President Obama may have gone too far by packing the Pope’s receiving line with a coterie of public dissenters from Catholic doctrine to greet him at the White House during his U.S. visit next week. Though the Pope generally bends over backwards to be tolerant of such things, on Friday the Vatican expressed its deep displeasure with the tactless gesture.
In a remarkable show of political impropriety, the White House invited a series of individuals who publicly thumb their noses at Catholic teaching to attend the papal reception, including a pro-abortion religious sister, a transgender woman, and the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, along with at least two Catholic gay activists.
After Breitbart publicized the discordant tone of the Obama guest list, the Holy See reacted by expressing its disapproval, noting its concern that any photos of the pope with these guests at the White House ceremony might be misconstrued as a validation of their activities, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Though the White House refrained from commenting on the Vatican reaction to its papal guest list, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday he was unaware of the names of individuals on the guest list, but claimed that “There will be 15,000 other people there too.”
The White House was illuminated in gay pride colors on June 26, 2015, after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
One of the invitees to the reception, retired Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, made history by becoming the first openly gay episcopal bishop in 2003 and subsequently the first to divorce his gay partner in 2014, after having previously separated from his wife of 14 years. He has attended a number of religious events with the Obama administration, offering a prayer at President Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and taking part in the 2014 National Prayer Breakfast.
Mateo Williamson, a cross-dressing woman and former co-chairman of the Transgender Caucus for Dignity USA, also received an invitation to the White House for the Pope’s visit. Williamson says that though she now thinks of herself as a man, she continues to be attracted to males. “Today I identify as a gay man and before that was difficult to understand because I thought that in order to be transgender, in order to be a transgender male that I had to be attracted to females but I never have throughout my entire life.”
Though Pope Francis has said that it isn’t his place to judge persons and that he is ready to welcome anyone in Christ’s name, he has also said that Catholics do not accept the LGBT agenda and once said that gay marriage is the devil’s “attempt to destroy God’s plan.”
“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift,” Francis wrote in his encyclical letter on the environment, “is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.”
Another White House invitee for the Pope’s visit, Sister Simone Campbell, is the pro-abortion executive director of the social justice lobby NETWORK. Campbell publicly opposed the U.S. bishops when Obama’s Affordable Care Act was originally being debated, and fought to undermine their pro-life and conscience concerns.
In 2012, Sister Campbell spearheaded the first “Nuns on the Bus” tour to protest proposed cuts in federal spending on social services.
An intermediary for several of the invitations to greet the Pope was Vivian Taylor, a 30-year-old male transvestite who until last March was Executive Director of Integrity USA, a gay and transgender activist wing of the Episcopal Church.
“A few months ago I received an invitation from the White House to attend the reception for Pope Francis,” Taylor told CNS News. “I was told I could bring several friends with me,” adding that he is “glad we can bring some LGBT representation to the event.”
Though the White House is reportedly seeking to play down its differences with the Catholic Church during Pope Francis’ visit, and to highlight Democrats’ common ground with the Pope, they may have overplayed their hand.
The Vatican has seen the sort of reception that the President is offering to Pope Francis, and they are not amused.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome