National Catholic Register

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Obama and the Vatican

BY EDWARD PENTIN

ROME CORRESPONDENT

April 5-11, 2009 Issue | Posted 3/27/09 at 9:02 AM

 

VATICAN CITY — As President Barack Obama approaches his first hundred days in office, the general verdict among Vatican officials on the 43rd president is by no means a favorable one.

Since taking office Jan. 20, Obama has pushed through or proposed a raft of anti-life policies. These include proposing to rescind conscience rights of physicians and others, especially in the context of abortion; permitting U.S. government funding of organizations sponsoring abortion provision around the world; nominating an aggressively pro-choice Catholic as secretary of Health and Human Services; and allowing federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

The latest such decision of the administration was to formally endorse a U.N. statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, a measure that President George W. Bush had refused to sign and that the Vatican also opposed.

A week earlier, the administration said it would endorse radical international guidelines on HIV/AIDS, which call for criminalizing critics of homosexuality.

The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, criticized Obama’s embryonic stem-cell decision as a “victory of politics over ethics,” the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, in an interview he gave to Catholic Action for Faith and Family, said the appointment of Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of Health and Human Services was “the source of the greatest embarrassment” because of her radical pro-abortion record and that she “should not be entrusted” to the job.

Although he has some support in the Vatican, mainly among European officials, for his foreign policy initiatives and his willingness to use state aid to help the poor and the marginalized, the view among most American officials there is overwhelmingly negative. One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the general feeling among his colleagues was one of “distrust and disgust.”

However, until Obama overturned Bush’s policy against funding human embryonic stem-cell research, most senior Vatican officials were willing to look fairly positively on the new administration and rejected assertions that Obama was an “American Zapatero,” the radically anti-life Spanish prime minister.

“The Vatican has been trying to direct [Obama’s] administration towards the center,” said Massimo Franco, author of Parallel Empires, a recently published book on U.S.-Holy See relations. “But it’s proving very difficult because Obama obeyed his constituency, so the problem is not just Obama but the Democratic Party.”

Edward Pentin writes

from Rome.