By Hilary White

ROME, May 21, 2009 ( – In recent weeks, pro-life Catholics around the world have been mystified and disturbed by the apparent enthusiasm of the Vatican’s daily newspaper for US president Barack Obama in a series of laudatory articles. L’Osservatore Romano’s editor-in-chief, Giovanni Maria Vian cleared up the mystery this week when he explained that he believes Obama – unanimously identified by pro-life advocates as the most pro-abortion president in US history – is not pro-abortion at all.

“What I want to stress,” Vian told the Italian political analyst and Vatican observer Paolo Rodari on Tuesday, “is simply the fact that yesterday [in his speech at Notre Dame], on this very sensitive issue, U.S. President has again said that the launch of a new abortion law is not a priority of his administration. And the fact that this has comforted me greatly.”

“I am also in my clear conviction: Obama is not a pro-abortion president,” he said.

He said that Obama’s speech at Notre Dame was to be appreciated because of its respectful tone and that Obama had tried to shift the debate away from ideological points of view.

“His speech at Notre Dame was respectful toward every position. He tried to engage the debate, stepping out from every ideological position and outside every ‘confrontational mentality.’ To this extent his speech is to be appreciated,” Vian said. “In fact the world is not shocked by Obama,” he added.

Vian claimed that L’Osservatore Romano holds “the same position of the American bishops who regard abortion as a disaster.”

“We must promote, always and at every level a ‘culture of life’,” he said.
Despite Vian’s assertion that the Vatican newspaper is in accord with the US bishops, immediately following the Notre Dame speech a brief article appeared in the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano in which no mention was made of the opposition of over 80 US bishops to Obama’s appearance at the university. Neither did it mention the protests by students and arrests of priests and other pro-life advocates. Monday’s article emphasized only Obama’s assertion in his speech that he would attempt to find “common ground” with those who oppose him on abortion.

In the same edition, the paper carried an article reiterating the objections of the US bishops to Obama’s stem cell research policies. Vian offered this as evidence for the paper’s objectivity. “This is our policy, the way we inform,” he said. “If a national bishops’ conference says something, we report it.” However, he continued, it is “appropriate to present other perspectives.”

The Vatican’s quasi-official newspaper has produced several leading articles in the past number of weeks that have lauded Obama and accepted at face value his assertions that he wants to “reduce abortions” by providing more welfare services for women. 

Last month, L’Osservatore Romano angered many experienced pro-life advocates by publishing a political editorial, “Obama in the White House: 100 Days that Didn’t Shake the World,” by Giuseppe Fiorentino, in which Obama’s zealous promotion of abortion was downplayed. The article was subsequently re-published by the paper’s weekly English edition [].

Austin Ruse, the head of New York’s Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) wrote that the newspaper had “embarrassed itself” by glossing over Obama’s hostility to the sacredness of human life in abortion and embryo research.

The article, Ruse said, used the same euphemistic language to describe embryonic research used by anti-life lobbyists. Calling Fiorentino’s wording a “monumental error,” Ruse wrote, “It is disheartening to see an organ of the Vatican making the distinction between so-called therapeutic and reproductive cloning. This is the same distinction made by the enemies of life who want folks to think that at least one type of cloning is acceptable.”

Ruse cited several errors of fact by Fiorentino, who said that the Obama administration had not significantly changed the existing protections for embryonic human life. Ruse also pointed out that pro-abortion Catholic Democrats had seized on the 100 Days article for use in an advertisement attacking those Catholics – like former Vatican ambassador Mary Ann Glendon – who had opposed Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame. Further, Ruse pointed out that Fiorentino had accused those US bishops who had objected of being unduly “alarmist.”

In another article appearing in the Vatican paper’s May 12 Italian daily edition, titled “The Biblical Matrix of Obama’s Rhetoric; the New Frontier and the Promised Land,” Lucia Annunziata compared Obama to the Old Testament figure Joshua, who completed the work of Moses to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. Annunziata wrote that Obama’s electoral victory was the fulfilment of the struggle of the Civil Rights movement and signified “the overcoming” of US racial conflicts often spoken of by Rev. Martin Luther King.

Despite Vian’s assertion that Obama is not pro-abortion, the president’s political record has been accepted as such by US abortion lobby groups, who enthusiastically endorse him. According to the political website On the Issues, Obama has had an unblemished voting record in favor of every initiative to advance the abortion lobby’s agenda. He was rated 100 per cent supportive by the National Abortion Rights Action League on pro-abortion votes in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

In 1997 Obama opposed a bill preventing partial-birth abortion; he opposed the born-alive infant’s protection act, voted against prohibiting minors crossing state lines to obtain abortions and against a law that would require notifying parents. He voted to expand research on new embryonic stem cell lines and voted yes on a $100 million increase in funding for promoting and providing contraceptives to teenagers and low-income women.

As president, during his first 100 days, Obama refunded the U.N. Population Fund, which is involved in China’s coercive one-child policy, that includes the use of forced abortion, and struck down the Mexico City policy that restricted US funds for abortion overseas.

In an article published by National Review, George Weigel, famous for his biography of Pope John Paul II, commented: “It is unfortunate that several recent pieces on the Obama administration in L’Osservatore Romano have been both factually questionable and analytically dubious.”  Weigel explained that “the offices of the Holy See are replete with middle- and lower-level officials who are enamored of Barack Obama. Why? In most cases, because they are Europeans who share the typical European Obamaphilia and whose sources of information and analysis are manifestly skewed.”

Weigel concluded: “That is a problem for the senior officials of the Holy See to address, and they ought to address it soon.”

To contact the Vatican Secretary of State with concerns:
Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, 
Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano,
Citta del Vaticano

Read related coverage:
Why The Vatican Newspaper Said Obama’s First 100 Days Wasn’t All that Bad

Obama is “Joshua” to Martin Luther King’s “Moses”: Vatican Newspaper Article

Vatican Attempting to Build Diplomatic Bridges with Obama Coverage in L’Osservatore Romano: Rome HLI Leader

Obama’s First 100 Days: The anti-life plan is now established

For more on Obama’s pro-abortion voting record:

See the complete commentary by George Weigel:
Parsing the Vatican Newspaper

See also Deal Hudson Article:
L’Osservatore Romano Needs a New Editor