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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Next Regime Change?

(AoftheAP) Turmoil still rumbles on through the Middle East, as protests persist day and night in Egypt, while unrest has spread to other nations, such as Syria and Lebanon. The Obama Administration continues to exert pressure on the Egyptian government, stressing the need for them to capitulate to the people's pleas for democracy and justice. While the messaging on Egypt's "regime change" has been inconsistent at best, reports from Washington suggest that the Egypt situation has encouraged President Obama to flex his international muscles. Thus, he is expected in the near term to call upon another nation-state's leader to step down and submit to its people's cries for freedom.

The next nation-state?

The Vatican.

A source within the administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, has told AoftheA that a speech has been prepared. Its release date hasn't been determined yet; officials are arguing over when it would reach the widest audience, either during Obama's upcoming cameo appearance on "Glee", or when he makes a surprise visit as a judge on "American Idol" in early Spring.

"The President is very concerned about the restrictions on personal freedom in the Catholic Church," the source told AoftheA. "He's been listening to his Catholic inner circle - Sr. Carol Keehan, Doug Kmiec, Fr. Pfleger, Catholics for Equality, his ambassador to Rome - and they all tell him the same thing: the Church is oppressive, especially against anyone not white, straight or male, and a regime change is in order."

AoftheA has learned that the president also regularly reads numerous leading Catholic publications - The Tablet in England; America; National Catholic Reporter; Vox Nova - which only confirm the words of his advisors.

"Mrs. Clinton and some State Department officials have suggested to the president that he wait until Egypt settles down," the source said, "but he's pretty wee-wee'd up over what he's learned. He's upset that every single Wednesday, protesters gather in St. Peter's Square to voice their concerns, but nothing ever happens. The Pope makes an appearance, says some words to appease them, and they leave apparently satisfied. But one week later, they're back again. The President is convinced that Pope Benedict is not living up to whatever concessions he's made - what those people need is just some good ol' fashioned community organizing."

AoftheA has received a transcript of the president's upcoming speech, which is reprinted in full here:
Good evening, everybody.

My administration has been closely monitoring the situation in Rome, and I know that we will be learning more tomorrow when day breaks. As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life. So I want to be very clear in calling upon the Vatican authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters.

Catholics have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association; the right to free speech; and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights, and the United States will stand up for them everywhere.

At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms that they seek.

Now, going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise. The United States has a close partnership with Rome and we've cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region. But we've also been clear that there must be reform -- political, social and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of all Catholics. In the absence of these reforms, grievances have built up over time.

What's needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of all Catholics, a meaningful dialogue between the government and its citizens, and a path of political change that leads to a future of greater freedom and greater opportunity, and justice for all Catholics.

Now, ultimately, the future of the Catholic Church will be determined by Catholics, and I believe that all Catholics want the same things that we all want: a better life for ourselves and our children, and a government that is fair and just and responsive. Put simply, Catholics want a future that befits the heirs to a great and ancient civilization.

The United States always will be a partner in pursuit of that future. And we are committed to working with the Vatican and all Catholics to achieve it.

Around the world, governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens. That's true here in the United States, that's true in Asia, it is true in Europe, it is true in Africa, and it's certainly true in the Vatican, where a new generation of citizens has the right to be heard. When I was in Notre Dame shortly after I was elected president, I said that all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion. That is the single standard by which all Catholics will achieve the future they deserve.

Surely there will be difficult days to come. But the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of all Catholics, and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful.

Thank you very much.

"All the president wants," the source told AoftheA, "is for the Holy Father to step down so that a peaceful transition can take place, so that democratic reforms can be started - women priests, access to contraception, gay marriage, divorce and remarriage - the kinds of things people all around the world enjoy, except for Catholics."

The Vatican declined requests for an interview or comments. However, AoftheA learned from its Curia source that, when told about President Obama's soon-to-be-announced demands, the Holy Father reportedly said: "Over my dead body."