session was the native Minnesotan who's seemingly become President Obama's lead Catholic voice among his senior staff: National Security Council deputy Denis McDonough, a product of both St John's in Collegeville and Georgetown who Obama introduced to B16 on Friday as "a priest's brother."

For the record, the cited McDonough sibling, Fr Kevin, served until recently as vicar-general of the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis and now pastors the Twin Cities' lead parish for African-American Catholics.

Here below, the transcript of the in-flight briefing, as released by the White House:

SVILUPPO: In a recap of these last "busy" weeks on the White House beat, CNS' DC correspondent Pat Zapor notes the significant hand likewise played on things Catholic (especially the 2 July press roundtable with the POTUS) by another top member of the Obama West Wing -- Department of Housing and Urban Development's faith-based outreach chief Mark Linton, a former staffer at Catholic Relief Services:
[M]uch of the groundwork in making arrangements and briefing the president before the [press] meeting was the work of Obama’s main Catholic adviser....

Though Linton’s official job is at the office for faith-based outreach at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he’s continued to serve the role he had during the presidential campaign, as a liaison between Obama and Catholic leaders and communities.

Given the course of interactions with the Catholic Church in these first six months — from the uproar over Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame to the reversal of the Mexico City policy on funding for family planning organizations, from ongoing collaboration between church-based organizations on immigration and health care legislation to the visit to the Vatican — Linton has more than had his work cut out for him.

Amid all that, I’m glad he remembered to invite the Catholic press in for a chat with the president.
PHOTO: Reuters