Obama names Vatican ambassador: Miguel H. Diaz

Miguel Diaz.jpgA banner week for Latino Catholics, and Barack Obama. The new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See (replacing Mary Ann Glendon) is a Cuban-born, 45-year-old associate professor of theology at St. John’s College in Collegeville, Minn.

As Fr. Jim Martin at America magazine notes, he’s also a Rahner scholar, which means he and Benedict XVI could have some “lively Rahner-Balthasar discussions.”


“The choice is also refreshing: the nomination is clearly going to a talented and faithful Catholic (like Mary Ann Glendon), rather than a straight political appointee, and it is also going to someone who clearly understands not only the Vatican but also Catholic theology at the highest levels.  Professor Diaz has also taught at a regional seminary, which means he’s been vetted by at least a few bishops.” 

From the St. John’s College announcement:

“Professor Miguel Diaz is a skilled Trinitarian theologian who is passionate both as a teacher and a scholar,” said Abbot John Klassen, OSB, of Saint John’s Abbey. “He is a strong proponent of the necessity of the Church to become deeply and broadly multi-cultural, to recognize and appreciate the role that culture plays in a living faith. Born in Havana, Cuba, he is a leading Hispanic theologian in United States.” 


He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Thomas University in Miami, Fla., and his master’s and doctorate in theology from the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind. He taught previously at Barry University, Miami Shores, Fla.; St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, Boynton Beach, Fla.; University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio; and the University of Notre Dame. He also served as the academic dean at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary and is fluent in Italian, Spanish and French.

“The College of Saint Benedict is enormously proud that Miguel has been nominated by President Obama for this important post,” said MaryAnn Baenninger, president of the College of Saint Benedict. “Miguel is a highly-respected theologian and scholar, and an excellent teacher. Most importantly, he has a deep commitment to Catholic social justice and to inclusiveness in the Catholic Church. He truly lives a life of faith. He is the ideal candidate for this post.”


At NCR, Michael Sean Winters writes:

The immediate takeaway is this. Diaz is a pro-life Democrat so his mere presence at the Vatican will disprove the contention of some conservatives that there is no such thing as a pro-life Catholic [Democrat, I think he means]. If he can articulate the President’s commitment to reducing the abortion rate, those in the Vatican who appear disposed to like the President will have more ammunition when Deal Hudson, George Weigel and Co. attack L’Osservatore Romano for their pro-Obama line.

Diaz was an advisor to Obama and the AP’s Eric Gorski has this:


In an interview with Catholic News Service at Obama’s inauguration, Diaz said he was looking forward “to moving beyond the politics of fear to the politics of hope.” He said Obama was “committed to working” with people who defend “life in the womb” and deeply respects people who hold positions he does not agree with.

“Wherever we can, we should advance life at all stages,” Diaz said.

Reached at his home Wednesday, Diaz read a brief statement expressing gratitude for the opportunity and saying, “I wish to be a diplomatic bridge between our nation and the Holy See, and if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, I will continue the work of my predecessors and build on 25 years of excellent relations with the Holy See.”


He declined to answer questions about his positions on issues, saying it would be inappropriate before his confirmation hearing.

One potential point of conflict is Diaz’s support for the nomination of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic whose abortion rights record angered conservative Catholics. Diaz was among 26 Catholic leaders and scholars who signed a statement hailing Sebelius as “a woman of deep faith” and citing her a record on immigration, education, health care and reducing abortion rates in Kansas.

The question now is whether Diaz can be in place to assist should Obama meet with the Pope during a planned July visit to Italy. I don’t see how the White House could miss that chance, but that’s a fast turnaround for an ambassador.

But a theologian as ambassador to the Holy See–never seen that. Be a tough move to critique.

