The Plank

Does The Pope Read Tnr?

Pope Benedict took three questions from the press corps on the plane ride from Rome yesterday, one of them on immigration reform. Here was the money quote: "In the short term, it's very important above all to help the families. This is the primary objective, to ensure that families are protected, not destroyed. Whatever can be done, must be done." The pope said he would discuss the matter with President Bush when the two meet today.

This bears a remarkable resemblance to an argument I recently made on these pages. So, the question: Does the pope read TNR?

A pope lives in rarefied air. His apartment has frescoes by Raphael and has the best view in all of Rome. People kneel and bow when he walks into the room. He is revered by millions. But, popes are also exceedingly well-informed, and the weeks in advance of a papal trip are spent with briefing books about the country to be visited. It is entirely possible that his ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi, sent a press clipping over for the pope to read. Or, one of the American cardinals resident in Rome might have brought the article to the pope's attention. But far be it from me to suggest that this article affected his thinking. Most likely of all, it simply stood to reason from a studied look at this pope's concerns, voiced in countless speeches and texts, that he would address this issue and do so in this way.

What the takeaway should be--and what my TNR article strongly urged--is that Democrats should mimic the pope's manner of addressing the immigration issue. Ethnic Catholics and evangelicals are both likely to respond to a stated concern for keeping families together. Besides, placing the need to keep families together alongside border security as the twin imperatives of immigration reform is the right thing to do.

--Michael Sean Winters

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