The Vatican was facing criticism from pro-life Catholics for allowing pro-abortion presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to speak at an event. Leading pro-life advocates were saying it’s tough for the Catholic Church to say Catholic institutions like Notre Dame and Georgetown University should not be propping up abortion advocates like Joe Biden and Cecile Richards when the Vatican gives Sanders a platform.
But then came news that Bernie Sanders essentially invited himself to the event by asking the Vatican to include him.
To hear it from the Sanders campaign, the Vatican extended him in invitation:
“I am delighted to have been invited by the Vatican to a meeting on restoring social justice and environmental sustainability to the world economy,” the Vermont senator said in a statement.
“Pope Francis has made clear that we must overcome ‘the globalization of indifference’ in order to reduce economic inequalities, stop financial corruption and protect the natural environment. That is our challenge in the United States and in the world.”
But Bloomberg News reports that a senior Vatican official says Sanders sought an invitation and showed “monumental discourtesy” in the process:
The president of the academy said Friday that Sanders didn’t follow proper protocol by failing to contact her office and that his presence threatens to make the event political.
“Sanders made the first move, for the obvious reasons,” Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which is hosting the conference Sanders will attend, said in a telephone interview. “I think in a sense he may be going for the Catholic vote but this is not the Catholic vote and he should remember that and act accordingly — not that he will.”
Archer said that while she “quite liked” Sanders’s program on paper, his failure to contact her first is a breach of protocol. “The president of the academy organizing this event has not been contacted with monumental discourtesy,” she said, referring to herself.
Sanders “made the first move two or three days ago,” Archer said. She did not know whom he or his representatives contacted about what she called “this little workshop.” Archer added: “His use of it is clearly a pretext. There are just 20 academics and there will be nothing of policy relevance.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa are listed as speakers at the event on the academy’s website. Sanders is not listed as a speaker.
UPDATE: Another senior Vatican official says Archer is wrong and that he invited Sanders.
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was invited to speak at an April 15 Vatican event by the Vatican, a senior papal official said on Friday, denying a report that Sanders had invited himself.
“I deny that. It was not that way,” Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo told Reuters in a telephone interview while he was traveling in New York. Sorondo, a close aide to Pope Francis, is chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which is hosting the event.
He said it was his idea to invite Sanders.
Sanders told MSNBC earlier on Friday that he had been “very moved by the invitation” to the Vatican, adding: “I am a big fan of the Pope.”
Bernie Sanders is headed to the Vatican, his campaign announced Friday.
The Vermont senator and insurgent Democratic presidential candidate was invited to a Vatican-linked conference on “social, economic and environmental issues,” according to a campaign release. The conference will be held on April 15 — just days before the crucial New York primary, in which Sanders is hoping to upset his rival Hillary Clinton in her home state.
“I am a big, big fan of the pope,” Sanders said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Obviously there are areas where we disagree on like women’s rights or gay rights, but he has played an unbelievable role — an unbelievable role — of injecting the moral consequence into the economy.”
In a statement released by his campaign, Sanders said he was delighted to receive an invitation from the Vatican to meet about social justice and environmental sustainability. “Pope Francis has made clear that we must overcome ‘the globalization of indifference’ in order to reduce economic inequalities, stop financial corruption and protect the natural environment,” he said. “That is our challenge in the United States and in the world.”
But Thomas Peters, a Catholic writer and pro-life advocate, represented the sentiments of many on Twitter in responding to the event and said much of the reporting is false, namely that Pope Francis did not invite Sanders:
Sanders initiated the invite! I TOLD YOU SO. https://t.co/Scdd5YDots
— Thomas Peters (@AmericanPapist) April 8, 2016
Makes it kind of difficult for US bishops to enforce the no platform for pro-abortion politicians when a Vatican bureaucrat gives one. — Thomas Peters (@AmericanPapist) April 8, 2016
Bernie Sanders making it clear on MSNBC he disagrees with the pope strongly on women’s issues and gay rights. So why give him a platform? — Thomas Peters (@AmericanPapist) April 8, 2016
Sanders losing no time politicizing and capitalizing on his invitation to Rome. — Thomas Peters (@AmericanPapist) April 8, 2016