There have been some very strange things coming out of the Vatican of late on the abortion front, and it seems to just keep getting worse, with the latest story the lead up to President Obama's meeting with the Pope.
What is going on?
First there was the Brazilian excommunication debacle, where the local Archbishop acted firmly to uphold Church teaching - and was publicly condemned for doing so without reference to the facts of the case by Archbishop Fisichella in L'Osservatore Romano. Archbishop Sobrinho demanded a right of reply in the newspaper, and started threatening canonical action to restore his reputation. His resignation was then announced by the Vatican.
A very interesting post on this topic by canonist Dr Edward Peters can be found here.
And now more on the Obama saga. Back in May, L'Osservatore carried a positive piece about the President, despite his clear record of implementing anti-life and anti-Catholic policies. It caused an outcry amongst American bishops and commentators.
In the lead up to his Rome trip, President Obama has been attempting to romance catholic journalists. Well, he is a politician and wants positive coverage, that's to be expected I guess. But he is being aided by the other side. Sandro Magister writes:
"But it is not only Obama who is preparing for the audience with the pope. The Vatican, too, is playing a prelude of its own.
On the same day on which the president of the United States granted the interview to the religion reporters, in Rome an authoritative cardinal published a gushing commentary on the speeches that Obama delivered on May 17 at the University of Notre Dame, and on June 4 at the University of al-Azhar, in Cairo.
The cardinal is Georges Cottier, an 87-year-old Swiss Dominican, who was in the curia for many years as the official theologian of the pontifical household. He published his commentary in "30 Days," a Catholic magazine published in six languages, tightly connected to the diplomatic circles of the Vatican and highly attentive to the Church's stance on world affairs. It is sent free of charge to bishops and monasteries all over the world, and is directed by the former Italian prime minister and foreign minister Giulio Andreotti.
The scholarly cardinal finds Obama's vision highly compatible with the Catholic perspective, starting with the awareness of original sin. He attributes good and constructive intentions to him even on the minefield of abortion. He denies that Obama can be considered "pro-abortion," and even attributes to him the desire to "do everything possible to make the number of abortions as small as possible" just as did "the first Christian legislators, who did not immediately overturn the Roman laws that were tolerant toward practices inconsistent with or even contrary to the natural law, like concubinage and slavery."
He invokes support from Saint Thomas Aquinas, according to whom "the state must not enact laws that are too strict and demanding, because the people will be unable to observe them and will ignore them." He applauds "L'Osservatore Romano" for the same pro-Obama article on May 19 that infuriated so many American bishops.
Cardinal Cottier seems almost to exalt Obama as a new Constantine, the head of a modern empire that is also generous toward the Church."
Knowing who the enemy is
This is all pretty scary stuff. Who is for us, and who against, how can we win?
And it is very disappointing to see key doctrines being watered down a la the reception of Humane Vitae.
Talk about mixed messages.