Friday, January 23, 2009

John Allen On The Vatican Versus "Catholic Conservatives" on Obama

John Allen had what I think is a curious article in some respects. See Vatican approach to Obama in contrast to conservative U.S. Catholics

I guess what I find odd about the article is that it seems to set up a straw man. Did Catholics (conservatives or not) really expect the Vatican to declare war on the President Elect and now President? It was not something I expected and I don't think many "conservative" Catholics did either.

It would be interesting too see if the Vatican's reaction is any different than when Bill CLinton came into Office in 1992. I can not recall any inital hostility toward Clinton either. Though that relationship started to sour partly because as Allen reported before Clinton did not give much time to the Vatican/U.S. relationship.

Vatican journalist John Allen also offered a cautionary tale concerning the treatment of Vatican ambassador Ray Flynn and Pope John Paul II under the Clinton administration.
“During the lead-up to the U.N. conference on population in Cairo in 1994, Pope John Paul II called Flynn to the Vatican on a Saturday morning to personally request a telephone conversation with President Clinton. Flynn relayed the request urgently to the White House that afternoon, and got no response,” he wrote.
After placing more failed calls, Flynn then flew to Washington where he was forced to wait outside Clinton’s office over a two day period.
“Finally,” Allen continued, “he was admitted to the White House’s pre-Cairo war room, where he was told by Assistant Secretary of State Timothy Wirth that ‘nobody is getting a chance to lobby the president on this one.’ Dumbfounded, Flynn explained that the Bishop of Rome is not a lobbyist, and that it would be seen as a profound act of disrespect if the president wouldn’t even get on the phone. After almost a week, Clinton finally agreed to take the pope’s call.”
These events showed the Clinton administration’s “basic disinterest” about the Vatican, which sometimes bordered on hostility.
“The result was that the U.S.-Vatican relationship during the Clinton years was more often defined by predictable differences than by imaginative areas of common purpose,” Allen’s open letter concluded, advising Obama even to initiate a conversation with the papacy himself.
“My advice is to get on the phone if the Pope calls,” Allen advised. “Better yet, initiate the conversation yourself. You might be surprised about where it goes.”

That was of course not helpful.

So the Vatican no doubt is taking steps to make sure that does not happen again. Now I have admit and Allen points this out that some "Conservative" (what ever means) American Bishops are pointing out some concerns in Rome but I don't think it's anything like wanting to go after Obama. There was some forceful talk about the dangers of FOCA. They had no choice in that and perhaps the Obama administration got a hint of the potential poltical costs of that move. We shall see. However since the election I cannot recall anything overly hostile coming from these quarters toward the Obama administration.

In effect is not what the Vatican doing what it pretty much does all over the globe. That is have openess to Governments and let the Catholics on the ground in those countires handle the real politic.

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