Comments read comments(9)
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Carl Rossini Jr.

posted May 28, 2009 at 2:17 am

Dr. Diaz, his impressive scholarly vite and position as a theologian in a Catholic college not withstanding, has provided formal support for Obama and Sebelius, the two most prominent leaders of the pro-abortion cause in America. Diaz stands astride a glaringly obvious logical and normative contradiction, at once promoting the careers of aggressive pro-abortion politician and holding a pro-life position. There is no epistemology, whether classical, Thomist, existential that can unite the first principles of these positions. Hope, to put a fine point on it, is not an excuse for abandoning reason.
One is tempted to conclude that Diaz is not at core a Christian, but rather a Cartesian modern, and that he has abandoned both experience as a ground of being and reason as a way to understand it. In the modern cult, the mere symbol of the mind creates reality. So Obama’s words and respectful gestures create the certainty of existence, while his actions of providing the means of killing actual people are just bumps in the road to Utopia.
Dr. Diaz’ work was done at Notre Dame, Obama’s strategy to divide the Church and weaken her protection of life once again employs a son of that Holy Cross campus. It is with burning sorrow that we are forced to admit that its Catholic heritage has been suborned to ends that contradict natural law, the scripture, and the dictates of reason.

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David Gibson

posted May 28, 2009 at 8:12 am

Carl Rossini: “Mit brennender sorge…”?

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posted May 28, 2009 at 8:21 am

But a theologian as ambassador to the Holy See–never seen that. Be a tough move to critique
You’d think. But the pro-life movement and the Catholic right have the ability to find fault in pretty much everything done by Obama.

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Militia Christi

posted May 28, 2009 at 8:48 am

Michael, might I suggest that there is no Catholic right or left. Only orthodox (adhering to Christ’s body the Church) and unorthodox (Protest-ant, Reformers, Heretics, Schismatics, etc.) You shouldn’t mix politics (right & left) with religion. Period. You either follow the truths the Holy Spirit has revealed through those the Spirit has placed in positions of authority to conserve and preserve the truth or you don’t. There is a hiarchy of truths that the Spirit has revealed to us through the Magistarium and amongst that truth, defense of innocent human life’s right to exist is at the top of the pyramid. Social justice which is important, comes next, and must be guided by that first right to life. There are many methods to accomplish social justice. I think using the government to do, what we ourselves should be doing (i.e. feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, administering to the sick and dying, and loving the spiritually poor.) is just plain lazy and selfish. I’d much rather have someone come and serve me in the name of the Lord in my time of need, than recieve a check from the government. Even if that meant I’d still be poor and not have any luxuries. Stuff is useless junk. Service to others is everthing.

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posted May 28, 2009 at 9:00 am

Given the purpose and needs of the position, a professor seems like an excellent choice. This professor seems to be a good choice within that group.
But the pro-life movement and the Catholic right have the ability to find fault in pretty much everything done by Obama.
Much as Mr. Rossini has done here. Of course, it appears that Mr. Rossini is only interested in one thing in the world and nothing else at all matters. No doubt he, too, has dealt with people who are pro-choice and punishes himself regularly for being so worldly.
I think that having an ambassador to the Holy See for the last quarter century is pure American politics. The Vatican isn’t a real country. It exists at the sufferance of Italy and there is no reason for us to have an ambassador there. That was why we did not have an ambassador there until Reagan appointed one. This is all for American Catholic consumption. Our ambassador to Italy is more than adequate to deal with any real problems related to the Vatican, but since we have one, congratulations to Dr. Diaz.

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posted May 28, 2009 at 9:03 am

You shouldn’t mix politics (right & left) with religion.
Isn’t that a speech that the American bishops need to hear? Telling people who to vote for is politics, plain and simple.

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Timothy Gordon

posted May 28, 2009 at 10:34 am

”Telling people who to vote for is politics, plain and simple.” And how the left holds Pius XII in such disregard for not being political enough and not speaking out against elected politicians. Damned if you do damned if you don’t. When its convenient for us and confirms us in our middle class bourgeois values, speak out oh Church, but when its out of season, just shut up and stop being so political/republican/conservative/ideological/Bushy/partisan/anachronistic/annoying. Just be like everyone else and be happy.

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Carl Rossini Jr.

posted May 28, 2009 at 5:25 pm

If I go along with the spirit of the times for the sake of friendship and am condemned to hell for violating my conscience, will you come with me there, for the sake of friendship?

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Your Name

posted May 28, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I think its hilarious that the Taliban Catholics get excited about who is Vatican ambassador.. I hear they wanted William ‘wild bill’ Donahoe but he’s divorced!!

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