Mr. Obama’s predicament: an ambassador

From The Washington Times

Embassy Row

by James Morrison Tuesday, April 7, 2009


The Vatican has quietly rejected at least three of President Obama’s candidates to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See because they support abortion, and the White House might be running out of time to find an acceptable envoy before Mr. Obama travels to Rome in July, when he hopes to meet Pope Benedict XVI. 

Italian journalist Massimo Franco, who broke the story about the White House attempts to find a suitable ambassador to the Vatican, said papal advisers told Mr. Obama’s aides privately that the candidates failed to meet the Vatican’s most basic qualification on the abortion issue[D’ya s’pose they’ll ever figure out that the Catholic Church isn’t going to change her teaching on abortion?  What on earth are they thinking?]

"The informal dismissal of the first names whispered in the Obama inner circle is a signal," Mr. Franco, a columnist with Corriere della Sera (Evening Courier), told Embassy Row in e-mail.

He said the Vatican recognized that a foreign nation is free to appoint the ambassador of its choice but that the pope is free to reject a proposed envoy if he believes the candidate would "fail to improve relations" with the Catholic city-state.  [It appears that the Holy See doesn’t think that the role of the US ambassador is merely to promote the President’s personal interests.]

Mr. Franco, who has close connections at the Vatican, added that the rejection of the Obama candidates "would suggest that, at least so far, none of the potential Democratic diplomats were considered fit to ‘improve relations’ with the Holy See."  [Oddly, Democrat Presidents have been able to get ambassadors accepted before.  Hmmm…]

Neither the Vatican Embassy in Washington nor the White House would comment Monday on the appointment of a new U.S. ambassador.

Mr. Franco – whose new book, "Parallel Empires: The Vatican and the U.S.," explores U.S.-Vatican relations over the past 200 years – said Mr. Obama’s predicament underscores a deeper problem the Vatican has with the Democratic Party and its pro-choice positions on abortion.

He also noted that the lack of a U.S. ambassador "could become embarrassing" for the White House, if the position remains unfilled when Mr. Obama attends a summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Italy in July. The White House is trying to arrange a time before or after the summit for Mr. Obama to meet the pope.

Since the United States established formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1984, the ambassadorial position has been held by political supporters and pro-life Catholics under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

President Reagan appointed political supporters William Wilson and Frank Shakespeare. President George H.W. Bush named Thomas Patrick Melady, a university professor. President Clinton selected former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn and Rep. Corinne Claiborne "Lindy" Boggs, Louisiana Democrat.

President George W. Bush named three ambassadors during his two terms: James Nicholson, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee; Francis Rooney, a top campaign fundraiser; and Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University law professor.


From a reader:

The former editor of Italy’s La Stampa has reported that Sen. John Kerry made a push for the Obama administration to appoint Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to the Holy See[If that is true… that pro-abortion Sen. Kerry proposed a pro-abortion Kennedy…  The mind reels.]

Elizabeth Ela

Caroline Kennedy, Vatican Ambassador?

A longtime John Kerry supporter is about to land the prized position of U.S. ambassador to Italy, and Caroline Kennedy may join him nearby as ambassador to the Vatican, an Italian news magazine has claimed.

In an April 2 article in Panorama, [that bastion of Italian journalistic excellence]  journalist Carlo Rossella predicted that 60-year-old David Thorne, a donor to the Obama campaign and brother-in-law of former presidential candidate John Kerry, will be given the post, per the request of Kerry himself.

And in a report that will drop like a bombshell among Vatican watchers, Rosella also asserted that Caroline Kennedy – her own hopes to rise to the U.S. Senate dashed for now – has been suggested as the Obama administration’s ambassador to the Holy See.

It’s an ironic tangle of State Department, campaign and even marriage connections [you laugh so that you do not weep] that only adds fuel to speculation over who will represent the United States in two of the State Department’s most high-profile posts.

Thorne, a founder of Adviser Investments, is a longtime close friend of Kerry, having attended college and served in the Vietnam War [Remember: Sen. Kerry was in Vietnam!] with the now-Massachusetts senator. Even after Kerry divorced Thorne’s sister in 1988, the two men remained close.

