A Vatican Newspaper Embarrasses Itself

A columnist for the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano wrote last week that, on the life issues, President Obama has not been so bad in his first 100 days after all. No matter what those pesky American bishops think, Obama has not “shaken the world.”

I am not sure if anyone suggested that Obama would institute a forced abortion policy in the United States, certainly not in the first 100 days of his first term. Given that the United States has the most radical abortion policy in the world, outside of China and maybe Canada, it is hard to see how Obama could institute anything that would be more radical than we have already, policies that he has said are quite fine with him. Of course, it was just a straw man that columnist Giuseppe Fiorentino expertly dispatched.

Fiorentino cited two “ethical” issues where, in his view, President Obama is not too bad, embryo destructive research and abortion: “The new guidelines regarding embryonic stem-cell research don’t, in fact, line up with the changes foreseen months ago. They don’t permit the creation of new embryos for purposes of research or therapy, for cloning or reproductive ends, and federal funds may be used solely for experimentation with surplus embryos.” This is inaccurate in many ways.

First, it is disheartening to see an organ of the Vatican making the distinction between so-called therapeutic and reproductive cloning. This is the same distinction made by the enemies of life who want folks to think that at least one type of cloning is acceptable. In fact – and Mr. Fiorentino should be taken to school on this – there is only one kind of cloning. What happens with the newly created human being is the question: Does she grow to adulthood or is she killed for her stem cells? That is the only real question.

Beyond that monumental error, Mr. Fiorentino also gets another thing wrong: “The new guidelines regarding embryonic stem-cell research don’t, in fact, line up with the changes foreseen months ago.” In fact, the new guidelines now expose not only the existing 400,000-700,000 frozen embryos to experimentation and death, they also leave embryos not yet conceived to the same fate. This is a far cry from the Bush policy, which allowed federal funds to support such research only on embryos destroyed for their cells prior to August 2001.

L’Osservatore Romano also errs in suggesting that President Obama’s new guidelines would prevent the creation of new embryos through cloning. Fiorentino claims, “(The new guidelines) don’t permit the creation of new embryos for purposes of research or therapy…” According to Justin Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, “Through his executive order of March 2009, President Barack Obama also authorized the NIH to broaden the policy later, to include, for example, the use of stem cells from embryos specially created for research.”

Abortion was the other “ethical” issue mentioned in L’Osservatore Romano and here Fiorentino is in full naive swoon. He cites a single act called the Pregnant Woman Support Act “which would move to limit the number of abortions in the United States through initiatives of aid for distressed women.” L’Osservatore Romano is using language here that Obama never uses. Obama does not talk about reducing abortions, only reducing the need. There is a difference.

Fiorentino goes on, “It’s not a negation of the doctrine until now expressed by Obama on matters of the interruption of pregnancy . . ” Note this very elaborate euphemism for abortion. The Osservatore column could have been written by one of the several Catholic shills working for Obama.

In fact, Catholic Democrats were quick to seize on the column and used it in an ad attacking those – including Mary Ann Glendon – who criticized Notre Dame for honoring President Obama: the critics, according to the ad, “ignore the facts of the president’s positions and policies. This is not just the opinion of Catholic Democrats….the Vatican newspaper said President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office have not confirmed the Catholic Church’s worst fears about radical social policy changes in ethical areas.”

In their claims that American bishops were perhaps unduly alarmist and that Obama has not been all that bad in his first 100 days, L’Osservatore Romano and Mr. Fiorentino missed a few rather large things. Did they notice that President Obama refunded the U.N. Population Fund and now he is supporting forced abortions in China? Did they see that he struck down Mexico City policy and that American money now funds abortions overseas? Did they hear Hillary Clinton telling the House of Representatives that the United States will begin promoting abortion around the world? Did they miss Obama’s appointment of abortion advocates throughout his administration, and that the new head of the mammoth Department of Health and Human Services is a darling of the live-birth abortion crowd?

Most of us understand that the Vatican is a sovereign state and must carry on relations with the most powerful country in the world. But does one of its most prominent publications have to fawn on and grossly misrepresent an American president who is on the wrong side of what successive popes have called the most important civil rights issue of our time?

This is an embarrassment that will not soon be forgotten.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.