It was 30 years ago that the Reagan administration became the first presidential administration to extend diplomatic recognition to the Vatican. It was a great moment for American Catholics—a long time coming. Previous presidents, including Harry Truman, considered the possibility, but it was politically daunting. Ronald Reagan, however, pulled it off. The move allowed Reagan to, among other things, “make [the Vatican] an ally.”
Since then, America’s relationship with the Vatican has grown under successive presidents, though it has been contentious under President Obama. Well, now comes a further strain in the relationship.
The Obama administration is closing the stand-alone American embassy to the Holy See. The offices of the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican will be moved to the grounds of the larger American embassy in Italy—a separate building.
The Obama administration insists the move is motivated by security concerns. That, however, is strongly disputed by several former U.S. diplomats interviewed by John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter. Among them, Ambassador James Nicholson said the move was an “insult” and “massive downgrade” in U.S.-Vatican relations, and called the Obama administration’s explanation a “smokescreen.”
Raymond Flynn, who was Bill Clinton’s ambassador, is also notably displeased. In a remarkable assessment, Flynn said : “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.”
Whoa. Chew that one over.
But it’s not just our Catholic ambassadors who are upset. So are many non-Catholics.
One reader commented at the Washington Times website: “I’m a Wiccan, and even I can see Obama’s war on Christianity!”
Another reader at another website chimed in: “Catholics who voted for Obama should be ashamed.”
Well, I wouldn’t expect that. Catholics who voted for Obama, especially those who did so twice, will defend this action by the Obama administration, just as they’ve justified the HHS mandate, gay marriage, and all the others.
For Catholic Exchange dot com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.