The Vatican has taken issue with some of the guests invited to meet the pope at the White House during his visit to the U.S. next week.
In a shocking display of boorishness, the White House has invited a controversial nun who has been silent about abortion, a gay Episcopal bishop who was once in a same-sex marriage, and a transgender woman who heads a Catholic organization for transgender rights.
Also, there have been no invitations to anti-abortion activists.
Why does the president want to show up the pope?
According to a senior Vatican official, the Holy See worries that any photos of the pope with these guests at the White House welcoming ceremony next Wednesday could be interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.
The tension exemplifies concerns among conservative Catholics, including many bishops, that the White House will use the pope’s visit to play down its differences with church leaders on such contentious issues as same-sex marriage and the contraception mandate in the health care law.
The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment on the Vatican’s reaction to the ceremony’s guest list. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday he was unaware of the names of individuals on the guest list, but cautioned against drawing any conclusions on specific guests “because there will be 15,000 other people there too.”
In the last few days, several people have acknowledged or made public their receipt of invitations to the event, which will be held on the White House’s South Lawn on the morning of Pope Francis’ first full day in the U.S.
Among the expected guests is Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a self-described “Catholic social justice lobby” in Washington.
A spokesman for Network, Joe Ward, said in an email message that the organization was unaware of any tension with the Vatican over the invitation to Sister Campbell.
In 2012, the Vatican’s doctrinal office cited ties to Network as one of its reasons for ordering an overhaul of the Leadership Council of Women Religious, an umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of religious orders, representing 80% of U.S. nuns. That decision drew wide protests in the U.S. The overhaul ended in April, having effected few substantive changes.
Bishop Gene Robinson, who has also been invited to the pope’s welcoming ceremony, is a former Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire and the first openly gay Episcopal bishop in the U.S. He is also an ex-spouse in a same-sex marriage. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Another guest, Mateo Williamson, is a former co-head of the transgender caucus of Dignity USA, a group for LGBT Catholics. He said the Vatican’s disapproval of his presence at the ceremony “speaks to the necessity for continued dialogue” between transgender Catholics and the church hierarchy.
Is Obama ignorant of Catholic doctrine regarding same sex marriage, transgenderism, and abortion? Of course not. This is the gigantic pettiness of the man who seeks to embarrass his guest to make a domestic political point about “tolerance” and “diversity.”
The Catholic Church is not a democracy. The pope can’t “change his mind” about gay marriage like most Democrats. The Catholic Church will never alter its position on abortion, nor will it recognize a human being’s “right” to alter his sex whenever he feels like it.
Earlier this month, the Vatican officially prohibited transgender persons from being baptismal godparents posing as the opposite sex from which they were born.
In its response, the Vatican Doctrinal Congregation said that “transsexual behavior publicly reveals an attitude contrary to the moral imperative of resolving the problem of one’s sexual identity according to the truth of one’s sexuality.”
It’s like inviting a neo-Nazi to meet Benjamin Netanyahu. The inappropriateness of the gesture is astounding. But all the Vatican can do is protest — unless they cancel Francis’ visit, which isn’t going to happen.
The pope, being a diplomat, will accept the insult in stride. But he’s probably seething inside. What’s he going to do? Refuse to shake a gay man’s hand? Perhaps President Obama was hoping for something like that to happen, but Francis will no doubt be friendly and open to all.