Former Vatican Ambassador: ‘Collateral baggage’ impacts US relationship with Pope

President Obama met with Pope Francis at the Vatican Thursday. While both leaders have a lot in common when it comes to issues like the poor, immigration and the environment, the two are divided over abortion, same-sex marriage and the White House’s position on the health care and its mandates for contraception coverage.

In an interview with Fox News’ Lauren Green, Francis Rooney, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, spoke about America’s relationship with the Vatican.

Since becoming Pope, Francis has become an advocate for economic and social justice.  An area, Rooney believes, Obama can relate.

“When the Pope talks about income inequality and crony capitalism he’s coming from a pretty horrendous country [Argentina] for these two areas with no safety net,” Rooney said. “He’s also looking at the whole world with so many tragedies going on effecting people’s human dignity and rights.”

One issue of concern Francis sees is the increasing secularism in the West.

“He [Francis] has been continuing the line of Benedict [XVI] … as secularism rises in society, the role of religion can be marginalized and confined more and more,” Rooney said.

Rooney recalled relationships previous presidents have had with the Vatican. In particular, how President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II both shared antipathy for the former Soviet Union and communism.

“The visits of President Reagan, visits of President Bush, they involved administration policies that were so closely aligned with the Holy See’s diplomacy – you didn’t have some of this collateral baggage we see [now],” Rooney said.