Vatican Newspaper Editor Digs Deeper Hole

Deal W. Hudson
June 18, 2009

In an interview published at National Review Online, Gian Maria Vian, editor of L’Osservatore Romano, responded to his critics. Vian makes it clear that he doesn’t have a high opinion of writers, like me, who have taken him to task for his treatment of President Barack Obama:

I think that if American Catholics could read L’Osservatore Romano every day, and did not trust wire reports – although some of the agency writers are very good… but getting information from bloggers is like going to the bar where everyone has his own opinion (emphasis added).

Well, let’s all raise our glasses, take a stiff drink, and look at what Vian had to say for himself.

First of all, Vian seems impressed with the longtime relationship of his family (going back three generations) to the Vatican newspaper, but also seems unmindful about his responsibilities to the Church as editor of L’Osservatore Romano. Regarding his comment to an Italian newspaper that he did not believe Obama was “pro-abortion,” he explained:

I made that statement in an interview to an Italian journalist of Il Riformistawho called me on the day the president was at Notre Dame for the controversial ceremony of the conferring of the law degree honoris causa. I was in Barcelona; I gave the interview over the phone and based my observation primarily on the speech President Obama gave on that occasion – a speech which demonstrated openness. In this sense, I said that he didn’t seem a pro-abortion president.

“He didn’t seem a pro-abortion president,” based upon a single speech. Vian ignored everything Obama did as a state senator and as a U.S. senator; what he has said over his entire political career about support for abortion-on-demand, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and FOCA; and, finally, what Obama has already done as president, including ending the Mexico City policy, ending conscience protection for medical care workers, and appointing Catholic pro-aborts to significant administration positions.

When pressed about Obama’s record by the interviewer, Delia Gallagher (who did a great job), Vian resorted to the excuse that he did the interview “on the fly” and that he hopes Obama will change:

I hope that he understands that a politics of pro-life is good politics, not because it is religious, not because it is Catholic, but because it is human. This is what the Church repeatedly says, and in particular, Pope Benedict XVI. The appeal to natural law is important because it is not based on religious principles; it is based on human principles which can be agreed on by all.

Vian and I are in complete agreement on that. But I would ask him a simple question: “Why does Obama need to change if he is already not pro-abortion?”

Gallagher then asked Vian about his newspaper’s praise of Obama’s first 100 days. Vian defended what the paper had to say, saying it mirrors his personal opinion, and then added:

I realize that Obama is much more pro-choice than McCain, who was his adversary, but Obama won, and let’s hope that that his actions on these themes are less radical than they have been before the elections. At least that is the case so far.

“Much more pro-choice than McCain”? Apart from McCain’s position on fetal stem cell research, there is really nothing to criticize in McCain’s voting record on abortion – certainly nothing to justify the label “pro-choice.”

But here is Vian’s most muddled statement of all, and the one most disconnected from the reality of American politics and its relation to the Church. Gallagher asked Vian if his newspaper has been publishing articles undercutting the position of the U.S. bishops.

No. In our international religious news we systematically support the position of the U.S. bishops. I said very clearly that to consider L’Osservatore Romano as distant or not supportive of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference is false, it is a game played by those who want only to use our paper to paint a picture of divided Catholics… L’Osservatore Romano has never distanced itself from the bishops. In fact, after the comments which appeared primarily on the Internet from the U.S., we reiterated that the paper is absolutely at the side of the American bishops and that their position cannot be considered a political stance.

Gallagher then asked Vian what he meant by “a political stance?”

Well, they say that the conference, or at least the presidency of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, has a conservative Republican line – no. On questions such as the defense of life the bishops speak in the same way to Republicans as they do to Democrats (emphasis added).

I take it that Vian was saying that “they,” meaning unnamed Internet bloggers, are arguing that the USCCB and Francis Cardinal George, the president of the USCCB, have a “conservative Republican line.”

Pardon me, but I need another drink from the bar to ponder that one.

Finally, it must be difficult for Vian to understand that defending the Church’s teaching on abortion in the United States may appear merely “political” to him, but it’s a Catholic obligation.

What I think Vian is struggling to describe is this: On the abortion issue, the Republican Party is closer to the teaching of the Catholic Church than the Democrats. Is that so hard for Vian to say? Yes, this point has been made endlessly – not about either the USCCB or Cardinal George, who would not want to be labeled a Republican, but in terms of specific documents, including the Catechism and the encyclicals of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (not to mention a few documents from the bishops’ conference).

Once again, Gian Maria Vian has attempted to clear the air regarding articles in the Vatican newspaper, as well as his own quoted comments, about Obama and abortion. He has succeeded only in demonstrating that he is unaware of his own responsibility as editor of L’Osservatore Romano and badly out of touch with the various intersections of the Church and politics in the United States.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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