Amidst Pushback, Bernie Sanders Rumored to Suspend Trip to Speak at Vatican

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to guests at a town hall meeting at Valley High School on July 24, 2015 in West Des Moines, Iowa
Scott Olson/Getty

In the midst of the firestorm caused by news that Bernie Sanders would be addressing a high-level Vatican conference later this week, rumors are now circulating in Rome that Sanders may not be attending the event, most likely because he has been disinvited.

Breitbart News reported last week that a progressive Argentinian Bishop known for his open support of the U.S. Democratic Party had invited Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders to address the high-profile Vatican meeting.

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, who scandalized many Catholics by accepting public honors from top abortion activists in New York last fall, gave Sanders top billing in a conference convened to discuss “changes in politics, economics and culture.”

A Roman news agency specializing in Vatican affairs has reported that following the controversy, Sanders may call his visit off and “postpone it for a more opportune moment.” The agency, Il Sismografo, also notes that there has been “no official confirmation that Bernie Sanders” will take part in the Vatican meeting, even though Bishop Sanchez himself sent a letter on April 8 announcing Sanders’ participation.

The Vatican has insisted that Catholic institutions not offer platforms to speakers who publicly agitate for moral positions contrary to Church teaching, notably on the abortion issue. Vatican voices have also criticized the invitation as completely out of place in the midst of an election year in the United States, and only four days before the New York primary, given the Church’s stated intention to remain outside party politics.

Sanchez’ invitation had already caused public rifts within the leadership structure of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, when Sanchez practically called out the current president of the Academy, 73-year-old sociologist Margaret Archer, as a liar.

Last week, the often caustic Archer accused Bernie Sanders of showing “monumental discourtesy” by inviting himself to the conference, and thereby politicizing the event. Archer said Friday that Sanders didn’t follow proper protocol by failing to contact her office.

“Sanders made the first move, for the obvious reasons,” Archer said. “He may be going for the Catholic vote but this is not the Catholic vote and he should remember that and act accordingly—not that he will.”

When confronted with this story, however, Bishop Sanchez said that Margaret Archer had misrepresented the facts.

“I deny that. It was not that way,” Sanchez told Reuters, reiterating that it was his idea to invite Sanders.

“This is not true and she knows it. I invited him with her consensus,” he added.

The written invitation the Academy sent to Sanders was dated March 30 and bore Sanchez’ signature, along with Archer’s name.

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