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Name that Ambassador

The United States needs a new ambassador to the Vatican. Professor Miguel Diaz has returned to the U.S. and will be teaching at Dayton.In the NCR report on the matter, John Allen mentioned as possible nominees: Stephen Schneck of Catholic U and Nicholas Cafardi of Duquesne (he is a civil and canon lawyer). Good suggestions, but how about Bart Stupak (retired congressmen from Michigan who saved Obamacare from oblivion), or Sister Simone Campbell (of Nuns on the Bus and other events!)?Who would you nominate?

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Bart Stupak.. stood up to GOP, and Pelosi and Obama...speaking truth to power is not an easy find in politics. So when you find it nominate it.

Hasn't Nicholas Cafardi commented on dotC once or twice?

George Mitchell. But he's too busy in other places.

I'd like a career diplomat. The religion of the ambassador ought not to be a significant factor. This is a secular matter.

As a definite side-bar: I've noticed that even British novelists have given up on the old rules about cases used in comparative clauses, so that "She's wiser than me" is now acceptable; and one of them, I believe it was, has said, "No one uses 'whom' any more." Are we simply to surrender to these latest signs of the decline of western civilization?

Acceptable to whom?

It took me a few moments to understand what prompted that comment. So the answer is "yes", I guess!It could be the price to pay for the modern hegemony of the English language. It is universal, but what is used by all is an impoverished version of English, that is now taking over.It's victim of its success.

Joe: Are you suggesting "Bart Stupak (retired congressmen from Michigan WHOM saved Obamacare from oblivion)"? Shirley Not!

I nominate the man whom is the bishops' mouthpiece. Bill Donohue!

Vicki Kennedy.

If the Pope's efforts to revitalize Latin succeed, this kind of language problem should be much rarer. The ending on Stupak would show clearly whether it is the correct case to follow "How about", et seq.

Anthony Carpentier

Peter Steinfels.

I nominate (Fr.) Roy Bourgeois - he *is* out a job, thanks to the Vatican, and his honesty and courage would be a refreshing change.

How about a confident, experienced woman: Hillary Clinton (she's free soon!)Wouldn't SHE be a hoot in the halls of the Vatican?How about Condaleeza Rice?Of course, they both are pro-choice but finding a qualified woman who isn't might be harder than one thinks.

Confident woman? How about Peggy Steinfels? In fact, was that what that post was really about?

Will Obama placate the USCCB or the Catholics who voted for him?Donahue v. Cafardi or Campell (could she accept it?) I wouldn't bet on any of them...

Dana Gioia.

I take it that an ambassador is to represent the interests of all the citizens of the U. S. as determined by their political leadership. Why the ambassador to Vatican State ought to have a different set of qualifications than any other ambassador escapes me. If any of you who think that this ambassadorship is different, please give some reason for so thinking.I recognize that recent U. S. ambassadors to the Vatican have been prominent lay Catholics. That precedent, in my view, cuts no ice.

I agree that the ambassador's religion, or lack of it, should not be a factor. But I wouldn't bet Washington, which is sometimes rather simple-minded on these issues, would agree. I doubt if we're about to send an Arab-American to Tel Aviv, and a Jew to Riyadh. Ethnicity must be another factor our leaders sometimes consider. Under Clinton, we had the Swiss-born Madeleine Kunin in Bern, and at moment we have the Chinese-American Gary Locke in Beijing (though he doesn't speak the language, unlike his predecessor John Huntsman). Let's send a Calvinist to Rome.

Stephen Colbert. That would be fun!

Sending a Calvinist or some 'other', would require an assistant to tug at the Ambassador for all the kneel, sit. stand. kiss stuff at all those functions. Tea party would critique the added expense. $150000 plus housing and Roman meals. Midwest plain guy Bart Stupak needs no assist. . .

Dana Gioia, indeed. His Italian is better than all his predecessors put together. Just for starters, his translation of "The Motets" of Eugenio Montale (1990) is superb. And he is a Laetare Medalist. But as chairman of the National Endowment on the Humanities he was a Bush appointee. I tend to doubt that he would make an Obama Administration list.In any case, the present Charge' from the Foreign Service is more than up to the job. I doubt that there will be any rush to fill the post. To be re-visited in April or May. The Catholic ghetto dies hard!(Myron Taylor was an Episcopalian, and his accomplishment has never been equalled.)

