Debunking the Vatican-Obama ambassador report

Reports have circulated for the 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 positive 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 Administration is 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, told Catholic 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 actually 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. Not likely.


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Paul Lakeland

posted April 9, 2009 at 4:08 pm

It’s also consistent with the same Vatican that made Nicholas Sarkozy an honorary canon of St. John Lateran and did nothing to prevent Cherie Blair from speaking at the Angelicum. Then there is the Pope who was deeply affronted by the intolerance of his “audience” at La Sapienza University, not to mention evidently hurt by the unwillingness of his fellow-Catholics to put the best possible interpretation on his effort to bring Bishop Williamson back into the fold (on this see the NCR for 4/3). Taken altogether it suggests that there is something to be said for the Roman long view, as opposed to the vitriol-fuelled bandwagon of certain sectors of the American church.

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posted April 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm

US Ambassadors are obliged to represent our interests, not those of the countries they interact with. They should be forceful advocates for our interests and the current administration’s views.
Since Catholics in the US voted for Obama and his views coincide with what we Catholics believe in this country, sending the right ambassador would be a great way to get the Vatican to understand us better.

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posted April 9, 2009 at 10:29 pm

“[T]he Pope who was deeply affronted by the intolerance of his ‘audience’ at La Sapienza University.”
The Pope propagated a lie about Galileo’s work;Benedict is an idiot if he expects scientists to humor him after that. Benedict quoted a Marxist “scholar’s” work claiming that Galileo said that all motion is relative. Any bright third grader who has ever tried to do homework in a moving busw knows that motion is relative to a frame with constant straight-line velocity. When the bus turns pencils start rolling demonstrating that the Pope is a charlatan and a fool

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David Gibson

posted April 10, 2009 at 10:19 am

Frank, thanks for the hare-brained vitriol. A somewhat closer reading of the pope’s comment will show it’s not what you represented. In any case, how is name-calling any different than what you accuse your opponents of?

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Your Name

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm

How about appointing Doug Kmiec pro -life, gov, experince, bi-partisan.. supported Obama in election..

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Your Name

posted April 10, 2009 at 7:11 pm

“For Catholic ambassadors, there is the question of their matrimonial situation. But outside of that, I don’t think there are other criteria”
Does this mean that pro abortion, pro birth control, Sedavacantists, holocaust deniers (gasp) and SSPX’ers (double gasp), although happily married, are acceptable to the Vatican as Ambassadors?

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posted April 11, 2009 at 6:46 am

Should have waited a few days before “debunking”.

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posted April 11, 2009 at 9:40 am

Here’s a quote from Pope Benedict’s 1990 remarks on Galileo:
According to [Ernst] Bloch, the heliocentric system – just like the geocentric – is based upon presuppositions that can’t be empirically demonstrated. Among these, an important role is played by the affirmation of the existence of an absolute space; that’s an opinion that, in any event, has been cancelled by the Theory of Relativity. Bloch writes, in his own words: ‘From the moment that, with the abolition of the presupposition of an empty and immobile space, movement is no longer produced towards something, but there’s only a relative movement of bodies among themselves, and therefore the measurement of that [movement] depends to a great extent on the choice of a body to serve as a point of reference, in this case is it not merely the complexity of calculations that renders the [geocentric] hypothesis impractical? Then as now, one can suppose the earth to be fixed and the sun as mobile.”
Curiously, it was precisely Bloch, with his Romantic Marxism, who was among the first to openly oppose the [Galileo] myth, offering a new interpretation of what happened: The advantage of the heliocentric system over the geocentric, he suggested, does not consist in a greater correspondence to objective truth, but solely in the fact that it offers us greater ease of calculation. To this point, Bloch follows solely a modern conception of natural science. What is surprising, however, is the conclusion he draws: “Once the relativity of movement is taken for granted, an ancient human and Christian system of reference has no right to interference in astronomic calculations and their heliocentric simplification; however, it has the right to remain faithful to its method of preserving the earth in relation to human dignity, and to order the world with regard to what will happen and what has happened in the world.”

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posted April 11, 2009 at 9:59 am

Here’s the text of Ratzinger’s 1990 speech in which he attacks the “myth” of Galileo using the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch’s assertion that [all] motion is relative:
The Pope support’s Bloch’s assumption that Galileo had a choice between heliocentrism and geocentrism is based on the assumption of the relativity of all motion.
The system of epicycles may crudely explain astronomical observations but it does not explain the effects the Earth’s rotation on its axis on the motion of an object on the Earth, an effect that Galileo observed and first comprehended without an experiment. Galieo saw the effect of the earth’s rotation on a pendulum (actually a chandelier with a very long chain); a chandelier which began swinging in a plane back and forth had it’s plane of rotation altered by the Earth’s rotation.
Bloch’s assumption that all motion is relative, a fact that the Pope uses in support of his thesis, is easily contradicted by motions like rigid body rotation and movement along curves. Galilean relativity says that all motion is relative to a frame that moves in a straight line at a constant speed. The surface of the Earth rotates and so undergoes movement which is absolutely discernible. Moreover, no complicated theory or apparatus is required to discern and to measure this motion.
David, your ignorance doesn’t suit your condescension.

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posted April 11, 2009 at 10:05 am

I think it’s absolutely President Obama should appoint only gay and lesbian Jews to the position of ambassador to the Holy See. The United States has it’s standards and should not bow to a foreign power in the enforcement of discrimination.
President Obama would be in good company. Fiorello Laguardia, when faced with Nazi bigotry, only allowed Jews to serve in security details for visiting Nazi officials. Since Pope Benedict has shown a ruthless disregard and even contempt for the lives of lesbians and gays throughout his career, he deserves the same treatment.

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posted April 11, 2009 at 10:13 am

The Pope is Openly Hitler Youth. Why doesn’t that disqualify him? If we suppose all gays are sexually sinful once we know they’re gay [that is Ratzinger’s position], aren’t we entitled to hold Hitler Youth members to the same standard? If Ratzinger really were contrite about working for Hitler, wouldn’t he follow his own assumptions and hide the association?

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