A Vatican conference with a pronounced leftward political tilt

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 24, 2015

If we had the name of a Republican politician who was invited to attend last week’s Vatican conference on climate change and human trafficking—any Republican, just one Republican—we might feel just a bit better about the result. But the strongly partisan cast of the final statement that issued from that conference, together with the strongly partisan cast of characters in attendance, creates the impression that this event was not so much a conference as a political rally.

California’s Governor Jerry Brown was there. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was there. Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh was there. But among the American pols in attendance, not a single Republican could be found.

The Vatican conference was organized to follow up on the papal encyclical Laudato Si’. So were the organizers looking for sympathetic politicians, who were known to share the views of Pope Francis on key public issues? Not likely; among the American participants, Governor Brown and Mayors di Blasio and Walsh (all baptized Catholics) all favor legal abortion on demand and same-sex marriage. They are clearly not in sympathy with the pro-life message woven through the encyclical.

Yes, all three of those American politicians agree with the Pope about the scientific case for climate change. Governor Brown thinks that skeptics about climate change should be dismissed as troglodytes. (It’s enlightening that Brown, who is so very certain on that issue, isn’t sure whether or not he wants to be described as a Catholic.)

To be fair, most big-city mayors in the US are Democrats. If the Vatican just issued invitations to the mayors of the largest 20 or 30 cities in the country, the results would no doubt produce a Democratic majority. But if the conference organizers wanted to maintain at least a semblance of political balance, they might have stretched a bit, to include a few American politicians who were not big-city mayors. After all, they included Governor Brown.

Unfortunately, we have good reason to believe that the organizers were not interested in political balance. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which sponsored the event, is led by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, who demonstrated a shocking ignorance of American political realities in a June statement suggesting that oil corporations, through the Tea Party, are stirring up opposition to Vatican initiatives. Insofar as Bishop Sanchez Sorondo dismissed the concerns of pro-lifers about the political alliances he is forming, it would not be surprising that he sees no point in reaching out to Republican politicians who might wish to work with the Vatican.

”GOP snubs Vatican climate summit” read the headline in a US News story about the conference. But who was doing the snubbing? Were any Republicans asked to attend? If so, who were they? “A spokesman for the Vatican summit declined to state which mayors refused the invitation,” US News reported.

The Manchester Guardian had the same unsatisfactory report: “While some Republican mayors were invited to attend the function, a person familiar with the organisation of the conference said that none accepted.”

Well then, who are the Republican mayors who declined invitations? US News asked around, contacting the Republican mayors of large American cities, and came up empty. Representatives of the mayors of Albuquerque, Indianapolis, and San Diego “say they either were not invited, ‘had no record’ or ‘have no knowledge’ of having received an invitation.”

What politician, Republican or Democrat, would turn down an opportunity to tell his constituents that he had traveled to Rome to consult with the Pope on important international affairs? For that matter, what politician would turn down an opportunity to spend a few days in the Eternal City, visiting the museums and the restaurants, at taxpayer expense? It’s easy to understand why so many American pols chose to attend the conference. And it’s hard to imagine why the organizers couldn’t scare up a single Republican. Unless they didn’t try.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Jul. 27, 2015 3:30 PM ET USA

    I really do fear that Pope Francis is leading the Church in a direction that guarantees fewer and fewer faithful. The lefties may say they like him, but they won't be attending Mass and supporting the Church.

  • Posted by: shrink - Jul. 27, 2015 6:08 AM ET USA

    The farce continues. Francis and his Vatican supporters have little interest in hearing from the global warming skeptics. We are at a time in our history where good intentions are more important than facts. Feelings over facts. All of the Left-isms have produced vast amounts of avoidable human misery. Nevertheless, these Left-isms make a lot of people feel good about their own charity and mercy. Francis now adds ecotheology to the list.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Jul. 24, 2015 10:44 PM ET USA

    I think any Republican mayor would have such a hard time taking the premise seriously (that anthropogenic climate change causes human trafficking) that they would not see the point of going to Rome to talk to liberal mayors about something that might as well be "what shall we do about the space aliens causing the cancer epidemic?" The comment that they must be paid off by oil companies does make one think that there is a problem of sheer unfamiliarity with discourse and politics in the US.