Gioia might appeal to Obama because he too writes -- he's an award-winning poet. Besides running NEH very successfully he was a VP at General Foods. Interesting man.

Anne Burke? Indulging a fantasy...outstanding Catholic in the public square, intelligent, articulate, no pushover.Full title: IL Supreme Court Justice, from Chicago, former "interim" chairman of the National Review Board, but who served longer than her predecessor and successor. When asked years later why it was only an interim position, she just smiled.Interesting vignette: When she met with the USCCB administrative committee in 2004 around a conference table large enough for 50 bishops and cardinals, this is reportedly what happened:She and her fellow NRB member were invited to the table, at which point a cardinal began firing rapid questions at Burke. Burke responded evenly to the chairman, Wilton Gregory, not the questioner, that based on procedure in her courtroom she would do the following: first give an opening statement, as would her colleague; she would offer concluding remarks, and then questions would be accepted.Total silence! Not a pin drop was heard. Finally Gregory nodded that Burke's format would be followed.Someone skilled in US law might be very handy to represent Obama --- though I doubt she would leave the bench for the corridors of Vatican City. Still, she became familiar with those corridors when she and two NRB members themselves arranged interviews on their own with Cd Ratzinger after getting no response from the nuncio in DC. On their return I do believe Gregory called Burke in distress wondering why they did not get his permission before contacting Rome --- something US bishops do as a matter of course. The story goes that Burke noted they are not bishops.Wouldn't it be good for Bertone et al to interact with a US woman judge? Someone different from another woman ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon. She who commented about Maciel, "As one who sat near Father Maciel for several weeks during the Synod for America, I simply cannot reconcile those old (abuse) stories with the man's radiant holiness.

Carolyn ==In Glendon's defense, Maciel has to have been one of the greatest con men the world has ever seen. Evil.

Wonder Woman. She'd fit right in with her long red cape.

David Axelrod. And on the side he could line up some future work as a consultant to the papabile.

How does the US President's ambassador relate to influential senior Americans already on the scene in Rome? "The rise of American power in the Curia" was a headline Dec 7 by Vatican Insider, noting Burke, Levada, Stafford, Law, OBrien, Rigalli, Harvey, Wells, and Olmsted, said to be about to take Tobin's place. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson was the prominent Vatican spokesman on recent Vatican Bank matters. Especially after the past heated year in US politics, it might not be surprising if Obama's envoy to the Pope encountered well-established views of American origin conflicting with the President's aims. Perhaps this should be a factor in choosing an ambassador. I'd nominate Anne Burke, especially if there were some way to bring about a face-to-face of the two Judges Burke, each fully robed in his/her preferred fashion.

I think Carolyn Disco is on to something: Judge Anne Burke, being from Illinois is probably someone with whom President Obama is familiar from his time in the Illinois legislature. The boys in the Vatican would be really upset because Anne Burke wouldn't be intimidated by all their flowing scarlet robes and big gold rings.I had the opportunity to meet and consult with Judge Burke once. She was very impressive in her astute appraisal of the level of corruption within the American hierarchy. I firmly believe that her trip to Rome to consult with then Cardinal Ratzinger at the Inquisition was critical in getting the Vatican to understand the full dimensions and consequences of the scandal of priests and bishops sexually exploiting children. The curia is not used to having to deal with an independent, intelligent, articulate women like Judge Burke - especially one who knows where the bones are buried [in America at least]. The boys in scarlet would probably throw a hissy fit if Burke were named - probably the best reason to do it. Besides, President Obama should name her just to give the hierarchs a political kick in the teeth after their failed political gambit this past fall to defeat the President's reelection. I so wish he'd do it "Chicago style" with all the grace and muscle of a ward boss.Maybe we should communicate with the White House about her becoming US ambassador???Someone above mentioned Mary Ann Glendon: She wasn't duped by Marciel and the Legionnaires. She was on the Marciel's payroll, a recipient of his ill-gotten largesse. Just my opinion: Until she gives back all the honoraria and cash she got for pimping herself out to the Legion of Christ, Glendon is disqualified from further representation of US Catholics to the Vatican or to the public for that matter. Glendon not only lent her academic credibility as a fig leaf to Marciel and his corrupt buddies, she also publicly defended Marciel when she was in a position to know better that he was a corrupt lech, and she did nothing to stop him. If she couldn't figure out that Marciel was a con man - and a sexual pervert to boot, she doesn't deserve another stint as Vatican ambassador. Glendon has a lot of penance to do - maybe in a cloister somewhere.

