Debunking the Vatican-Obama ambassador report

Reports have circulated forthe past couple of weeks that the Vatican has rejected three would-be ambassadors to the Holy See put forth by the Obama Administration. It apparently started with an April 2 NewsMax report that cited Massimo Franco, author of "Parallel Empires," a recently published book on U.S.-Vatican relations, as the source of the report. [Franco's book looks very interesting and is the subject of a critical but also appreciative review by Gerald Fogarty in a recent issue of America.]Franco, a Corriere della Sera columnist, said, according to NewsMax, that "the Obama administration has put forward three candidates for consideration but each of them have been deemed insufficiently pro-life by the Vatican." The report also states that "One of the few conditions the Vatican places on diplomats accredited to the Holy See is that they hold pro-life views in line with Church teaching" and that "finding an authentically pro-life candidate within the Democratic Party is proving impossible."The report then circulated through the Italian media and back to the U.S. blogosphere; CWNews wrote in this regard that the Vatican "has, in the past, established a policy of declining to accept ambassadors who are Catholic but not in good standing with the Church."This didn't sound quite right to me, for what that's worth.For one thing, the Obama Administrationis kind of busy these days with other matters, and background checks to avoid Geithner-esque embarassments take time. Heck, they can't even get their ambassador to Iraq confirmed, and not to dis the Holy See, but the Middle East is a rather pressing theater of international affairs.Much of this sounded like jumping on the Obama-as-unpopular-with-Catholics bandwagon. And now John Thavis at CNS has a pretty definitive debunking:

"No proposals about the new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See have reached the Vatican, and therefore it is not true that they have been rejected. The rumors circulating about this topic are not reliable," the spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, toldCatholic News Service April 9.The spokesman's comments echoed off-the-record remarks by informed diplomatic and Vatican sources in Rome, who said the reports appeared to be unfounded."It's possible names have been circulated inside the U.S. administration, and perhaps rejected for some reason or other, but not because of any Vatican veto. It's also quite possible that the whole thing is conjecture," said one source.

The Vatican in fact doesn't normally reject ambassadors because they are "bad" Catholics--unless (of course) they are openly gay, or"living in sin." Thavis notes that "the Vatican has objected to ambassadorial candidates -- from Argentina, in the case of a divorced Catholic with a live-in partner, and from France, where the candidate was an openly gay Catholic in a union with another man." Said a Vatican source to CNS: "For Catholic ambassadors, there is the question of their matrimonial situation. But outside of that, I don't think there are other criteria."

It's not like speaking at Catholic university, after all. Thavis does note that Caroline Kennedy's name has been circulating as a rumored favorite. Intriguing, not surprising, but not exactly credible, I'd say.Unless they are getting political advice from NY Gov. David Paterson.

In short, itstill looks like it will come down to Jimmy Mac, Bob Nunz or Nancy Danielson. May the best diplomat win...

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads