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Scott P. Richert

Hillary Clinton: Who Painted Our Lady of Guadalupe?

By March 30, 2009

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On March 26, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, making her first official visit to Mexico, made a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There, she placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of the image, which miraculously appeared on the cloak of St. Juan Diego in 1531, after the Blessed Virgin Mary herself told Juan Diego to gather roses in his cloak.

For an American Catholic, what happened next almost defies imagination. According to the Catholic News Agency:

After observing [the image] for a while, Mrs. Clinton asked “who painted it?” to which Msgr. [Diego] Monroy [the rector of the basilica] responded “God!”

Now, it would be both easy and tempting for someone who dislikes Mrs. Clinton's politics (I plead guilty) to point to this story as proof that she's unfit for her current position, especially since it comes on the heels of another gaffe when she went to Europe on her first overseas trip as Secretary of State. There, she brought out a kitschy prop with a red button on top, on which her aides had told her was written the Russian word for "reset." The only problem was that, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out, the word that the State Department chose--peregruzka--means "overcharge."

Both incidents illustrate a bigger problem, however--one that afflicted the Republican George W. Bush administration as much as the Democratic one of Barack Obama. (For the record, I voted for neither man, nor for their major-party opponents.) Those who run the foreign policy of the United States, in both parties, are often naive at best, and, at worst, ignorant of the history, culture, and traditions of those with whom they are dealing.

That's part of the reason why, on a practical level as well as a moral one, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI turned out to be more correct about the war in Iraq than did President Bush and all of his advisors. They understood the situation better not only because they were not ideologically committed to "spreading democracy" and "nation-building," but because they have quite simply paid attention to developments in the Middle East throughout their adult lives.

How does the son of a president get elected president without knowing that he shouldn't publicly call the president of Russia "Vlad"? How does the wife of a former president who has spent her entire life in public service not know the most prominent of details of the story most dear to Mexican Catholics, the largest group of immigrants to the United States for close to two decades now?

The Bush administration's State Department (not to mention its Department of Defense) strained relations with the world's one billion Muslims, often unnecessarily. Barack Obama, in pursuing his commitment to abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research, has already set up unnecessary conflicts with Catholics in the United States.

This administration cannot afford diplomatic missteps with the Holy See or with those countries in which large numbers of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics reside. If President Obama is serious about bringing change to Washington, D.C., he might start by demanding that all of his diplomats learn, not simply to think, but to study before they speak. Breaking the cycle of ineptitude in foreign policy that has characterized both Democratic and Republican administrations for 35 years would be change that we can believe in.

Comments
March 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm
(1) csh says:

Too bad for you and the other Hillary haters that (according to a recent CNN poll) 71% of Americans approve of the job she is doing as Secretary of State.

And recall that more people cast a vote for Hillary Clinton than for any other presidental primary candidiate in hsitory.

And that she won two landslide election to the US senate.

And that she has been named the most admited woman in the world for at least the last 10 years.

March 30, 2009 at 2:02 pm
(2) Scott P. Richert says:

Thanks, csh, for that insightful comment that has nothing to do with the post that I wrote. Next time, perhaps you could try reading the post and commenting on the substance of the piece.

For what it’s worth, I don’t “hate” Hillary Clinton, any more than I hate Barack Obama or George W. Bush. I disagree with the political stands of all three. No wonder American politics is in the shape it’s in when people equate political disagreements with hatred.

March 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm
(3) Alycin Berru says:

Nice post. I disagree with the way a lot of Catholics are calling Hillary a moron over this, but, she really should have done a little research before visiting. I think it’s unfair to act as if the OLOG image (and how it came to be) is common knowledge. Before I decided to become Catholic, I had no idea about it’s origin.

CSH, I am unsure what your comment has to do with anything at all that was written in this post. Troll, much?

March 30, 2009 at 3:15 pm
(4) csh says:

I believe my comment was totally relevant to what was clearly a negative story about Hillary Clinton and her qualifications and performance (And my God, it’s been 16 years don’t you Hillary haters ever tire of the negativity)?

Point is that despite the constant negative attacks, she wins high marks from the American people on her job performance, won 2 landslide elections to the US senate, tons of votes as a presidential candidate and is universally admired by those outside of the right wing fringe element.

So your attacks (remember Ken Starr) have certaintly NOT worked.

That was my point.