Describing him as “elegant,” and “very sociable,” Rosella wrote that, like Kerry, Thorne “has always loved ‘beautiful people,’ the ‘bella vita’, European taste.”  [perfect qualifications, allora!]

After being passed over in favor of Sen. Hillary Clinton for the position of Secretary of State, Rosella wrote, Kerry asked two favors of President Obama: first, to name Thorne as the State Department’s ambassador in Rome.

Second, Kerry asked that Kennedy – herself aspiring to Clinton’s vacated Senate seat – be made the administration’s Vatican ambassador.

After a short and heavily-criticized attempt to win the appointment to the Senate, Kennedy withdrew her name “for personal reasons” from New York Governor David Patterson’s consideration.

At the time, Kerry said while he was sorry she withdrew, he supported her decision and had been in contact with her.

“I think she really was put in a very difficult position, almost impossible one,” Kerry said, “but she’ll go on to do terrific things.”

Of course, whether Kerry was alluding to a State Department post at Vatican City is up for speculation, and Rosella did not offer further details.

Still, the prospect of Kennedy representing the United States to the Holy See promises to raise more than a few eyebrows and makes for an interesting contrast to another recent article on the Vatican ambassador position.

Reflecting the potential media frenzy – especially in Catholic sources [D’ya think?] – over whom President Obama will eventually appoint to the post, Newsmax correspondent Edward Pentin reported April 2 that the administration has actually put forward three potential candidates – all of which were rejected by the Vatican due to their pro-abortion backgrounds[And so… Caroline Kennedy is the perfect choice, right?]

Early on in her bid to win the New York senate seat, Kennedy assured abortion advocates that she would be a strongly pro-choice figure.

In his report, Rossella — the former editor of Italian newspaper La Stampa – was not shy in adding his own, favorable opinion of the Thorne-Kennedy dynamic in Rome.

“If Thorne makes it, it would be a great occasion for the politic, diplomatic, artistic circles of Rome,” Rossella wrote, outright labeling such an ideal as the return of glamorous diplomacy.

“The pairing with Caroline Kennedy,” he added, “would be the icing on the cake which has already been well decorated.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Obama doesn’t get it. You can’t be both Catholic and pro-choice.

  2. TJM says:

    Oh, you mean little fake Catholic Dougy Kmiec isn’t going to be ambassador? Tom

  3. Tom,

    I was thinking the exact same thing…

    I wonder if he will be selected…

  4. irishgirl says:

    Why not just keep the present ambassador, Mary Ann Glendon?

    If that’s not possible…there’s got to be some pro-life Catholic out there…unless Obama’s cabal chased them out!


  5. Charivari Rob says:

    I wonder if it is ‘merely’ a question of a pro-abortion administration proposing a pro-abortion ambassador (really not that surprising, even if the Clinton administration didn’t) to a pro-life nation-state, or…

    is the Vatican gently saying You’re not going drag us down into the semantic, relativistic, lip-service morass of “The US and the Holy See share many common goals across a broad spectrum of quality-of-life issues, etc…” We’re not gonna be your photo-op.

  6. RJSciurus says:

    “Reverend Ambassador Z” has a catchy ring to it. They’re big on “cachy.” How are you with teleprompters?

  7. Father Totton says:

    Does anybody know who the three rejected candidates are? I would bet Doug Kmiec is one, but the other two?

    FWIW, Laura Ingraham was just speaking about Obama’s recent appointment to the office for “Faith-based initiatives” apparently, he is a virulent anti-Catholic gay rights advocate… yada yada!

    Big surprise there.

  8. TNCath says:

    I wonder what would happen if he never found one acceptable to the Vatican?

  9. cel says:

    I was wondering why Obama would try to shoehorn a pro-abort into that position. Was it some kind of power play? Even for this administration it makes no political sense. Appointing a pro-lifer to this post would not be taken, even by planned parenthood and the rest, as him stepping away from supporting them. It is politically safe for him and it might even help to create some confusion and smoke. It would give the “Pro-Abort Catholics” the ammunition they need to say “See? He isn’t all bad.” So why keep trying to appoint a pro-abort?

