Their meeting comes at a time when dozens of large Catholic Church institutions have engaged in class action lawsuits against the government requirement that religious institutions offer insurance including birth control devices the church opposes, even for celibate priests and nuns who would have no use for the devices.
The papal audience comes just months after Catholic Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura (Vatican's high court), told Polonia Christiana magazine on January 7 of this year, “It is true that the policies of the President of the United States of America have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies.”
President Obama and Pope Francis also exchanged small gifts during the meeting, though disagreements were discussed before the meeting with one of the Vatican's cardinals. “I think His Holiness and the Vatican have been clear about their position on a range of issues, some of them I differ with, most I heartily agree with,” Obama noted at a press conference after the meeting. Obama said after his meeting that he only discussed “income inequality,” immigration, and foreign policy with the pope. “And he actually did not touch in detail on the Affordable Care Act. In my meeting with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, we discussed briefly the issue of making sure that conscience and religious freedom was observed in the context of applying the law. And I explained to him that most religious organizations are entirely exempt.”
But Obama's remarks were materially false, as at least 43 Catholic organizations, including Notre Dame University and the Archdiocese of New York, have filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration seeking the exemption that Obama claims they are already entitled to receive.
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Photo of President Barack Obama meeting with Pope Francis: AP Images