If Mary McAleese was a Yank, she would be a hands' down favorite of mine. And there is NO cardinal, archbishop, bishop, apostolic protonotary, member of Opus Dei, or any other Vaticane who would DARE to not take her seriously!Miguel Diaz's wife (Marion, I think) is as impressive in her scholarship, demeanor and personality as is he. It's too bad that she couldn't replace him: she's already a known quantity in the byways and hedges of The Holy See!

"Peter Steinfels"Ann Olivier,I would nominate Steinfels, too. Peter is articulate, compassionate, and knows the sources of knowledge about our faith tradition and the country, among other things.

The solution that won't happen: withdraw recognition by the US as in the days before Reagan. No need to name anyone then.Diplomatic immunity is too convenient in the abuse scandal.In response to Jack Barry, "Burke, Levada, Stafford, Law, OBrien, Rigalli, Harvey, Wells, and Olmsted" (V Insider: Rigali has one 'l'): This is the American bench? Olmsted at Consecrated Life? There could be no more pointed appointment. Perhaps they are consulted for recommendations to be leaked very discreetly into the atmosphere. If only someone would listen to John Page.The state of affairs is truly sad, but to add comic relief, I recommend Eugene Kennedy's column at NCR on the impending implosion:"That noise you hear coming from the Vatican, according to Robert Mickens, one of the most experienced and trustworthy observers of the Church, arises not from the clang of cell doors on papal butlers taking one for the system but from the implosion of the system itself. Mickens, former editor of the London Tablet, tells us that, we are witnessing the collapse of an entire system, structure, ethos, and culture. In a talk to the City Club of Cleveland, whose members know at first hand the rumble of a distressed diocese, Mickens says that the falling plaster drifts down from the Sumo wrestler-like contests watch out for the crockery and mothers picture on the mantle of green-eyed prelates vying for red-dyed promotions, as well as the metastasized corruption, cronyism among the usual suspects of bishops and cardinals, the Keystone Cops flavor of laffaire Vatileaks, the number of Catholics heading for what P.T. Barnum termed the egress, and crises that have burdened good priests with the burdens left by those less good, those carriers of clericalism, the infection that causes swelling of the head and untreatable growths on the ego. Mickens portrays a tragic but poignant collapse and while he rightly attributes its onset to the double team efforts of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI to restore a self-centered and therefore self-consuming Church, the implosion may be read in another way as well..."

The position of US ambassador to Rome lives in infamy after five formers supported Romney as if their position made any sense as to presidential endorsement. The position itself is derogatory by nature since it degrades the church. It remains a wonder that we still tolerate Roman trappings, introduced at a time when the emperor called Councils, as having any validity for the church of Jesus. It is a muse to expound whom one would choose. But the subject matter is intrinsically evil.

The idea that the ambassador HAS to be Catholic makes no sense tome. The person is representing the US to the Vatican, not the Vatican or the bishops to the U S. Th idea that the Vatican gets to veto an Obama supporter is outrageous. This is a secular appointment not an ecclesiastical honor.

The ambassador to the Holy See HAS to be Catholic, obviously. (And Republican. And "pro-life.) An ambassador must be accepted/approved by the country to which HE is missioned. Hard to picture the Vatican accepting the credentials of a Democratic woman.When Obama wanted to send Caroline Kennedy, the pope said NEIN. Rick Santorum would be acceptable. Or Newt Gingrich.

I wish Obama would take the opportunity to show the world that Americans come in all degrees of physical, mental, and emotional ability, in all shapes and sizes, from all educational levels, from all points on the sexuality spectrum, from all social classes, religions, etc., etc. Send one name after another to the Vatican as prospective ambassadors. Let them reject one after another. Let it go on for years.

Gerelyn --Lindy Boggs and Mary Ann Glendon were both Catholic ambassadors to the Vatican.

Yes, all nine ambassadors to the Holy See have been Catholic. Forgot that two were women. (Sorry, Lindy and Mary Ann.) Time to stop sending ambassadors to the Holy See. Reagan started it. Obama should stop it. Frank Bruni's "The God Glut" was good today.