    I had an idea that I, at first, thought was silly but now I am not so sure. Perhaps Obama is genuinely having a problem finding a actual pro-lifer who would be willing to work for him.

    Seems unlikely but the only other explanation I can think of is that he is genuinely stupid which is also fairly unlikely.

  10. Henry Edwards says:

    I wonder what would happen if he never found one acceptable to the Vatican?

    Let’s hope it means no photo op with the Pope when Obama travels to Rome for the July G-8 meeting.

  11. RJSciurus: It is necessary to use a teleprompter if you take a check from the Obama administration?

  12. cel says:

    I suppose, another possible explaination that is more likely is pride, that it really is an attempt at a power play. Pride and a general anti-catholic attitude. Pride has a way of making us do what otherwise might be interpreted at simply foolish. How many powerful regimes though history have been laid low because of pride.

    Just speculating. I am not trying to accuse the President of anything. Just trying to figure out why.

  13. Ricky Vines says:

    It is comforting that the Vatican is being more sensitive to
    the implications and consequences of all its decisions in
    dealings with a pro-abortion administration just as it is
    encouraging to have 24 bishops from the USCCB decry the invitation
    of the POTUS to ND. I hope the bishops of Washington D.C. & Arlington
    take the cue and follow suit on these outward manifestations
    that corroborate the Church’s witness on the sanctity of life.

  14. Perhaps he could simply appoint his teleprompter as ambassador? That is essentially the idea, is it not?

  15. Amy P. says:

    FWIW, Laura Ingraham was just speaking about Obama’s recent appointment to the office for “Faith-based initiatives” apparently, he is a virulent anti-Catholic gay rights advocate… yada yada!

    Here’s the story:

    Typical blather. Rome will not cave on this.

  16. Noel says:

    UGH!- is all I can think of.

  17. Jerry says:

    (Remember: Sen. Kerry was in Vietnam!]

    and he also reminded us he was an altar server, thereby validating his stellar Catholic credentials.

  18. His Teleprompter as Vatican Ambassador! Excellent!

    If I were a cartoonist…. what fun!

  19. LCB says:

    Every night when I watch the evening news I think the same thing, “This guy is in way over his head.”

    As for finding an Ambassador, King Barry is in a tough position. No serious pro-lifers support him. And if a person supports him, they demonstrate that they are not serious pro-lifers. Kind of a catch 22.

  20. rachel says:

    Is there ANY pro-life democrats left??????? Apparently not.

  21. EDG says:

    I’m impressed that the Vatican seems to be holding firm on this. Previous Democrat presidents have had ambassadors to the Vatican, of course, but the Democrat Party was not so uniformly and violently pro-abortion once upon a time, so it was probably possible to find an acceptable candidate.

    The idea of Carolyn Kennedy is just ludicrous. I just read that Bp Lori cancelled his attendance at a dinner sponsored by a Catholic college or institution in his diocese because Carolyn Kennedy was going to be honored at it, so I can’t imagine this is anything more than wishful thinking on the part of the writer of the article.

  22. Aaron says:

    “D’ya s’pose they’ll ever figure out that the Catholic Church isn’t going to change her teaching on abortion?” — Fr. Z

    Not as long as many American bishops, prominent Catholic politicians, and the pro-abortion-voting 50% of Catholics keep giving them the impression that the Church WILL change her teaching. From Obama’s perspective, it probably looks like the body of the Church HAS changed its position on abortion, and the old-fashioned Vatican just hasn’t caught up yet.

  23. Amy P. says:

    Is there ANY pro-life democrats left?

    They’re out there. But the leaders of the party are keeping score and don’t want them around, sadly.

  24. TJM says:

    And Senator Kerry also spoke admiringly of “Pope Pius XXIII.” At that moment, I knew he was an uber fake Catholic. Tom

  25. LCB says:

    Aaron is right.

    From an outsider’s perspective the logic is pretty simple.

