Tennis with Tyrants

The Case for the Vatican Diplomatic Corps

Monica Mignone, a twenty-four-year-old educational psychologist and an active Catholic, was abducted from her family’s apartment in Buenos Aires on May 14, 1976. I had known her father, Emilio Fermín Mignone, in the mid-1960s, when he worked in Washington at the Organization of American States. In August 1976, I visited with Emilio and his wife, Angélica, in that Buenos Aires apartment, a few months after Monica was “disappeared.” We were about to have lunch when a call came saying that a grave containing thirty bodies had been discovered in Pilar. Apologizing profusely for having to delay lunch, my friends rushed out to see if Monica’s remains might be identified. It was a false hope. Monica has never been found.

During the guerra sucia, the “dirty war” that the Argentine military junta waged against guerrillas and leftist groups from 1976 to ’83, more than ten thousand Argentineans were disappeared. The Catholic Church has been accused of complicity with the military, and the late Cardinal Pio Laghi, who served as apostolic nuncio to Argentina from 1974 to ’80, was criticized harshly. One of those critics was Emilio Mignone. And many, including Mignone, have broadened their criticism to the Vatican diplomatic corps in general. Some have argued that the Vatican should dissolve the nunciature system and discontinue its political outreach. Cardinal Laghi’s story suggests reasons to think otherwise.

Mignone (who died in 1998) was a lifelong devout...

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About the Author

Tom Quigley is a former policy advisor on Latin American, Asian, and Caribbean issues to the U.S. Catholic bishops.