March 30, 2009 at 3:22 pm
(5) Scott P. Richert says:

I see, csh, that you still haven’t read the post, which points out that the problem isn’t Mrs. Clinton but a much larger problem that affects the foreign-policy establishment of both parties.

My post is not “hatred,” and I’m not a “Hillary hater.” If you refer to it or me that way one more time, then I’ll simply assume that you are a troll.

March 30, 2009 at 5:53 pm
(6) Brig says:

csh,I am with you on this 100%, have you noticed that only the right wing blogs are harping on this faux outrage? As to the author of this piece: the SOS made an UNEXPECTED visit at that location: so when was her staff suppose to brief her on the picture or do you expect her to be a walking encyclopedia? She asked an innocent question that any non-catholic could ask. Moreover, that picture is framed looking more like a painting than any else. One thing is clear though, life is really hard for the haters these days, and they have to look for trouble under every rock or just make crap up to get their juice flowing. How sad…

March 30, 2009 at 5:56 pm
(7) Calescus says:

Csh,
Do you think that quoting your statistics makes Hillary any more of a good or qualified political figure? The people who support her are either uneducated, or morally bankrupt. It is indicative of having a liberal mindset to resort to name calling when there is no true defense. Hillary has no true defense (and off the record, all of her extremely informed critics are now dead. . .) I believe that Mr.Richert was overly kind in his references to her.

March 30, 2009 at 6:04 pm
(8) Calescus says:

!!!!!!,
HATERS? MAKE CRAP UP? THIS IS A CATHOLIC BLOG ISN’T IT? WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE? CATHOLICS ARE SUPPOSED TO RESPECT LIFE. HILLARY IS PRO-ABORTION AND PRO-POPULATION CONTROL!!!WHO ARE THE REAL “HATERS”?

March 30, 2009 at 6:14 pm
(9) Scott P. Richert says:

Brig, I never said that this remark was an “outrage.” What I said is that it is one in a series of examples, cutting across both political parties, of the naivete (at best) or ignorance (at worst) of our foreign-policy establishment.

The wife of an ex-president who won two terms as a senator in a state with a large Mexican immigrant population shouldn’t have to be briefed by her staff on the chief symbol of Mexican Catholicism. But setting that aside, it’s not clear that her staff would know—just as they didn’t know to pick the right Russian word for the “reset” button.

That’s the point: In a world in which many foreign-policy challenges involve religion—particularly Islam—it’s sad that the foreign-policy leaders of both parties in the United States are, to be kind about it, culturally illiterate.

And, sadly, that cultural illiteracy is not just embarrassing: Sometimes, as in the case of our misguided attempts to “bring democracy to the Middle East,” it can be disastrous, too.

March 30, 2009 at 6:18 pm
(10) Brig says:

Man,you just sound like one of those haters I am talking about: foaming at the mouth because the SOS asked a reasonable question. Catholics believe that picture just appeared there centuries ago, but a non-catholic may forgiven for just asking the question. What’s the big deal?

March 30, 2009 at 6:23 pm
(11) Scott P. Richert says:

The big deal would be obvious, Brig, if you’d bother to read the post or my comments. This isn’t a Catholic vs. non-Catholic thing; it’s a question of the sort of cultural literacy that we should expect in our foreign-policy establishment—and that other countries actually have in theirs.

March 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm
(12) Mary Rose says:

Scott, excellent post. You are on target regarding the embarrassment that Secretary Clinton has already brought to our country. She simply isn’t a good candidate for the job and her constant gaffes have proved it.

She really made an impression on China, didn’t she, who felt completely safe in harassing our Navy vessels (as they sailed in international waters) after her visit?

As for the flimsy excuse that she shouldn’t be expected to be a “walking encyclopedia,”

a) That is the job of her staff – to prep her for every event, no matter how “last minute” it may be and,

b) Ever heard of Wikipedia? It’s this great online community collaborative effort that every once in awhile, gets it right. Two seconds of Googling “Our Lady of Guadalupe” yielded 750,000 results.

However, I suppose that required too much effort from one of her aides. Last minute, you know.

Bottom line: The Secretary serves as a principal adviser to the President in the determination of U.S. foreign policy. I wouldn’t be surprised if people such as “csh” and “Brig” do not realize that Vatican City is “The State of Vatican City.” Meaning that the Pope is the Head of State and that Vatican City State is a recognized national territory under international law.

In which case, Secretary of State Clinton did an extremely splendid job in showing this Vatican City State that she didn’t know her hindquarters from a hole in the ground.

