US ready to greet Pope but not his crusade: Meeting with liberal Clinton unlikely to be comfortable

THEY will wave and cheer, but many of the tens of thousands of American Catholics who turn out to greet the Pope today will be honouring a man whose views are about as similar to their own as the Popemobile is to a Porsche.

John Paul II will jet into Denver, Colorado, for the start of a four-day visit to the United States where he will be confronted by many followers who are fundamentally at odds with the Vatican over some of the most emotive issues at the fore of contemporary public debate.

He will also have his first meeting with Bill Clinton, who has made a point of championing abortion rights and gay liberation - but still managed to attract 44 per cent of the Catholic vote, some of whom will now be praying that the US President can liberalise papal opinion.

Vatican aides have said the two men will concentrate on discussing world issues, like Bosnia, Somalia and the Middle East, but - given their differences - conversation seems likely to stray on to the 'moral agenda' and Mr Clinton's domestic policy. The 45-minute exchange - billed by some as 'the Old Pope versus the Young President' - is unlikely to be very comfortable.

Officially, the Pope is in the US to attend World Youth Day, an annual Roman Catholic bonanza, which is expected to attract 500,000 people to Denver, temporarily doubling the city's population, filling hotels for miles around and sending short- term home rentals rocketing up to dollars 20,000 ( pounds 13,600). They are not all well-wishers. A platoon of pro-choice activists have already set up camp outside a local Planned Parenthood clinic, surrounded by barbed wire and under the eye of a squad of police in riot gear.

The Pope arrives, hotfoot from a visit to Jamaica and Mexico, to find himself confronted by the depressing evidence of polls highlighting the gulf between the Vatican and many of the US's 59 million Roman Catholics, some of whom appear to be happy to cast aside the Church's teachings while remaining loyal to its name.

The visit is the pontiff's third trip to the continental US and, in a country that has the highest rate of divorce and pregnancy in the industrialised West, it has already generated a bout of national soul-searching about moral standards, and modern Catholicism.

A USA Today/CNN Gallup poll found that, while the majority of Catholics liked the Pope, most (73 per cent) would sooner follow their own consciences rather than papal doctrine. An overwhelming majority - 84 per cent - said they rejected the ban on artificial birth control, and 76 per cent supported allowing priests to marry.

One of the few areas that will provide comfort to the pontiff as he rifles through these statistics is abortion: the same poll said that 58 per cent wanted it banned altogether, while a Newsweek survey found that most people felt the Church's position is 'about right'. It remains one of the most divisive issues in the US.

Millions of Catholics were enraged by Mr Clinton's nominee for surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders, who last year accused religious anti-abortionists of having 'a love affair with the foetus'. In the same remarks, Dr Elders derided abortion opponents for being led by a 'celibate, male-dominated Church', touching on another issue where the Pope will find no shortage of Vatican critics.

Polls also indicate that more than half of the US's Catholics favour the ordination of women, a policy the Vatican has so far firmly resisted. In the past few days pro-ordination protesters have been gathering in Denver in the hope of impressing their views on the papacy.

The apparent disparity between what the Church says and what it does is just as hotly disputed. In recent years the US Catholic Church has been rocked by a succession of sex scandals in which priests have been exposed as persistent child abusers. Since 1982, allegations of child abuse have been made against 400 priests - and some estimates suggest that as many as 2,500 priests have molested youngsters over the past decade.

Many Catholics have been less than impressed by the Church's reluctance to push for the prosecution of errant clergy - further evidence that there may be many half-hearted waves in the throng that welcomes the Popemobile.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power