As I remember, the first ambassadors to the Holy See were appointed by Pres. Truman, a Baptist. It was significant that he was a Baptist because Baptists insisted strongly on the separation of church and state, or they used to at any rate. That he was Baptist helped overcome the fear of the Vatican that many people had at the time. Many really thought that Catholics wanted the Pope to rule the U. S.!So the first ambassadors were not Catholic -- that would looked like the first step towards the Pope taking over the country. Gradually people came to see that their fears were unfounded, so now we can have Catholic ambassadors.

Nay. President Truman (whom you've called a "terrorist" at least twice on this blog) did not appoint "the first ambassadors to the Holy See." It would be Reagan who sent the first ambassadors.And all the ambassadors have been Catholic.And the fact that Truman was a Baptist did not help "overcome the fear of the Vatican." Baptists were furious at him for his attempt to appoint an ambassador. "Indeed, most of the mail received expressed vitriol and indignation for the appointment, or as Truman put it, the letters contained "more heat than light."[46] Letters, especially from the American Baptist community, . . ." (An excellent starting point.)See also:

The history of US-Vatican diplomatic relations by former Ambassador Jim Nicholson is very interesting, but what on earth did he intend when he wrote: "The Council was disbanded after the death of John XXIII in 1963"?Also, Roosevelt may well have wanted to see his friend Auxiliary Bishop Bernard Sheil of Chicago named Archbishop of Washington in 1940. But, in fact, the diocese was not vacant. In July 1939 the Holy See had established the new archdiocese of Washington. Successive archbishops of Baltimore had long opposed having Washington removed from their jurisdiction. In order to placate Archbishop Michael Curley of Baltimore when the deed was finally done in 1939, Pius XII named Curley the first Archbishop of Washington while he continued also to be Archbishop of Baltimore, as he had been since 1922. He was still furious.When Curley died in 1947, the anomalous situation was ended. Separate archbishops of Baltimore (Francis Keough) and Washington (Patrick O' Boyle) were named and five counties from Maryland (taken from Baltimore) were added to the District of Columbia to make Washington a viable diocese.

I say: nominate a non-Catholic woman. If the Vatican turns a thumb down, then the response is: this is who we want. Take her or that's our last offer.That would show the Vatican that Obama knows how to adopt Catholic ecclesiastical political tactics.

Interesting about Curley, John. ------Agree, Jim. -------Lots more on the "conflagration."The article by F. W. Green, S. J., (jstor) about the uproar over the nomination of General Mark Clark is good. So is the Oxford one by Marie Gayte. (She mentions how Truman's pastor "publicly disowned" him for his attempt to send an ambassador to the Holy See.)

Gerelyn --You're right. There were no official ambassadors to the Vatican until Regan. But there were personal representatives of the President (ambassadors in effect) well before Reagan, And Truman only tried to appoint an official ambassador but failed, in spite of his being Baptist. At least that's what Wikipedia says.

P. S. I don't remember using the word "terrorist" to describe Truman, but it will do. He should never have dropped those ultimate weapons without warning. Totally indefensible morally.

" about Bart Stupak (retired congressmen from Michigan who saved Obamacare from oblivion)..."========================================Seriously?The man who made Obamacare possible, which in turn made the HHS Mandate possible, which may in turn drive thousands of Catholic social service agencies out of business?Seriously?

I am surprised by this discussion, particularly those who are claiming that the new ambassador has to be Roman Catholic and Republican. Miguel Diaz, a colleague of mine, was a supporter of Obama AND a professor of theology at St. John's University, MN. I can safely say he was both in favor of Obama's presidency and pro-life. I know in today's world of black and white among many Catholics this sounds impossible, but for Latina/o Catholics, we can live with contradictions. Life is more complex. Latina/o Catholics overwhelming supported Obama in this last election and yes, they did struggle with abortion and concerns about religious freedom when polled, but other more pressing issues--human rights issues and family issues--reigned supreme.Who do I think should be the next ambassador? I think it should be another Catholic theologian lay-woman. How about Elizabeth Johnson? Just kidding, since we already know what the Vatican thinks. I was about to say Peter Phan, but he too was under investigation... Actually, we might not find a theologian who fits that bill since so many have been under investigation...Okay, how about Gary Macy, University of Santa Clara since he is a church historian.

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