March 30, 2009 at 7:12 pm
(13) observant1 says:

There have been some unacceptable gaffs by our senior Obama administration officials that should have been prevented if the protocol staff was doing its job.

Obama himself gave British PM Gordon Brown some DVDs that were NTSC (American standard) and not PAL (British standard). When Brown went home to play them, all he saw was “snow.”

Then there was the aforementioned “reset” button Hilary gave to the Russian foreign minister, which actually did not say “reset.”

Now the Guadalupe faux pas.

It’s time for somebody to rip into the protocol staff, or come up with another explanation for these stupid mistakes, which ultimately embarrass all Americans.

March 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm
(14) Chali says:

I agree with previous comments. The visit to the Basilic is within the realms of a dignitary as it is the biggest catholic monument in America, it’s a historic landmark AND that the Virgin Of Guadalupe painting was lowered from its altar so that the Secretary of State could look at it up close. That’s a great Honor, not given to anyone before. Now, about the button, it was the idea of the Administration, not just Hillary. And it was lost in translation, not for the Russians but as in how the translation reads back in English, as over means again/start, and charge means as in turn it on with electricity. It reads back to us as “over charge” but in Russian means “start over”. She’s being intelligent, assertive, nice but firm. And the problems are being addressed in a direct way, mature, intelligent matter, as opposed to a bravado cowboy style. REAL solutions are being applied to problems. And she is going to the Afghanistan Summit to the Netherlands to possibly speak to the Prime Minister of Iran about aiding Afghanistan vs drugs. So there.

March 30, 2009 at 8:20 pm
(15) Chali says:

Don you all get tired of pretending to be such ingenuous? You well know that HIllary’s prime visit wasn’t to the Basilic of the Guadalupe Virgin. That was one thing she did the next morning that she was there. It wasn’t the principal thing she did. The meeting with President Calderon had already taken place, she had already taken care of business. She also visited the Palace of Fine Arts and the new Federal Police Command Center, but, again that was AFTER she had already spoken with President Calderon about the problems and the solutions which are being implemented.
The goal of the Russian visit was also achieved. If the goals of the visits are being achieved then that’s a success. You have nothing to complain about. She’s been elegant, dignified, confident, intelligent, assertive, in everything she’s done. She is our pride. We are very proud of her. sorry, no bravado cowboy politics allowed here.

March 30, 2009 at 8:25 pm
(16) Chali says:

AND she asked: who painted it? because she didn’t realize that was “THE” Virgin of Guadalupe painting because it is usually up high in its altar, but they had it lowered so that she could take a look up close (a very big Honor, this was never done before). That’s why she asked who had painted it because the real Virgin of Guadalupe cloak is always on its altar up high.

March 30, 2009 at 8:29 pm
(17) Scott P. Richert says:

She is our pride. We are very proud of her.

This is the problem. The American foreign-policy establishment, in both parties, has been an embarrassment for 35 years or so, but everything gets subordinated to partisan politics. So elementary errors get excused, because “She’s one of us!” or “I voted for him!”

This is the behavior of children on playgrounds, not of citizens who care about their country and its place in the world.

And it’s certainly not the behavior of intelligent men and women who recognize that naivete and ignorance in foreign affairs leads to international tensions and sometimes even to death and destruction. Perhaps you sleep better at night because “She is our pride.” I, on the other hand, would rather have the sort of competent, historically minded men and women who traditionally have made up the diplomatic corps of European countries.

March 30, 2009 at 8:47 pm
(18) Scott P. Richert says:

Yes, Chali, better to keep coming up with silly, patently untrue excuses than to demand more from our political leaders.

And we wonder why the United States is in the mess it’s in.

March 30, 2009 at 9:38 pm
(19) Mary Rose says:

Chali – it’s tough to take you seriously when you are unable to use the proper word in context. “Ingenuous” means showing innocent childlike simplicity and candidness. In which case, certainly, I’m being ingenuous by being candid. You may have wanted the word, “disingenuous” which means lacking in candor or calculating.

The truth is, Secretary Clinton was rejected by the majority of the Democratic Party. Reasons vary but there it is. The truth is her husband was the politician in the White House. Not her.

The truth is, she brought no peace to the process in Northern Ireland, as She constantly exaggerates her role, trying to make it sound much more elaborate than reality. She claimed to bring Catholic and Protestant women together “for the first time.” The first time since when? The day after Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of a Catholic church in Wittenberg? Again, just words flung out to those who are enamored of a woman who thinks socialism is a good idea.

