Action Alert!

An outrageous Vatican reaction to the deaths in Benghazi (updated)

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 12, 2012

Four American diplomats are killed, and a Vatican spokesman responds not by condemning the killings but by insisting that we should respect the sensitivities of Muslims. Outrageous!

There are two separate points to be made here. The Americans who produced a film deliberately insulting Islam were acting irresponsibly. The Vatican is right to insist that respect for religious beliefs is a precondition for peace.

But that point should come second in any statement released on the morning after an ambassador is slain. The first order of business, for civilized people, is a clear, unequivocal, and absolute condemnation of the killings.

Sadly, Father Lombardi made only the second point, and never got around to the first.

Let's hope that a fresh Vatican statement, denouncing the brutal violence against diplomats, will soon be forthcoming. It wouldn't hurt to include an apology for this appalling statement as well--assuming that the Vatican press office wants to avoid giving gratuitous offense to Americans. 


A CNS story on Father Lombardi’s statement says that “the Vatican decried disrespect toward all religions and deplored all violence as unacceptable.” The CNS story ran under the headline: “Vatican laments US deaths in Libya, disrespect against religions.”

Read the full statement from the Vatican press office. (It’s short: only 114 words.) Do you see any lament for the American deaths? I don’t. Any deploring of violence? No.

Father Lombardi condemns those who provoked the violence—fair enough—but says not a word against those who committed the violence. This is irresponsible.

Update #2

A day after this initial public reaction, Father Lombardi has now issued a new statement that includes the much-needed condemnation the killings. Better late than never, I suppose. But one still wonders about the mindset that allowed for the first response. Sensitivity toward Arabs is a good thing; insensitivity toward Americans is not. 

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 See full bio.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Sep. 16, 2012 7:35 PM ET USA

    "...but the only criticism we've seen mentioned was that of our own.." This is NOT good news. Murder is murder and Phil is the only one with the wisdom and the courage to challenge the Vatican representative on this!?

  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 12, 2012 10:14 PM ET USA

    Recently there was a post describing "O'Reilly's amazing surprise." Why is this news surprising to anyone? There is a problem with orientation in the Church. This site has had numerous articles about the inept handling of the sex abuse crisis, inept handling of problems in the Vatican and problems created by Vatican ineptitude, and absurd statements by prelates. There has been a theme of reality orientation recurring in various essays on this site. Perhaps it is too little too late.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Sep. 12, 2012 9:42 PM ET USA

    There are other reasons to criticize this statement: (1) it presumes many unproven facts: that the film actually exists, its origin can be identified, etc (2) the level of preparation and coordination required for the attacks could not occur in 24 or even 48 hours -- this was certainly planned exactly for 9/11 (3) religious freedom - of necessity - cannot put the government in the role of deciding what is offensive and blasphemous in private speech

  • Posted by: papacasino - Sep. 12, 2012 5:12 PM ET USA

    As an unabashed Pro-Lifer, I am utterly appalled by the Vatican Press Office's failure to even mention the dead. There is absolutely NO EXCUSE! So much for LIFE ISSUES espoused from the Holy See; this is scandalous. It is a prime example of the failure of the Church today to clearly communicate faith & morals to a world that has become godless. Come,Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!