The big headline was all about Pope Francis’s strong words regarding the horror of abortion. Let others be shocked that il Papa stands for the culture of life. The neat thing to me was that the comments were made to the envoys to the Holy See. Ambassadors will have a few things to report back to their respective Chief Executives, etc.
The tidbit that stealthily stood out to me, though, was the mention of the 100 minute long meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vatican Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin. They discussed, among other important things, the HHS Mandate. Francis X. Rocca of the Catholic News Service spells it out below,
Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, who as secretary of state is considered the highest Vatican official, met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Jan. 14 for a conversation that lasted an hour and 40 minutes.
Peace in the Middle East, and particularly Syria, had been expected to be Topic A. Kerry was stopping in Rome between meetings in Paris and Kuwait devoted to the crisis in Syria. And Pope Francis has made ending the civil war in Syria a major focus, among other ways by leading a prayer vigil last September that drew 100,000 people to St. Peter’s Square.
So it was no surprise when the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, reported that the two secretaries of state had discussed common concerns on Syria, as well as Israel and Palestine, and other questions of foreign policy. The attention-grabbing anomaly in his account of the diplomats’ talk was a U.S. domestic issue.
Father Lombardi said the two men “also discussed the United States, especially the themes that have been the object of concern and discussion by the U.S. bishops: the health care reform and its relationship to guarantees of religious freedom.”
That was evidently a reference to the contraceptive mandate: the Obama administration’s requirement that nearly all health insurance plans, including those offered by most Catholic universities and agencies, cover sterilizations, contraceptives and some abortion-inducing drugs — all of which are forbidden by the church’s moral teaching.
While legal challenges to the mandate are making their way through the U.S. courts, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the bishops’ conference, asked President Barack Obama Dec. 31 to exempt from fines religious institutions who believe funding contraception and sterilization violate their religious principles.
If there were any doubts about the Vatican’s support for the bishops’ stand, they were dispelled by Cardinal-designate Parolin’s decision to include the contraception mandate in a discussion of geopolitical priorities with Obama’s top diplomat — and then have the Vatican spokesman tell the press about it.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” Pope Francis said in a widely quoted interview published last September. “When we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”
Uh-huh. Pope Francis knows what’s what. From his SecStates ‘ lips to President Obama’s ears. Reminds me of a song.
Pope Francis has a phone, you know. And he knows how to use it.
Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/Pool