Bush soon a Catholic? Fantasy, speculation, wishful praying?
U.S. President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair often saw eye to eye politically. Are they about to see eye to eye religiously?
Blair, a life-long Anglican, converted to Catholicism in December after he left office in June. The Italian weekly magazine Panorama is reporting in its latest edition that Bush, a Methodist, may follow his political soul-mate and also convert to Catholicism after he leaves office next year.
To be honest, the odds of this happening appear as good as those of the proverbial snowball in hell. In fact, the Panorama article starts with two sentences saying this “might” happen and the rest of the article is background.
Panorama tries to build up its case by reminding the reader that Bush prayed together with Pope Benedict when the pontiff visited the White House on April 16, that Bush’s brother Jeb, the former governor of Florida, converted to Catholicism, the religion of his wife, and that a number of Bush’s advisers are Catholic.
The only other Italian publication playing with this idea was Corriere della Sera, which ran a story on April 17 entitled “Bush, a crypto-Catholic president.” Its correspondent Massimo Gaggi pins his speculation on the Washington Post, which ran a story on April 13 by Daniel Burke of Religion News Service. Citing the high number of Catholics in his administration, Burke wrote that “George W. Bush could well be the nation’s first Catholic president.” At the very end of his piece, he has two quotes to the effect that Bush is a “closet Catholic” and the parallel to Blair, but no outright speculation about conversion. Maybe that’s how all this started and found its way into Panorama.
What I find most interesting is the attention that the Panorama story is getting on some religious blogs. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (left) ran his own translation of it on his blog What Does the Prayer Really Say? Father Z, as he is known, says the article is “a strange item” and is “typical of much of the Italian press”. He concludes his entry by saying “A lot of this article is pure fantasy.”
While Father Z and I have had our differences in the past, I tend to agree with him on this one. What is fascinating is the number of comments and the level of passion Father Z’s posting has attracted on his blog, with some readers dismissing the conversion possibility outright but others convinced that Bush will eventually convert because he was “blinded on the road to Washington” (as in the headline on the Panorama article pictured at right) .