    If those silly Catholics REALLY believed that life begins at conception, then they would do something about it. But the Bishops don’t do much, and half of them even voted for Obama. Therefore the Bishops, and Catholics, don’t REALLY believe that life begins at conception.

    Who can fault Obama for his view? From an outsider’s perspective the logic is pretty simple.

  26. Aspen says:

    \”He said the Vatican recognized that a foreign nation is free to appoint the ambassador of its choice but that the pope is free to reject a proposed envoy if he believes the candidate would \”fail to improve relations\” with the Catholic city-state.\”

    Ambassadors to the pope are accredited to the Holy See, not to the Vatican city-state; if the Holy See were to lose possession of the Vatican as a city-state, nonetheless the diplomatic core would remain.

  27. LCB says:

    If it became legal to kill 5 year-olds, and the Bishops only paid lip service to the matter when they forced to (while also reminding everyone that the murder of 5 year-olds is just one among many issues, all of which are equal, like saving the endangered sea-slug) while proceeding to keep voting for candidates and parties that are 100% supportive of killing 5 year-olds…

    Well, a rational person would conclude that the Bishops don’t really believe that 5 year-olds are people OR, the Bishops believe that murder of certain people is acceptable when it benefits society.

    And an outsider could easily conclude that the Church doesn’t really believe that 5 year-olds are people. After all, if the Church did, wouldn’t she fight it tirelessly with all her resources? And why would Rome appoint anyone who wasn’t 100% dedicated to ending genocide?

    For an outsider, only one conclusion explains all the known evidence: The Bishops do not believe, and those appointing the Bishops (Rome) also do not believe.

  28. PMcGrath says:

    From a public relations point of view, Obama appearing at the Vatican and Obama being honored by Notre Dame are equivalent. The value being expressed: “The Catholic Church gives its blessing to Obama and his policies.”

    (I realize there are differences on the deeper level, but I’m just dealing with the superficial level at this point.)

    The precedent was Pelosi’s visit to the Vatican earlier this year. Someone with some brains in the Secretariat of State made sure that no pictures of the event exist, and made sure that a forceful statement was issued by the Vatican, a statement not contradicted by opposing images.

    This same person realized that the same game plan could not be run on a Head of State level. The President comes to the Apostolic Palace, ya gotta take some pictures. Pictures of the Pope and Obama taken together are the functional equivalent of the Vatican giving its blessing to Obama’s anti-life policies.

    However, if the lack of an ambassador to the Holy See means that there won’t be an Obama visit to the Apostolic Palace, and consequently no such pictures, we can work with that.

    This must mean that somebody very smart at the Relations with States section of “Stato” is hanging very tough on this issue. Everybody here on WDTPRS needs to pray for that Curial official to keep hanging tough. All he has to do is hold out until after the visit and the loss of the photo-op, and he’s earned his pay for the year.

    My prediction: The Obama side will fold, and appoint a career Foreign Service Officer (FSO) to the slot after the visit.

  29. cel says:

    “Perhaps he could simply appoint his teleprompter as ambassador? That is essentially the idea, is it not?”

    It would never work… Obama needs his teleprompter in Washington with him!

  30. Obama, with his 100% pro-death voting record, would never appoint an “anti-abortion” person for any major post. Rome will have no choice but to say no until there is a more pro-life president.

  31. Gerard says:

    Just a little nitpick, but aren’t the diplomatic relations with the Holy See, and not Vatican City?

  32. Garrett says:

    Viva il Papa!

    But to be fair, I think they’re “Democratic,” not “Democrat.”

  33. Mike B. says:

    I am just amazed that even the pride-filled Obama would try to place a pro-abortion figure in this post. Of course, he might be revealing his hatred of The Church by doing so. I, like many others here, pray that the Vatican holds firm and does not accept a pro-abortion ambassador. One more thing: Carolyn Kennedy? Give me a break. I’m hoping all members of that clan will simply disappear.


  34. W. says:

    Perhaps once the academic year is over, Kmiec will be appointed???

  35. jarhead462 says:

    TPOUS (Teleprompter of the United States) could not do it, because it is too busy telling teh President what to say.

    As for a Kennedy, Bahahahahahahahahaha!

