Five former American Ambassadors to the Holy See, who were appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, are unanimous in their condemnation of the closure of the American Embassy at the Vatican.
I made no comment about this embassy closure at first because I didn’t know what it was about. I changed my mind when I read these former ambassadors’ statements. I take the unanimous opinion of five former ambassadors seriously.
Here are a couple of things I don’t take seriously.
First, I don’t take the Vatican’s public statement that they aren’t disturbed by the move seriously. What did you expect them to say? It would have been destructive to whatever diplomatic relations they have left with the Obama administration if they had, as we say in this part of the world, pitched a fit over the closure.
In politics, it’s always wise not to let them see you sweat. It’s also wise not to close off dialogue. I put the Vatican’s public statements about this situation in that column.
Second, the fact that the current ambassador to the Holy See backs the president who appointed him means nothing. It’s this guy’s job to take the administration line in matters pertaining to the Vatican. If he went off the rails over this and joined his fellow ambassadors to the Holy See in their condemnation of the action, he’d be packing for the next flight home.
And now, I’ll talk about the thing that I have begun to take extremely seriously. I think President Obama is an anti-Catholic bigot. I think he uses his position in the White House to engage in faith-baiting against Catholics. The HHS Mandate stands alone in the audacity of its attack on the First Amendment, religious freedom and the Catholic Church.
The regulation, as the president first signed it, was an outright broadside against the faith practices of the Catholic Church. It was an open attack on Catholic institutions, ranging from hospitals to schools to counseling and on through pastoral activities.
In addition, it made the assurances that President Obama gave Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak about abortion and the Affordable Health Care Act appear to have been manipulative lies. Congressman Stupak issued a statement about the HHS Mandate. Here is part of what he said (emphasis mine):
Two and a half years ago, I sat in a small storage room on the fourth floor of the Cannon Building to begin negotiations between the Obama Administration and a group of Pro-Life Democratic Members of Congress. These Democratic Members, myself included, formed a small handful of critical votes necessary to secure passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, National Health Care legislation.
These negotiations … resulted in Executive Order 13535, signed by President Obama, and upheld the principles contained in the 40 year old Hyde Amendment which prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. The Executive Order also reaffirmed the “conscience clause” which states that no person or institution can be forced to accept, provide or comply with health care policies or medical procedures contrary to their religious and moral beliefs.
Upon his signing of the Executive Order, President Obama assured me this was an “iron-clad agreement”
… I am, therefore, perplexed and disappointed with the recent mandate put forth by HHS requiring faith-based employers to provide contraceptive coverage in their health care plans, including birth control, use of the RU-486 morning after pill, and contraceptive services resulting in the abortion of embryos.
… No individual or organization should be forced by government to set aside deeply held religious convictions, abdicate moral beliefs, or deny one’s own conscience. Yet, the recent HHS rule requires faith based employers to abandon principles and provide contraception coverage for all employees. This rule clearly violates Executive Order 13535.
Section One of the Executive Order states that
“…longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience (such as the Church Amendment 42 USC 300a-7) and the Weldon Amendment, section 508(d)(1) of Public Law 111-8) remain intact and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions”.
Last summer, the president issued a statement assuring churches that he was not going to require them to perform gay marriages. Inherent in that statement was his assumption that he had the right to force them perform gay marriages if he wanted. I believed then and believe now that this statement was just another of his positions of the moment and could “evolve” into something sinister any time the president thinks he can get away with it.
All these things play into the equation that led to what I wrote earlier about the closure of the American Embassy at the Holy See. When five former ambassadors from both political parties take the unprecedented step of a unanimous public condemnation of an action of the United States Department of State and the President of the United States, I take that seriously, too.
In fact, I think that if you don’t take it seriously, it’s because you either don’t understand just how unlikely it is for such a thing to happen, or you want to back anything President Obama does, no matter what it is.
When was the last time you saw five former American Ambassadors to Great Britain or Spain or Taiwan unanimously condemn the diplomatic position taken in those countries by a sitting American president?
Can’t think of one?
That’s because this sort of thing doesn’t happen.
It’s a “massive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties,” said former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson in the National Catholic Reporter. “It’s turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy. The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and … [it’s] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”
Mr. Nicholson — whose views were echoed by former envoys Francis Rooney, Mary Ann Glendon, Raymond Flynn and Thomas Melady — also called the justification for closing the existing facility a “smokescreen,” Breitbart reported.
“That’s like saying people get killed on highways because they drive cars on them,” he said in the report. “We’re not a pauper nation … if we want to secure an embassy, we certainly can.”
Moreover, the existing facility has “state of the art” security, he said.
“It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it’s also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See,” he said in the National Catholic Reporter. “[There’s no] diplomatic or political benefit to the United States” from the relocation at all, he added.
Will our lives change because of this specific collapse of this specific embassy into that of another government?
Not directly and not immediately.
Will our lives change because the President of the United States is using his office to attack our Church, and the American people, including a good many Catholics, are going along with him about it? I am afraid they will.
American Catholics and Christians today are like the frog in the pan of water that is slowly heating up. We just keep on sitting there until we are cooked.