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Vatican pushes back on White House guest list

Vatican pushes back on White House guest list

The White House is to host Pope Francis during his visit to the United States. There’s just one problem. The Vatican has issues with the guest list. Among others, it wants Bishop Gene Robinson disinvited. (Shades of Gafcon’s demand yesterday to determine who is invited to the Primates Meeting called by the Archbishop of Canterbury.)

The Wall Street Journal reports (may be gated):

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.

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.

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.


Photo credit: Reuters

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Robert Aloo

Let’s cut this back to basics with a little analogy:

In 1985, Louise and Paul got married. Sometime during their reception Aunt Edna got gravy spilled on her good dress. She blamed Aunt Rose and demanded Rose pay the dry cleaner. Rose says she had nothing to do with it and the two sisters have been either not talking or openly brawling ever since. Next year Paul and Louise’s son Jim is getting married and neither will attend the wedding because the other one is invited.

You decide to be among the blessed peacemakers and since this has gone on long enough and way too far, you decide to “fix” it.

You start by inviting Edna over for lunch.

-do you invite Rose too?

Beyond the hazards of injecting yourself into another family’s squabble, do you really think this will help? Will they walk out arm and arm or now mutually decide to never, ever talk to YOU again?!! (I’ve placed MY bets…)

What have you accomplished by this clumsy maneuver?

Invite Edna first: reach her as a person, understand her point of view first (You don’t even have to agree with her.) Unless you realize it’s either futile or indeed none of your business, you can have Rose over in a few weeks when you’ve warmed them both to the idea.

-This is the difference between a true peacemaker and just some meddling busybody.

The first time Jimmy Carter met Sadat, I’m sure Menachem Begin wasn’t sitting in the car too! That kind of thing takes time, patience, humility and wisdom.

Barack Obama is butting into rifts within a Church body he does not even belong to. If it goes badly enough he will put the Pope in a position of declining his invitation and alienating Catholics and their Church the world over. Whatever his true aims are they will fail, and with great cost. This applies even if the Pope does his own diplomatic obligation and smiles sweetly (and externally) at Obama’s table, if you eat the meal and walk away with a sour taste in your mouth, you will never sit down at that table again.

Even if he is trying to do the right thing, he is doing that right thing wrong and will do more harm than good.

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June Butler

Ai-yai-yai! Pope Francis' long ordeal of his visit to the White House with people the "Holy See" (not Pope Francis) has concerns about will be mercifully over tomorrow, and I hope we can lay the subject to rest.

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Robert Alloo

Let's take this back a couple of decades. Let's say it's the 60s or the 70s and the President is inviting Brezhnev to a state dinner at the White House.

Scattered around the Western world are prominent exiled Soviet dissidents, many with legitimate beefs with the USSR and the President's sympathy.

If the President is really committed to the advancement of Détente, does he meet with the dissidents privately, maintain a dialog with them and present their concerns to Brezhnev through diplomatic channels, or invite them to dinner and rub his nose in it in public?

Under which scenario will the Soviets more likely want to engage the US and its leadership in the future?

Which will lead to a greater advancement of constructive US-Soviet relations including the Dissidents' concerns?

Fast-forward to right now...

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David Allen

Big difference in the folks that you compare and how they are each called to respond; Brezhnez wasn't the Vicar of Christ!

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Robert Aloo

-but you see that is actually my point: Even though Leonid Brezhnev represented a militarised superpower that was demonstrably doing harm to people even at the time, reaching him diplomatically and hopefully making a difference in the world called on other Governments to treat him with respect that that behind closed doors they might agree they were unhappy to offer.

Neville Chamberlain had to walk up to Hitler, grasp his hand, look him in the eye and shake it warmly. He had no pretense of liking the man or what he stood for, but even Hitler got respect in the hope of maintining dialog and keeping the peace (sadly futile.)

As a head of state, Obama should offer the Pope no less courtesy than any other World Leader would expect.

-as leader of a government sworn not to mess around in theological issues he shouldn't be confronting the Pope on issues strongly rooted in Catholic doctrine either. The two men approach these subjects from entirely distinct philosophical grounds and both should take great pains to respect these by agreeing to disagree and then leaving them alone.

Figure out where to agree: work from there.

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Jerald Liko

I agree with the general point that the host can invite anyone s/he wants to the party. However, I think this incident brings an opportunity to observe a widespread case of "Francis delusion" that is currently sweeping TEC.

Pope Francis is a wonderful spiritual leader who has almost singlehandedly wrested the conversation about Christianity in the world away from the gender/sexuality issues constantly pressed by conservative evangelicals. For that, he deserves our praise. But the fact is, exactly zero of the Episcopal priests I see fawning over the pope on social media would be comfortable with him as a bishop. He'll embrace a gay man and mean it, but he won't ordain that man unless he's deep in the closet. He'll wash a woman's feet, but he won't ordain her, never, no matter what. And unlike our bishops, he has the power to change the policies of his church, unilaterally and immediately. He does not change them. Heck, even ACNA leaves the ordination of women up to its bishops diocesan!

I find it doubly ironic that Francis's claim to fame seems to be reorienting the Roman Catholic Church toward ministry to the poor and oppressed. As far as I can tell, they were already doing a better job on that front than the rest of us. In every city I've lived in, the network of Catholic charities, shelters, prison ministries, soup kitchens, and even orphanages has represented the gold standard of Christian witness to the poor and marginalized. Francis is *highlighting* this, which is again commendable, but to suggest that he inspired it is a disservice to the priests and congregations who have been doing exactly the same thing - minus the photo ops - for generations.

Instead of treating Francis as a messiah bringing the RCC into modernity, we need to recognize him for what he is - a sometimes-ally comparable to Rick Warren or Russell Moore, whom we can work with on issues of economic justice but who is a long way from deserving our unconditional praise on issues of equality and inclusion in the small-c catholic church.

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Robert Aloo

Diplomatic events are just a chance to show respect to the countries your guest represents. You don't do it because you agree with them or always even like them, but just set a tone of courtesy that might even carry on into future conversations.

-inviting your guest's dissidents and opponents is just plain undiplomatic, and is certain to establish a tone as well.

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