Obama Seen as Threat to Religious Freedom

Tuesday, 06 Nov 2012 12:58 PM

By Edward Pentin

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“The re-election of President Obama would be the greatest threat to religious freedom and to the Catholic Church in the history of the United States,” said one senior American Vatican official, speaking to Newsmax on condition of anonymity.

Cardinals and senior Vatican officials have been conspicuously absent from receptions held by the U.S. embassy to the Holy See.
(Getty Images)
“I’m hoping that when everything’s said and done, when the smoke has cleared, when Catholics wake up to what’s really going on, Mitt Romney could very well win,” he added.

The official’s view is somewhat typical of his American colleagues at the Vatican, well aware that the administration’s assault on religious liberty and its well established positions against life and traditional marriage strike at the heart of the Church and her teaching.

The administration’s HHS mandate, requiring Catholic employers to provide their employees with health insurance that includes contraception (abortifacients as well as other forms) in their health insurance plans, has merely hardened their opposition to Obama.

“It wasn't necessary that he do it,” said another senior American official, “and the fact he went ahead anyway — that’s not a great sign.”

Among the Vatican’s mostly European officials, opposition to Obama is tempered by a European perspective that is less exercised by life issues (the debate over abortion is largely seen as having been settled here through legislation), and more by matters related to social inequality and foreign policy.

But even they are considerably less sympathetic to President Obama than in the past, and their enthusiasm for Obama that existed four years ago has all but gone.

“You’re not getting that warm, fuzzy feeling you once had,” said another official.

It was all quite different in 2009. The Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, incurred the wrath of U.S. bishops by memorably praising President Obama’s first 100 days. The newspaper lauded his economic and foreign policy, although wisely added that it was too soon to reach a definitive judgment and “it is better to wait for the next 1,361 days."

At around the same time, Cardinal Georges Cottier, Pope John Paul II’s then-87 year-old former official theologian, went so far as to deny Obama was pro-abortion and almost compared him with the Emperor Constantine. He was like the first Christian legislators, he said, who did not immediately overturn Roman laws contrary to the natural law, but instead sought to reduce evil through a slow process.

Hardly anyone believes this is a correct appraisal of President Obama today, but on foreign policy there is some convergence on issues such as Israel and the Palestinians, nuclear disarmament and multilateralism.
Almost exclusively among European officials, the president has also found support for his immigration policy, work on climate change, and policies aimed at fighting poverty.

“As most Vatican officials are European, the perception of him is generally the same as that of Europe as a whole,” said one of the American officials approached by Newsmax.

This has enabled Obama to retain a semblance of support in the Holy See. Some officials said he probably enjoys a 30-40 percent approval among their colleagues, with the rest favoring Romney — although not always wholeheartedly so, mainly due to suspicions deriving from his Mormonism.

But whatever support President Obama has had here over the past four years, it has visibly dwindled. Some evidence of this can be found observing the attendance of cardinals and senior Vatican officials at receptions held by the U.S. embassy to the Holy See.

Over the past four years, they have become conspicuous by their absence.

Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.

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