The first few days of Pope Francis' visit to the United States have been fascinating, not least because of his clever tactics in putting US President Barack Obama firmly, yet politely, in his place.
The depth of Obama's hypocrisy on religious freedom simply cannot be underestimated following his welcome speech to the pope on the south lawn of the White House. Obama, ever the impressive statesman, spoke of how "here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty" and promised the pope that "we stand with you in defence of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and intimidation."
It does actually sound very good, but the reality is this man is head of perhaps the most anti-religious administration ever seen in the United States; a fact not lost on the Holy Father. Consider the pope's response to the president: "Mr President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of goodwill, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America's most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it."
The pope's final words suggest that while President Obama is confident that his country respects the rights of religious people, the pope doesn't necessarily share his view.
But here is the best part. Shortly after meeting Mr Obama, the pope decided to make an unscheduled stop to the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The significance of this? The Little Sisters are currently pursuing an action against the Obama administration for forcing them to comply with the HHS Mandate (also knows as 'Obamacare'), a Mandate which forces companies and groups (including the Little Sisters) to provide contraception through employee insurance plans. And let's not forget that President Obama and the wider Democratic community recently vowed not to make it a crime for a person to kill a baby born following a failed abortion This, brothers and sisters, is Obama's idea of a country that cherishes "religious liberty."
The pope, who told Bishops yesterday that nobody can turn away from the evil of abortion, is already making some shrewd moves in the States. But then, we shouldn't be surprised, even when we are faced with the quiet exterior of this humble little man from Argentina. He is a man who burns with the fire of his Catholic faith, and he is undoubtedly a man with a plan. Perhaps it hasn't yet dawned on President Obama that he is up against the successor to Peter and Vicar of Christ.