White House guests Deepen, not Divide, Pope Francis’ Welcome

You better watch out, you better not cry—you better not pout, I’m telling you why: Pope Francis is coming to town.

pope-francis-3For Catholics across the U.S., Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to this great nation is spiritually meaningful and historically significant. The Pope’s agenda in D.C. is packed: a papal parade at 11 a.m., noon prayers at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Mass at the National Shrine, a visit to the U.S. Capitol, and much more.

Out of all these events, there’s one event getting special attention from many GOPers: the guest list for the Pope’s White House dinner. One opinion argued that President Obama himself is “deliberately embarrass[ing] the Pope by sticking a thumb in his eye, and by sticking their noses into Catholic doctrine and teachings.” Another claimed there was going to be a rogue “gallery of people opposed to Catholic teaching to greet the pontiff.”

So who’s in this army of anti-Catholic warriors out to offend the Pope? Out of a guest list with 15,000 people, these GOPers have pointed to four or five individuals who don’t fit the “standard Catholic mold.”

That’s. It.

Those people are Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic lobbying group responsible for Nuns on the Bus; Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay U.S. Episcopal bishop; Mateo Williamson, a former leader of the LGBT-Catholic group Dignity USA; and Vivian Taylor, a former executive director of the LGBT-Episcopal group Integrity USA.

Each of those people fully deserve to be included in this historic event for many reasons, but, even if they didn’t “deserve” it—having five highly-achieved, so-called “misfits” out of fifteen thousand invitees is a preposterous thing to get upset over.

The articles all lean on the same source of credibility—words of worry from a senior Vatican official. The Wall Street Journal reported the Holy See was hesitant to have photos of Pope Francis with “these guests” because it might be “interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.”

But you know what else has gotten hesitant reviews from senior Vatican officials; Pope Francis’ own words and actions.

Pope Francis doesn’t drive a Mercedes, opting for less luxury. He phones Vatican officials directly instead of going through complex channels. He says things like “who am I to judge?” when discussing LGBT civil rights. He lives in a modest apartment instead of the lavish chambers embraced by his predecessors. He changes the system of career Vatican bureaucrats wearing a white rob and a plain cross.

A group of senior Vatican officials may be scared of the Pope appearing in photographs with an unconventional crowd, but I doubt the Pope who envisions “a new balance” and a “home for all” is perturbed about a diverse dinner guest list. This is the Pope who said: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person” and that the important thing isn’t having “this [homosexual] tendency” but living “in the light of God.”

This is the Pope who “has washed the feet of prisoners, visits refugees and hugs disabled pilgrims.” To think that five faith-filled, religious, God-seeking, sincere individuals who don’t perfectly fit the traditional mold are capable of “sticking a thumb” in the Pope’s eye is to severely misunderstand Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is coming to town, but his gifts of respect and love aren’t made to be hidden away in a stocking.

Lindsey Bergholz is a law student at The George Washington University. She previously worked with Eleison Group and graduated from the University of Miami. Lindsey is a bookworm who occasionally takes a break from geeking-out to volunteer with animals.

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