.- Following Fridayâs meeting between Pope Benedict and U.S. President Barack Obama, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson released a statement saying that while he is pleased that the president is interested in engaging in âmeaningful dialogueâ with the Church, several issues must be addressed by the government to find âauthentic common ground.â
During the 36-minute meeting, it was reported by the Vatican that the Holy Father and U.S. President discussed issues such as the promotion of life, the peace process in the Middle East, the global economic crisis and immigration.
In Andersonâs statement, he called the meeting an âachievement for Vatican and American diplomacyâ and said it ârepresents a positive development for those of us who hoped that this meeting might mark a new opportunity in the important relationship between the Catholic Church and U.S. government.â
Turning then to the subject of life and President Obamaâs statement to the Pope that he is committed to reducing the number of abortions, the Supreme Knight applauded Obama âfor his sensitivity to the growing consensus among the American people favoring the right to life, restriction of abortion, and the protection of conscience.â
âAs our Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll released today shows, there is a great deal of common ground among the American people on these issues,â Anderson pointed out, explaining that â86% would restrict abortion far more than it is today, and 79% would protect the right to conscience of health care workers.â
âThis is a real consensus on the heart of the abortion issue, and it is heartening to see the presidentâs attention to it,â the Knights of Columbus leader said.
He added, âThis is an important moment. The pope and the president have laid the foundation for trying to achieve authentic common ground. How we build on this meeting in a constructive way in the months and years ahead is critical.â
Anderson then listed several benchmarks that must be met to âprovide a true gauge of progress made on achieving common ground with the Catholic community.â
Anderson's list included: âadoption of a federal conscience clause regulation that gives real protection to Catholic institutions and individuals; health care legislation that does not contain a back door mandate for abortion; abortion reduction programs that respect pro-life crisis pregnancy and teenage abstinence programsâ and the âpreservation of the pro-life riders that currently exist in the annual appropriations legislation.â
âThese riders, which restrict federal abortion funding, also raise conscience protection issues, since their removal would force tax payers to pay for abortions against their conscience,â he explained.
The final issue would be âdropping any attempts to codify by statute the presidentâs rescission of the Mexico City Policy, which allows international abortion funding by the United States,â Anderson concluded.