The editor of the Vatican daily has taken a lot of heat for his coverage of Barack Obama and his comments that Obama is “not a pro-abortion president.”
In a lengthy Q-and-A with Delia Gallagher (a veteran Vatican hand, formerly at CNN) and posted at National Review, Vian stands by his statements, but adds sfumature, as the Italians say, I believe. Shadings, in other words:
DELIA GALLAGHER: You were quoted as saying, “It is my clear conviction: Obama is not a pro-abortion president.” On what basis do you hold this conviction?
GIAN MARIA VIAN: I made that statement in an interview to an Italian journalist of Il Riformista who called me on the day the president was at Notre Dame for the controversial ceremony of the conferring of the law degree honoris causa. I was in Barcelona; I gave the interview over the phone and based my observation primarily on the speech President Obama gave on that occasion — a speech which demonstrated openness. In this sense, I said that he didn’t seem a pro-abortion president.
GALLAGHER: What do you mean?
VIAN: He considered abortion, at least in his speech at Notre Dame, as something to prevent and, above all, he said, we must proceed in the attempt to widen the consensus as much as possible because he realizes that it is a very delicate issue.
Of course, Senator Obama made decisions that certainly cannot be defined as pro-life, to use the American term. He was, rather, pro-choice. Yet I believe that the senator’s activity prior to his presidential election is one thing, and the political line he is following as president of the United States is another.
We have noticed that his entire program prior to his election was more radical than it is revealing itself to be now that he is president. So this is what I meant when I said he didn’t sound like a pro-abortion president. Besides, he stated that the Freedom of Choice Act is no longer a top priority of the administration.
Naturally, it is also a sort of wishful thinking. Let’s hope that my conviction is confirmed by the political actions of the administration. This is basically the same attitude of watching, waiting, and hope of the Catholic bishops of the United States.
GALLAGHER: Did you hear from the pope or the secretary of state about your comment that Obama is not a pro-abortion president?
VIAN: No. It was an interview on the fly. As usual, I didn’t ask permission from either the secretariat of state or the pope. It was an impression that I communicated based on the speech he had just given. President Obama said we should try to confront this question without too much division, that it is a tragedy, a frightening drama, let’s look for common ground — I think his words should be appreciated.
Long and fascinating piece. Read it all here.
Finally, as to how much weight to give Vian’s words? As Delia writes, he’s “not coming out of left field”:
Gian Maria Vian is firmly ensconced in the Vatican inner circle: He was personally tapped by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, and the pope’s trusted right-hand man, for the job as editor-in-chief. He has known and worked with Bertone for 25 years. His family have been close collaborators with popes for over a century: Pope Benedict XVI called the Vian family “illustrious . . . with a great tradition of faithful service to the Holy See.”
Vian’s grandfather, Agostino, wrote for L’Osservatore Romano and was married in 1903 by Pius X, then patriarch of Venice. His father, Nello, also a contributor to the paper, was chief Vatican librarian and close friend of Paul VI; Gian Maria was baptized by Paul VI in St. Peter’s Basilica.
H/T: Catholic World News