Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Vatican Invitation to Bernie Sanders

Much has been made of Bernie Sander’s visit to the Vatican to speak at a conference of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Members of both sides of the political spectrum fretted over the question of exactly from where the invitation originated.

Those on the left reveled in the speculation that perhaps Pope Francis approves of Sanders’ candidacy for president, and perhaps the invitation originated with him. Conservatives, especially pro-lifers, refused to believe that the Holy Father would extend an invitation to the radically pro-abortion Sanders.

Where did the invitation come from? Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences, denied that the invitation had originated with the Academy.  She told Bloomberg News that, “Sanders made the first move for obvious reasons.”  She even said specifically that Sanders “made the first move two or three days ago.”  And that “she did not know whom he or his representatives contacted.” She considered the invitation a “breach of protocol.”

Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences, replied, “This is not true and she knows it. I invited him with her consensus.” Sorondo later added that the invitation, “…does not signify any support of the campaign.”

When asked who initiated the contact, Monsignor Sorondo repeatedly declined to answer. This is the key question. Sanders definitely received an invitation and he is not being dishonest in saying so. But did someone in his campaign contact the Pontifical Academy first? Why would Monsignor Sorondo not answer that question directly when asked more than once?  Adding to the confusion, the Daily Beast reported that Sorondo volunteered “…Perhaps the others [candidates] would have been interested but they did not request to come.”

Bloomberg.com said of the controversy, “The office of the Pope moved to distance the pontiff from the visit. Father Frederico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, said Sanders had been invited ‘not by the pope but by the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences.’”

Did the Sanders campaign ask for an invitation? That would explain why Monsignor Sorondo declined to answer the question of who initiated the contact. Is this a conflict between Margaret Archer, the president of the Pontifical Academy, and the chancellor, Monsignor Sorondo? Perhaps Monsignor Sorondo chose to invite him without consulting Margaret Archer and does not want to admit it?

We will probably never know, although Monsignor’s comment that the other candidates “did not request to come, “ raises some questions.

We do know that the invitation did not come from Pope Francis.

Contrary to earlier reports, Senator Sanders was able to meet the Pope.  The New York Times reported that a personal secretary of the Holy Father told Sanders that if he were in the foyer of the Casa Santa Marta, where the pope resides and where Senator Sanders was staying, at 6:00 AM, when the pope would be heading to the airport, he could speak briefly with him.

The Holy Father said of the meeting, “This morning when I was leaving, Senator Sanders was there…He knew I was leaving at that time, and he had the courtesy to greet me.”

No photos were permitted at the meeting.

The Times reported that the Holy Father said, “I shook his hand and nothing more. If someone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics,” (laughing), “I recommend that he find a psychiatrist.”

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