Following controversial remarks that President Obama made about a planned mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York City, noted Vatican analyst and author Sandro Magister explored the wider vision of the American president in relation to faith, calling the U.S leader a “contradiction.”
President Obama drew large amounts of criticism from citizens around the country as well as politicians from both parties after he told a gathering of Muslims at the White House on Aug. 13 that “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.” In the president's words, this “includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”
Amid a media firestorm the following day, however, the president appeared to contradict himself, saying, “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding.”
“Obama's critics have had a field day playing up this wavering in judgment,” wrote Magister on Monday. “Which is only the latest in a long series, and also makes judgment about him uncertain.”
In an Aug. 23 piece titled, “There's a Strange Prophet in the White House,” Magister used the president's recent remarks to analyze what he views as a deeper, more troubling contradiction in his rhetoric.
“Obama is an enigma for the Catholic Church as well,” Magister said on his Chiesa section of the Italian paper L'Espresso, adding that the president has been for Catholic leaders “the subject of enthusiastic judgments and inexorable condemnation.”
The Vatican analyst then addressed what he sees as a “glaring example” of President Obama's contradictions when it comes to faith, saying that the U.S. leader has cited 20th century Protestant theologian Reinhold Neibuhr as his inspiration.
Niebuhr, Magister explained, was “a great admirer and interpreter of Saint Augustine” who maintained “the primacy of national interest and the balance of power, in a humanity profoundly marked by evil.”
The Protestant theologian also “defined democracy as 'a search for temporary solutions to unsolvable problems,'” Magister said, noting that “his famous prayer says, 'God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.'”
“The exact opposite, therefore, of the messianic rhetoric that pervades Obama's speeches, of his continual proclamation of the advent of a 'new era,' of a 'new beginning,' of an 'age of peace,' of a world redeemed because 'Yes, we can.'”
Quoting the papal biographer George Weigel, Magister explained that “Obama's vision is 'a perfect example of the kind of utopianism against which Niebuhr, with his profound sense of the fragility of history and of the self-destructive capacity of human beings, fought for three decades.'”
President Obama has also been reported by the media to have quoted the 13th century heretic, Joachim of Fiore in his speeches, although these citations have since proven to be untrue and a journalistic “hoax,” wrote Magister.
The 13th century monk was a self-defined prophet of the “'age of the Spirit' after the previous ages of the Father and the Son,” Magister recalled, “a third and definitive age of peace, of justice, of humanity with no more divisions, not even among religions.”
Magister noted that the “intellectual kinship between Obama and Joachim of Fiore appears so strong that in 2008, the news came out in the media all over the world that the future president of the United States had referred to him three times in key speeches of his electoral campaign.”
“The news was so widely credited that on March 27, 2009, Franciscan Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the official preacher of the pontifical household, repeated it in one of his Lenten preachings to the pope and the Roman curia.”
Despite the fact that the president never cited the monk, “the resemblance remains between Obama's rhetoric and the vision of Joachim of Fiore,” Magister said, adding that the “contradiction reappears when one compares Obama's speeches with his concrete decisions.”
“The troops in Afghanistan are still there, Guantanamo isn't closing, federal money is on the verge of funding abortion,” he observed. “Day after day, the president's actual decisions contrast with his statements. They always put off until an unspecified 'tomorrow' the realization of the messianic utopia that his speeches continue to present.”
“The 'new age' of Joachim of Fiore also failed to come about in 1260, the year indicated,” Magister concluded. “But the dream survived. And Obama is promoting it again today in his role as the most powerful man in the world.”