Pope Francis will be at the White House next Wednesday as part of his tour through the United States in coming days—but this welcoming ceremony could have a distinctly chilly tone. The WSJ reports that the Vatican has some objections to the White House’s guest list:
On the eve of Pope Francis’s arrival in the U.S., the Vatican has taken offense at the Obama administration’s decision to invite to the pope’s welcome ceremony transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an activist nun who leads a group criticized by the Vatican for its silence on abortion and euthanasia.
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. […]
Mr. Williamson, who is transgender, said he would be attending the ceremony as a guest of Vivian Taylor, a transgender woman who was invited by the White House and who formerly served as executive director of Integrity USA, an LBGT advocacy group in the Episcopal Church.
This is an astonishing display of bad manners. It would be one thing to invite a LGBTQ guest who held a position or a place in society that made him or her an obvious pick. In that case, it would be wrong from the standpoint of both etiquette and morals to deny an invitation. It would also be another matter if the White House is doing this with the foreknowledge and support of the Vatican. If Jesus could eat with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, it’s possible Pope Francis would be fine with a few guest with whom he disagrees on some points of personal morality. A joint decision with a Vatican that is fully happy with the guest list would be perfectly acceptable.
But at least one top Vatican official, unnamed by the Journal, issued a critical response to the list. If that official’s views are representative, it would appear that the White House did not run the list by the Vatican and the Obama Administration has gone out of its way to invite people whose presence is intended to imply criticism of the beliefs of his guest of honor. This is sophomoric and disgraceful. If the Catholic Church is so immoral that you feel that all decent people need to be at war with it, then you should treat the Pope’s visit as a private matter and ignore it. But if you want to show respect to the head of a faith that tens of millions of your fellow countrymen think is important, invite him and treat him with honor.
If the White House truly did this without Vatican support, this is behavior you’d expect to see from middle school students rather than the head of state of a serious country.