Elegant? Dignified? Intelligent? If she is anyone’s pride, you must have a very low standard. You’re wrong about placing such faith in Sec. Clinton and it will be shown to you over and over again within the next few years. Whether you believe it or not will be your challenge. Suffice it to say she’s off to a very rocky start. She’s not helped one bit.

She’s , , and did a I can’t wait to see what she does with Iran. I suspect they’ll give her the velvet glove treatment while she’ll leave thinking she won.

She is ill-equipped for her position. And I believe President Obama did it to keep her caged and controlled.

March 30, 2009 at 9:43 pm
(20) Mary Rose says:

Chali – it’s tough to take you seriously when you are unable to use the proper word in context. “Ingenuous” means showing innocent childlike simplicity and candidness. In which case, certainly, I’m being ingenuous by being candid. You may have wanted the word, “disingenuous” which means lacking in candor or calculating.

The truth is, Secretary Clinton was rejected by the majority of the Democratic Party. Reasons vary but there it is. The truth is her husband was the politician in the White House. Not her.

The truth is, she brought no peace to the process in Northern Ireland, as she tried to claim. She constantly exaggerates her role, trying to make it sound much more elaborate than reality. She claimed to bring Catholic and Protestant women together “for the first time.” The first time since when? The day after Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of a Catholic church in Wittenberg? Again, just words flung out to those who are enamored of a woman who thinks socialism is a good idea.

Elegant? Dignified? Intelligent? If she is anyone’s pride, you must have a very low standard. You’re wrong about placing such faith in Sec. Clinton and it will be shown to you over and over again within the next few years. Whether you believe it or not will be your challenge. Suffice it to say she’s off to a very rocky start. She’s not helped one bit.

She’s blamed the US for the problems in Mexico, downplayed the role of human rights in Asia, and did a complete 180 on her past support with Israel. I can’t wait to see what she does with Iran. I suspect they’ll give her the velvet glove treatment while she’ll leave thinking she won.

She is ill-equipped for her position. She is more isolated than you realize.And I believe President Obama did it to keep her caged and controlled.

March 30, 2009 at 9:48 pm
(21) Mary Rose says:

Apologies for the second to last paragraph. I couldn’t get the HTML code to work and had to remove all page sources. The paragraph should have read:

She’s blamed the US for the problems in Mexico, downplayed the role of human rights in Asia, and did a complete 180 on her past support with Israel. I can’t wait to see what she does with Iran. I suspect they’ll give her the velvet glove treatment while she’ll leave thinking she won.

March 31, 2009 at 12:13 pm
(22) Kyle says:

Scott, the fault is not with Hillary, but with those who briefed her and didn’t think to say that the image is said to have been miraculously painted directly by God. In case you’re wondering, there’s an image of the Virgin painted by an angel in Florence too, but you have to know the story or you might not guess it simply to look at the painting.

Likewise, the reset button is the fault of a flunky who didn’t translate well.

This doesn’t justify either slipup, but does show that the State Department needs underlings who are more on the ball. And has for a while.

Kyle

March 31, 2009 at 12:26 pm
(23) Scott P. Richert says:

Couldn’t agree with you more, Kyle. As I mentioned in the post, this incident is representative of a much more widespread problem, that goes back over three decades.

In a world in which foreign policy is increasingly wrapped up with religious questions, particularly concerning our relations with Islamic countries, such errors become even more important than in the past.

March 31, 2009 at 2:21 pm
(24) Maryanne Leonard says:

Well written, Scott. Your analysis and insight is 100% on target. You probably don’t want to run for prez next time, as you are obviously too smart, but that’s our nation’s loss. At least keep observing, thinking, and writing, as your considered conclusions are a gift to the nation as well.

March 31, 2009 at 3:19 pm
(25) ElizabethT says:

I don’t believe that Clinton made a mistake about Our Lady of Guadalupe. I think that this was a deliberate act of “ignorance.” One of Lyndon Johnson’s favorite ploys to discredit someone was to pretend to get their name wrong. Clinton is too savvy not to have made sure she was briefed on the history of what she was going to see (the most revered shrine in Mexico, and the patron saint of Mexico) and whom she was going to meet. She’s turning out to be a great Secretary of State for President Obama.

March 31, 2009 at 4:11 pm
(26) John says:

To me, this is kind of like someone from Asia coming here and saying, “Why do you have a lower cast “T” on top of those buildings?”

