– The Washington Times – Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It’s not quite a gift from God but, politically, it may be the next best thing.

President Obama increasingly is finding a key policy ally in the Vatican, with Pope Francis standing virtually shoulder to shoulder with the White House on income inequality and a historic diplomatic reboot with communist Cuba. The pontiff next year also appears poised to offer greater support to the president on climate change initiatives and reportedly wants to be a leading voice at a U.N. global warming summit next year, where the American president will make perhaps his greatest pitch to date for more dramatic action on the environment.

For Mr. Obama and fellow Democrats, aligning with Francis offers clear benefits in the short term, as they are able to highlight agreement on controversial issues with one of the most respected figures on the planet.

But in the long term, analysts say, Democrats may pay something of a political price.

To soothe American Catholics, who may have grown suspicious of the church’s partnership with a liberal White House, the pope in the coming months and years is likely to zero in on fundamental disagreements with the Democratic Party on issues such as abortion and religious liberty, said Joseph Prud’homme, a political science professor and the director of the Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture at Washington College.

“I believe Francis will remind the faithful in his position as supreme pastor about what he has consistently said about life and religious liberty. I hope, and I expect, that he will, after these initiatives [on Cuba and climate change], remind the faithful of the unending position of the church with respect to the sanctity of human life, the importance of religious liberty,” Mr. Prud’homme said. Continue reading