Closing the American Embassy at the Vatican and Frogs

Closing the American Embassy at the Vatican and Frogs November 30, 2013

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.

Congressman Stupak and President Obama Before the Lies Came Down

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”.

The President lied to Congressman Stupak in order to get the votes to pass Obamacare. He also lied to the American people. The HHS Mandate is proof that he lied.

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.

Here is what they said:

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 RooneyMary Ann GlendonRaymond 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.

Mr. Flynn, meanwhile, said the administration’s announcement reflects a hostility toward the Catholic Church.

“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.

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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.

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39 responses to “Closing the American Embassy at the Vatican and Frogs”

  1. You may be right about the embassies. At least for this administration, this may be a logical, administrative decision with the secondary gain of putting it to the Catholics.
    Cardinal George said several years ago that he would die in his bed, his successor in jail and the following cardinal a martyr. It probably is coming. Just reading some of the comments from several days ago about how we have no right to disagree with anything in the homosexualist agenda is enough to indicate that. Bart Stupak should have known better to agree to something so obvious, but Obama had not used executive power so flagrantly at that point.
    Sometimes The Lord lets us have what we think we want to show us that is not the best. I’m hoping this is discipline. Makes me sad for my grand kids and makes me pray more for them.

    • And part of the tragedy is that those dropping the guillotine blade will be Catholics like VP Biden who brags about always carrying a rosary and Speaker Pelosi who brags about her Catholic roots.

  2. I have no argument with you about Obama’s mindset. However, Frank the Marine gives a little different perspective on moving the offices here:

    If Frank’s analysis is correct, I wonder why the Five Former Ambassadors are so spun up about it? If there is more to the story than we have been permitted to know, well … plus ca change and all that jazz …

    • I have the greatest respect for Frank. I also like him. He’s a great guy.

      We just see this one differently, which is unusual for the two of us.

    • Thank you for the link. I’m happy to see a voice of reason. There are just so many scary issues with President Obama. The embassy relocation isn’t one of them.

    • Frank the Marine is an opinionated ignoramus whose understanding of diplomacy is on a par with Harry the Hippo’s. In case you had not noticed, every one of the points he makes has already been answered by yours truly in the previous entry on this subject. So America did not have direct diplomatic relations with the Vatican until 1984. So what? once you start having diplomatic relations, you do it the proper way, end of story. And his little map about access to the Vatican – I had already explained that, and I had explained that it meant nothing. The man ought to stay within his area of competence, because in this he has not only made a fool of himself but encouraged others to do likewise.

        • I am sure he is very valuable so long – as I said – as he is within his area of competence. Your instincts in this matter were better than his views: the relocation will save peanuts – if it does – and be an insult to both Italy and the Vatican. Obama will be gone in three years, but if a Democratic Party survives his policy disasters – and the ongoing car crash of Obamacare alone makes one fear the worst – they will have to learn once again that Stalin’s old gag about “how many divisions does the Pope have” is not a very good policy-making principle.

    • It was nice of Frank to provide quotes from the State Department, and perhaps it all is nothing to get upset about. (0.1 mile closer is supposed to be a big deal?)
      On the other hand, the Obama administration has lied time and again regarding issues of concern to Catholics, to gain their support (often public and high profile support), to shut them up, and to get the upper hand as to who gets to define what being a Catholic means (the government or the Church – freedom of worship vs freedom of religion – Catholic social teaching vs Catholic faith – that sort of thing).
      So call me paranoid, but why on earth should I believe the Obama State Department BLOG in “setting the record straight”? Now, it may just be true facts that we are given there, but very often facts are used to cover sinister purposes. So again, call me paranoid, but in the spirit of the State Department blog’s penchant for quoting adages and sayings, “Fool me once shame you, fool me twice shame on me.”

  3. That is why I kept telling every one of your commenters who downplayed the importance of this that they knew nothing about diplomacy. I know a little – it comes with my interests as a historian – and the meaning of this was quite obvious from the moment I read it. Group embassies are for tiny, distant, unimportant countries, small Pacific islands or little kingdoms in Africa. Not for the Vatican, or for that matter to Italy – which has been egregiously abused and insulted by Obama’s pretence that this has something to do with Benghazi. In fact, you might want to have a look at Obama’s attitude to America’s allies; only a few weeks ago, his government insulted Germany.

    • First, the embassy is being relocated, adjacent to the embassy to Italy. It will be housed in a separate building, with an entrance on a different street. It will not be a “group embassy.”

      Second, the move originated with the State Department (not the White House) under the Bush administration.

  4. I don’t know if Obama is specifically anti-Catholic or generally anti-Christian and since we Catholics have very specific counter-cultural beliefs we wind up crossing him more than the protestants. But there is no question in my mind he is anti-Christian. The fact that he lied to Stupak is not surprising, and now in retrospect rather expected. Obama since first running for the presidency and now in the presidency has been a repeated bald faced liar. And not just on a number of occasions, but repeatedly. This man is untrustworthy.

    • I think we ought to look at Obama’s mendacity in a broader frame. Let us start from this: that in the run-up to the 2008 elections, he gave commitments not only firm but articulate and well-argued to two propositions: first, that marriage is for the Churches to define; and second, that he himself believed that marriage is between a man and a woman. Both of these things have been abandoned in well-planned stages, always leaving the final stage until after the second election so that not too many Democrat electors should be alarmed. Then events started moving with startling speed. Now, I have no doubt that Obama’s electoral statements of 2008 were deliberate lies, and that the man was faking; the interesting thing is how well he lied. This is a man who can say with a steady face and posture the exact opposite of what he intends and believes, without ever leaving a trace of doubt, and who has been lying since – at the very least – the beginnings of his presidential run.