April 4, 2009 at 11:25 am
(27) Eric Bohn says:

Actually, it’s a pretty good question. I’m afraid the priest got it wrong. The wolf river lady is an icon to double speak. If you know what the symbology represents, it becomes clear that it is an unfaithful rendering of the Virgin Mary as given in Rev Ch 12.

May 14, 2009 at 9:21 pm
(28) LD says:

Eric B, Would you care to elaborate?

June 17, 2009 at 3:09 pm
(29) Peter says:

John, why do we have those lower-case “t’s” on all those churches? I just assumed it was because Jesus is terrific. Sorry for that, I couldn’t resist.

Despite the heavily politically polarized comments that headed this column, I think the author’s point is a legitimate one. One would like to think that political leaders in this country, with the assistance of a multitude of advisors, would escape from the unduly limited awareness of the rest of the world that plagues the US. Sadly, however, they are more likely to manifest these short-comings; presumably because those who succeed in being elected must prove themselves acceptable to the electorate and the electorate increasingly favors figures who seem like themselves, rather than those who seem to exceed them in knowledge and temperment.

America cannot hope to retain the respect of other nations, if we do not project sincere respect for other nations, peoples, and cultures. It is odd that a nation of immigrants, as ethnically diverse as the US, has so few bilingual citizens and so many citizens with little or no grasp of the cultures of other nations.

August 21, 2009 at 9:56 pm
(30) Bubbaloo says:

People believe God goes around painting clothing, but call Hillary stupid. If she goes to a tortilla factory, watch out!

March 22, 2010 at 10:25 am
(31) Mary says:

Scott, I understand your concern; however, do you expect perfection from our leaders? They are only human.

December 12, 2010 at 10:17 am
(32) tlh says:

Just for the record: Hillary is a United Methodist, not Catholic. I grew up Methodist myself. Had I not recently taken an interest in possibly converting to Catholicism, I would never have known anything about the image of Guadalupe either. Methodists don’t bother with these things.

December 12, 2010 at 11:13 am
(33) Scott P. Richert says:

Just for the record, tlh: Are you a former U.S. senator and the wife of a former U.S. president? I know you’re not the current U.S. secretary of state, since Hillary Clinton is.

That, and not what the average United Methodist may or may not know, was the point of the post, a point which I reiterated several times in the comments.

Americans used to expect a higher degree of cultural literacy from their elected and appointed representatives. Of course, on certain topics, we still do: Could you imagine the international uproar if, on a trip to Israel, Mrs. Clinton visited the Temple Mount and asked, “Who built the temple?”

The problem, as I made clear in both the post and the comments, has little to do with Mrs. Clinton herself, and very much to do with the fact that “Those who run the foreign policy of the United States, in both parties, are often naive at best, and, at worst, ignorant of the history, culture, and traditions of those with whom they are dealing.”

June 25, 2012 at 11:10 pm
(34) MARTHA L MARTINEZ says:

SHAMEFULLY FOR SOME…
“LA IGNORANCIA ES ATREVIDA”
“IGNORANCE IS PRESUMPTUOUS”

May 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm
(35) Jedediah says:

Actually there are some catholic scholars, including the former abbot of the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico who believe the cloak was indeed painted and that Juan Diego never existed. There are references to the cloak as far back as the 1550s but Juan Diego is never mentioned until 1648.

May 12, 2013 at 7:29 am
(36) Scott P. Richert says:

Yes, Jedediah, clearly that’s what Hillary Clinton was referring to.

It’s amazing the lengths some people will go to to justify the ignorance of our politicians.

August 13, 2013 at 5:31 pm
(37) Rusty Nail says:

It’s a painting on fabric. … In further news, the Black Stone of Mecca is a meteorite.

August 13, 2013 at 5:32 pm
(38) Scott P. Richert says:

And in other news, “Rusty Nail” has too much time on his hands.

November 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm
(39) Norberto Rivera says:

Being Mexican I can tell you without a doubt that the painting of the Virgin of Guadalupes is in fact A PAINTING.

GOOGLE BEFORE YOU TYPE YOU IGNORANT MORRONS!

December 14, 2013 at 6:28 pm
(40) William says:

May be the silliest articel in a long time. The author takes on the question of the authenticity of a famous religious icon that is beloved by millions and turns it into a piece primarily devoted to acting the Secretary of State, a person he has no regard for. Absoutely ridiculous waste of time for the reader.

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