At practically the same time that Barack Obama has decided that the US has to shut its eyes to dissenters in Cuba suffering under the yoke of oppression by the Castros, he plans to offer a lesson in dissent to Pope Francis. Obama has extended invitations for the pontiff’s first state visit to transgender activists, a gay Episcopal bishop, and the leader of a group of nuns that want changes to Catholic teachings on abortion and euthanasia. Needless to say, the Vatican is not pleased with this attempt to lecture Francis on catechesis, as longtime Vaticanista Francis X. Rocca reports for the Wall Street Journal:

On the eve of Pope Francis’s arrival in the U.S., the Vatican has taken offense at theObama 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.

According to a senior Vatican official, the Holy See worries that any photos of the pope with these guests at the White House welcoming ceremony next Wednesday could be interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.

The tension exemplifies concerns among conservative Catholics, including many bishops, that the White House will use the pope’s visit to play down its differences with church leaders on such contentious issues as same-sex marriage and the contraception mandate in the health care law.

I’m curious. When the Saudis visited the White House this month, did Obama invite women’s-rights activists to dinner with them? Did Obama invite Ayaan Hirsi Ali to discuss the need for reform in Islam? No? Which entity has more need for openness, inclusiveness, and tolerance?

Michael Brandon Dougherty is outraged:

That is very clearly what the White House wants to do, and the Vatican knows it. It’s also a deliberate insult to Pope Francis and to Catholics in the US. Nor is it a question of balance, either:

The presence of these figures is especially irritating, the Vatican official said, because it isn’t yet clear if the White House has invited any representatives of the U.S. anti-abortion movement, traditionally a high-priority cause for the U.S. bishops.

Don’t hold your breath. Francis plans to steer clear of dissidents in Cuba, a shameful decision probably made at least in part in deference to the political risk Obama took in normalizing relations and working to lift the embargo. In repayment, the White House wants to deliberately embarrass the Pope by sticking a thumb in his eye, and by sticking their noses into Catholic doctrine and teachings.

Josh Earnest tried waving off the problem by claiming that there will be lots of people on hand for Francis’ visit:

The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment on the Vatican’s reaction to the ceremony’s guest list. White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday he was unaware of the names of individuals on the guest list, but cautioned against drawing any conclusions on specific guests “because there will be 15,000 other people there too.”

This is, to put it frankly, complete crap. Those invitations didn’t come from The Random Catholic Generator. They went out to score points off Pope Francis, and came to light late enough that Francis may not have much choice but to put up with it. No one at the White House is “trying to avoid” it being political — they are going way out of their way to politicize this to pander to their progressive base. It’s an insult, and one that really should have the Vatican consider changing their itinerary to stick to the churches and repay the insult from Obama.