      • Interesting…Barack Obama is a liar because he once said that he felt that marriage was the union of one man to one woman, but now says he believes that it should include same sex unions.

        In 1996, a Gallup poll indicated that 27% of the public supported the legalization of same sex marriage, with 68% opposed.

        Polling in 2013 indicates support for same sex marriage has increased to 55%, with only about 40% opposed.

        That’s a 28% shift. I had no idea Americans were so dishonest! Of course, the other possibility is that attitudes are changing. But what do I know? I’m Catholic, so, absent evidence to the contrary, I naively interpret peoples’ actions in a favorable light, preferring to give them the benefit of the doubt. There’s a word for that – Christian charity.

  5. Thank you for having the courage to bring inconvenient facts to this post.

    It grieves me to say that I cannot respect Frank the Marine for having bullied and bashed those who disagree with him, used self-serving, self-validating (State Department) and irrelevant (Mark Twain) quotes to bolster his bullying, and finally having sealed his bullying by closing comments on his post. Whatever and whoever’s agenda he thinks he is serving, it is not an honest one.

    • Frank is an honest man and a good one. He just sees this differently than I do. However, his devotion to the Church and the Pope are unquestionable.

  6. If you like your separate U.S. embassy to the Vatican you can keep your separate U.S. embassy to the Vatican.

    Oh, wait a minute . . . .

  7. The first thought that occurred to me when I saw the embassy closing announcement was Pope Francis’ words when he consecrated Vatican City: “In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask
    him to defend us from the evil one and banish him”

  8. My big problem with “Conservative Catholics”, OR “Liberal Catholics” is that they have ceased to be “Roman Catholics”. Sorry for the bluntness, but if one puts politics ahead of faith, one is in danger of being a Sadducee, or Pharisee, or maybe a Zealot. Since most of the commenters seem to be aligned with the Religious Right, they may take exception to this, as those of the Religious Left would under mirror-image circumstances.
    Christians are supposed to be strangers and pilgrims, not buddy-buddy with the wealthy, the powerful, and the privileged, nor with nihilistic individualism, commercial hedonism, or those whose politics are essentially the worship of genitalia. There, that ought to offend everyone who puts anything, ANYTHING ahead of Christ.

    • How does objecting to having our right to practice freely our religion
      putting Christ anywhere but first?! How do I cease to be a Roman
      Catholic by objecting to the obvious downgrading of our diplomatic
      relationship with Rome? When devout Catholics like Mary Anne Glendon,
      Francis Rooney, Ray Flynn, etc , Catholics of both political parties, take
      enormous exception to this blatant move on the part of the Obama administration to diminish the influence of Christianity in the world, how
      can you conclude they are acting Pharisiacal and with shameful zealotry?
      I think not!! It is trying to keep faith out of our daily lives with politically
      motivated zealotry and then cover up these endeavors with blatant lies
      that smacks of the hypocrisy so prevalent in this current administration.

    • Christ and His Church have ALWAYS engaged nonbelievers and sinners. Indeed, it was the lost that Christ came to call. Diplomacy between sovereign states, of which the Vatican is one, is an avenue to accomplish that perennial mission.
      Keep in mind, it is the United States which altered the relationship, and thus it signals a disposition of the United States’ government toward the Church more than the disposition of the Church toward the government. Even if what you said is true, it sure looks like a blatant rejection of Christ and Christian principles by the government. Not that the government should necessarily be outwardly Christian, but even governments in or to be just need to align with principles consistent with Christianity, which the US government is blatantly rejecting. It is telling.
      As a “ROMAN Catholic” in your use of the term, I am personally affronted that my president is dissing my Church like this, and it has nothing to do with being “right” or “left.” And I am saddened, just as I am always saddened when the lost prefer to remain lost.

    • And we have a winner for the most colossally ignorant statement in the thread, and probably anywhere in Patheos.

    • I think (and I know this is going to get me fried by some people) that he was duped by a lying president. I think Congressman Stupak believed President Obama. A lot of people have made that mistake.

      • You’re more charitable than I, and probably a better judge of character, so maybe you’re right. I sure hope so. I always felt that he simply caved to political pressure (and I always thought that his soon thereafter decision not to seek re-election supported this view). But I’d rather think he was duped than the alternative.

        • I just think he was not the material of which heroes and martyrs are made. And he was also so rooted in old-fashioned notions of acceptable behaviour that it did not occur to him that the President of the USA and leader of his own party would lie to him in order to ruin his own career. IN other words, he underrated Obama.

      • Did he bother to check the President’s record on abortion (going all the way back to the Illinois state legislature) before he decided to believe him?

        • He might have thought that a man’s word is a man’s word, the more since that man is the Chief Magistrate of his country. I know, a silly notion.

    • I know Rome. I simply don’t believe that report. Security would, if anything, dictate that the wide-open, easily targeted site on Via Vittorio Veneto be abandoned. Please stop believing official statements and the lies of Obama’s supporters, they make you sound stupid whether you are or not.

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