(CNSNews.com) -- Prominent Catholic leaders are denouncing the White House for inviting pro-abortion and gay rights activists to a reception honoring Pope Francis during the pontiff's visit to Washington next week.
The Wall Street Journal reported that “the Vatican has taken offense at the Obama administration’s decision to invite to the pope’s welcome ceremony transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an activist nun who leads a group criticized by the Vatican for its silence on abortion and euthanasia.”
“It is a disgrace,” Princeton Professor Robert George told CNSNews.com.
“Barack Obama is a president who would not even raise the case of imprisoned Saudi dissident Raif Badawi when visiting Saudi Arabian King Salman, lest the king's religious sensibilities be offended. He is a president who makes a deal with the Iranian regime without demanding release of Christian pastor Saeed Abidini, who languishes in a prison cell because of his faith.
“Yet this same Barack Obama insults the Pope and faithful Catholics everywhere with stunts like this.”
Fr. Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life, who told CNSNews.com that he was not invited to the reception, said that this was part of the administration’s larger pattern of disrespect towards religion.
“This president, this administration has a pattern that I've noticed over the years, and some of it has intersected with me quite directly,” Pavone said. “It is a pattern of really disrespectfully stepping into divisions within the Catholic community and stepping in on the wrong side of those divisions, using the Catholic Church and using the trappings of Catholicism to advance his own morally incompetent agenda.”
National Right to Life president Carol Tobias, who is not a Catholic, characterized the invitations as “an insult,” adding that “it’s not a surprise that President Obama, who is a pro-abortion ideologue, would thumb his nose at the pope and the teachings of the church.”
“I think it’s an intentional attempt to hijack Pope Francis’s visit for LGBT causes and perhaps get some photos of activists with the Holy Father,” said Catholic University Professor Jay Richards.
Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, who was placed on leave from the Archdiocese of Washington in 2012 for refusing to give Communion to a self-identified sexually active lesbian, told CNSNews.com the invitations are “awful, of course. Every step of the way, they are trying to orchestrate the [pope’s] visit, with the unfortunate help of some bishops.”
“It is so fitting that the least friendly administration to religion in history would invite a collection of pro-abortion nuns, Catholic gay activists, assorted dissidents and religious rebels to attend Pope Francis' visit to the White House on September 23,” Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in a statement.
Noting that “Catholic-baiting is nothing new in Washington,” Donohue accused President Obama of taking it “to a new level” in an “attempt to exploit a papal visit to promote an agenda that is offensive to faithful Catholics.”
Related: Gays, Transgenders, ‘Nun on the Bus’ Invited to White House Pope Francis Reception