Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s anti-LGBT+ secretary of state, was denied an audience with the Pope after the Vatican condemned his use of “religious freedom” for political gain.
Last year, Mike Pompeo created the Commission on Unalienable Rights to undercut the US government’s existing human rights laws, with the commission supposedly based on “natural law”.
Pompeo claimed the body is necessary because different rights have “come into tension with one another”, but it soon became clear that “religious freedom” would be at the top of the hierarchy.
The group is dominated by officials with anti-LGBT+ views, with seven of the ten members having expressed these views publicly, and when the commission was announced, anti-LGBT+ activist Brian Brown said it was an “extraordinary opening” to reverse LGBT+ equality.
But despite his apparent passion for religion, when Pompeo paid a visit to the Vatican this week, he was unceremoniously rejected for a meeting with the Pope.
According to Reuters, on Wednesday (30 September), the day before he was set to meet with Vatican officials, Pompeo spoke at the US embassy to the Holy See and denounced China’s record on religious freedom.
In an article and series of tweets in September, Pompeo criticised the Catholic Church for working with Beijing to appoint Chinese bishops, claiming Vatican officials were putting their “moral authority at risk”.
Following his speech, the Vatican said Pompeo had requested an audience with Pope Francis, and received an emphatic “no”.
Secretary of state cardinal Pietro Parolin told Reuters: “Yes, he asked. But the Pope had already said clearly that political figures are not received in election periods. That is the reason.”
Parolin said Pompeo’s public criticism of the Vatican had come as a “surprise” before his visit.
Parolin was asked if the secretary of state’s focus on religious freedom, which is simultaneously used to suppress LGBT+ rights, was being used for political gain in the US.
He said: “Some have interpreted it this way. That the comments were above all for domestic political use.
“I don’t have proof of this but certainly, this is one way of looking at it.”