President Barack Obama and Pope Benedict met for the first time today and retreated for 40 minutes behind closed doors in the Vatican. Wasting little time with pleasantries about the weather or other benign topics, they got straight to business and talked about two matters they fundamentally disagree on: abortion and stem cell research. But, according to official reports from both sides, things were exceedingly diplomatic.
Obama tactfully promised to "do everything possible to reduce the number of abortions in the United States," Reuters paraphrases. Of course, it's the subtext here that's important: His route to reducing abortion isn't to make it illegal but to prevent unplanned pregnancies ... through birth control ... which the Vatican opposes. The Pope was a bit bolder and, to the surprise of exactly no one, attempted to enlighten Obama with some weighty reading materials: He handed the president a copy of "Dignitas Personae," a booklet that rails against abortion, "condemns artificial fertilization and other techniques used by many couples and also says human cloning, 'designer babies' and embryonic stem-cell research are immoral."
Obama's response to receiving the document was priceless: "I'll have something to read on the plane" -- along with the latest issue of Us Weekly, of course.