Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
The Vatican currently has no plans to change the procedure of exchanging honors during historic official visits of heads of state to the Vatican, and believes that the responsibility for any subsequent abuse of such decorations rests with the visiting delegation.
Despite the outcry over giving militant pro-abortion Dutch politician Lilianne Ploumen a medal of Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great last summer, Vatican officials believe the statement issued about the honor last week by deputy spokeswoman Paloma Garcia-Ovejero was enough, and that Ploumen’s award was actually meant as a snub.
The Vatican and the Dutch government exchanged honors when Holland’s King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima made their first, historic official visit to the Pope and the Vatican last June.
Ploumen, a staunch promoter of abortion who started a fund called She Decides which has raised nearly $400 million for international pro-abortion organizations since July, took part in the delegation as a government minister.
Earlier this month, a video emerged of Ploumen showing off the honor and saying the Pope had awarded it to her in recognition of her work in lobbying for abortion for girls.
In Jan. 15 comments to the Register, Garcia-Ovejero said the awarding of the honor was in line with “diplomatic practice” and that it was “not in the slightest” an endorsement of Ploumen’s position on abortion or birth control.
In answer to a Register enquiry on Monday, an official would not say whether better vetting procedures would be implemented in the future to prevent it happening again, insisting instead this was “a very traditional procedure” for such an “historic occasion” and was really meant as a way of “honoring the king.” It is something that “has been done many times in the past for other visiting heads of state,” he said.
The source added the honor was no different to someone “going to visit someone else’s house as a guest, and who comes with companions: one shows a minimum amount of respect to whom he brings.”
The Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great medal is normally given in recognition of “personal service to the Holy See and to the Roman Catholic Church, through [the recipient’s] unusual labors, their support of the Holy See, and their excellent examples set forth in their communities and their countries.”
Ploumen will not be installed as a Dame of the Order, and in fact by giving her such a medal, the source said the honor was meant as a “slight” because a government minister normally receives a more distinguished decoration. The king, for instance, received “the Grand Collar,” an ornate chain worn about the neck to symobolize membership of a chivalric order.
Asked whether future delegations will be given better instructions on how to handle the honor once awarded, the source said they already have their “own internal protocol, just as we do,” and that all members of the Dutch delegation were “informed about the context, however they subsequently proceeded to act.” The visiting party has to “take responsibility for what happened afterwards,” he added.