Vatican ‘furious’ after Obama invites gay Episcopal Bishop to greet the Pope

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Vatican is heading for a showdown with President Obama, after a retired gay Episcopal Bishop was invited to greet Pope Francis at the White House.

The head of the global Catholic Church will visit a number of cities on his tour of the US this including personal meetings with President Barack Obama and many prominent figures.

He is set to touch down in Washington DC on Wednesday – but the Vatican is reportedly upset about the guest list for the event, after Obama invited retired Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson.
Vatican ‘furious’ after Obama invites gay Episcopal Bishop to greet the Pope
Bishop Robinson made history as the world’s first openly gay Episcopal bishop back in 2004, and remains active though he officially retired in 2013.

The Bishop is thought to be close to President Obama,  last year delivering the closing prayers at the annual White House Easter Prayers Breakfast.

According to the Wall Street Journal, senior Vatican officials are furious with the guest list, and worry that photos of the Pope with Robinson or any of the other gay attendees could be a matter of controversy.

The Episcopal Bishop has hit back in an open letter to the Pope, writing in an open letter: “I suppose the Vatican official’s concern has to do with my having been elected and consecrated a Bishop of The Episcopal Church, while at the same time being an openly gay, partnered man. Were I ever to have the honor of meeting you, I would of course not be the first gay man or gay bishop with whom you have had contact.

“Some of them, undoubtedly, work with and for you in the Vatican. Based on your demonstrated and notorious compassion, I suspect you will not be offended by a gay bishop and a feisty nun somewhere in the crowd of 10,000 admirers.”

He added: “We disagree in our understandings about sexuality and the diverse and wonderful ways God has made us. But as far as I am concerned, that does not keep me from admiring you and praying for you and your ministry.

“Our churches disagree on those whom we are willing to ordain, their gender and their sexual orientation.

“Still, that does not keep me from striving to love and serve those entrusted to me, and to pray for you as you strive to love and serve those entrusted to you.
“We both care passionately about the poor, and we share the notion that unfettered capitalism creates and perpetuates poverty, treating the less fortunate as goods to be used up and discarded.”

“Something tells me that you will not be offended if I am somewhere in the crowd of 10,000, gathered to welcome you to America, with respect and wholehearted affection.

“And I doubt that you need your colleagues in the Vatican to be so protective of you.

“We believe, you and I, that God loved us so much, God chose to become one of us, flesh and blood, incarnate. And that incarnation continues to raise humankind to new heights and calls us to serve all of God’s children.

“I will be somewhere in that throng of people on the south lawn of the White House, welcoming you to America, and listening intently for what godly wisdom you might impart to us.

“Thank you for visiting us in America. And while members of your own flock will have a special joy in your visit, please know that many more of us respect your office and love you as a human being.”

Despite an early ‘who am I to judge’ PR blitz attempting to bolster his image, the Pope is yet to lift any of the actively homophobic and transphobic policies of his predecessors.

Proposals to ‘reach out’ to gay people were scrapped by the Church last year – and despite suggestions that the plans would return at a 2015 Synod, it soon became clear the Church has no plans to discuss the matter again.

The Pope has also increasingly rallied against same-sex marriage, inviting representatives from listed hate groups to a ‘traditional marriage’ conference, urging Slovakians to vote against equal marriage, which he claims “disfigures God’s creation”.