In Friday's Word from Rome, John Allen reported that President Bush had asked the Pope for help - asking him to push the US bishops to speak out more on certain issues, particularly same-sex marriage.
But some with experience in Roman Catholic politics said they were hardly shocked. "Any head of state who goes to the Vatican will attempt to present a case," said Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, a professor of theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in New York. Monsignor Albacete, who has served as a translator for Catholic officials in meetings with heads of state, said: "If it is done in a very rude way, then the Vatican will remember and you won't get invited again. But if it is done in a diplomatic way, that is why they go to the Vatican anyway. It is not an act of devotion. It is a political thing."