This New York Times piece looks at that history in preparation for Obama's meeting this week with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
It's worth a read to understand some of the influences that have led Obama to adopt some of the priorities of Catholic social teaching that this pope is emphasizing.
Much of what's called Catholic social teaching focuses on the poor and how they should be treated. That's what makes Pope Francis something of an ally with Obama, who in the early 1980s went to work in Chicago in a program funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Even Obama acknowledges he didn't know much about Catholicism then, but as The Times notes in the piece to which I've linked you, he was a quick study. He never became a Catholic, but his thinking continues to resonate with large parts, though not all, of Catholic social teaching.
What's intriguing to me is the way in which Obama has fallen out of favor with some Catholic leaders over such culture war issues as abortion (leading to the Hobby Lobby case being heard by the Supreme Court this week).
The new pope has asked for a de-emphasis on such hot-button matters and a renewed focus on serving the needy.
That's where Francis and Obama may well find common ground. What that might lead to remains to be seen, however.
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THE FAITH OF JUSTICES
Speaking of the Hobby Lobby case, what difference will it make that the current members of the Supreme Court have many of their own faith connections and positions? That's the difficult question this Washington Post piece raises. I don't know the answer, either, but my hope is that the justices will rule on the merits of the case according to the law and not according to individual religious beliefs.