An early preview of President George W. Bush's forthcoming memoir “Decision Points,” has revealed that the book will discuss the former president's relationship with Pope John Paul II—especially the Pope's influence on his decision to restrict embryonic stem cell research.
The Pontiff and president met publicly in 2001, 2002 and 2004, for discussions that displayed both profound agreements and serious differences between the two men.
On October 28, 2010, the Drudge Report posted exclusive details from the president's memoir (available November 9). Their first look at “Decision Points” mentioned that the Pope's vision of a “culture of life” helped the president understand the dignity of embryonic human lives, even as proponents of embryonic research urged him to consider the possible benefits.
During their first meeting, in July of 2001, Pope John Paul II reminded the president that “a free and virtuous society, which America aspires to be, must reject practices that devalue and violate human life at any stage from conception to natural death.”
“Through a vibrant culture of life,” the Holy Father told Bush on that occasion, “America can show the world the path to a truly humane future, in which man remains the master, not the product, of his technology.”
According to the Drudge Report preview, President Bush was strongly moved by the Pope's cultural vision, as well as his personal witness. John Paul II had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for up to a decade at the time of the meeting. But he opposed research into any possible treatment that would have involved the destruction of embryonic lives.
The Pope's words and witness that summer led the president to make a decision protecting embryonic life in crucial ways. On August 9, 2001, President Bush announced that federal money would not fund research involving any further destruction of embryos for research purposes. The ban remained in place throughout his administration.
Although the president's address on stem cells drew some criticism for its moderately positive take on in vitro fertilization (which also involves the mass production and killing of embryos), many observers praised his cautious approach to bioethical questions, as well as his advocacy of adult-derived stem cell research.
Crown Publishing Group, the publishers of the former president's book, has revealed that “Decision Points” will also detail the considerations that led to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. In regard to this decision, President Bush did not agree with Pope John Paul II.
The Holy Father publicly opposed the “Bush doctrine” of preemptive war against countries suspected of threatening the U.S., stating that war was to be regarded only as a last resort once all other options were exhausted. On March 18, 2003, two days before the invasion, the Pope warned of “tremendous consequences” for the Iraqi people, and said there was “still time to negotiate” to avoid war.
That same day, President Bush declared that America had exhausted its options, describing the invasion as a necessity due to weapons of mass destruction allegedly being prepared by Saddam Hussein. When the two men met again in 2004, the Pope reaffirmed that the stance against war remained “the unequivocal position of the Holy See.”