    Semper Fi!

  36. jarhead462 says:

    Sorry, that should be “the” President

    Proofread then post.
    Semper Fi!

  37. Richard A says:

    Well, while the “policies that reduce the need for abortion” hand keeps waving, the “end restrictions on abortion” hand keeps doing the work and appointing the people. But in this case, even if Obama found an American acceptable to the Holy See, would that American find representing this administration acceptable?

  38. Aaron says:

    “So why keep trying to appoint a pro-abort?” — cel

    By the same logic, why do they insist on supporting partial birth abortion, against the wishes of 80-90% of the voters? Why did Obama extend abortion rights and spending as far as he could by Executive Order as soon as he took office, acting more quickly then he did on Iraq, Guantanamo, or the economy (the issues that got him elected)?

    The reason is inescapable: the Democratic Party, and certainly the Obama administration, cares more about abortion than ANY other issue. On other issues, they’ll allow at least a little debate, a little dissension, a little compromise. But not abortion. They support abortion absolutely in every possible way, no matter the cost.

    WHY they do so is another question, and harder. It’s revealing, though, that abortion seems to be the cornerstone of their belief system.

  39. David Osterloh says:

    “The pairing with Caroline Kennedy,” he added, “would be the icing on the cake which has already been well decorated.”

    cake well iced with s—, Oh well, off to confession again :(

  40. meg says:

    This would be Machiavellian: present several clearly unworthy prospects – causing the Vatican to reject three or more in a row – in order to wear them down. Then present Kmiec as the only good candidate both sides could remotely agree upon. Wouldn’t put it past them.

  41. Tim Ferguson says:

    Isn’t Pope Pius XIII Pulvermacher an American citizen? Or how about Pope Michael I? Couldn’t one of them be appointed as ambassador tot he Holy See?

  42. Rancher says:

    Maybe one of the reasons Obama doesn’t get it is becuase his administration is full of pro-choice folks (Biden, Pelosi et al) who still advertise themselves as Catholic and, thus far, the Church as done little to effectively convey that they are NOT Catholics in good standing. Until the authority of the Church is exercised non-Catholics like Obama will likely not understand that pick and choose Catholicism is unacceptable.

    It may be very hard for BO to find a Catholic from the Democrat party power structure who will be acceptable. He may have to either leave the post vacant, cross party lines to find an acceptable person, or dip down into the ranks of his own party to find a Cathilic in good standing who is pro life.

  43. Chironomo says:

    “Is there ANY pro-life democrats left???????”

    LOL… that’s a good one! Seriously… none that will admit to being so. To be a pro-life Democrat is synonymous with “unelectable Democrat”. It would be like a Republican running in Wyoming in favor of gun-control….

  44. JBB says:

    Rumor has it that an unnamed Obama administration official has a new list of candidates for the position of US ambassador to the Holy See. At the top of the list is an unnamed Catholic Priest Blogger, known for his connections in the Vatican as well as his attachment to a frozen farm in the Northern US. “We need someone who know his way around the internet as well as the cobwebs of the Curia” the unnamed source is reported to have said. “This candidate, referred to oddly as ‘Fr. X” or something like that, is being vetted as we speak. It appears that the only thing holding the appointment back is the type of car to be provided for the ambassoder’s use. “We think an American vehicle, preferably a GM hybrid, or at least a Chrysler-Fiat would send the appropriate message. The Candidate, Fr. W (or something like that) is holding out for some piece of Euro eye candy.” It is unclear if any resolution to this crisis will be coming soon.

  45. LCB says:


    Looks like Fr. Longnecker managed to 1 up Fr. Z on getting an ambassadorial appointment first. [Well… poor Fr. Longenecker needs a win once in a while… no?]

    That’s who you’re referencing, right? ;-)

  46. Aaron says:

    It’s not that pro-life Democrats are unelectable; it’s that the party won’t let them even run for national office. If they did, one might get elected, and then what would they do?

  47. Clinton says:

    I cannot imagine a more thankless and difficult job than having to explain and defend the actions of
    this administration to the Holy See. It would require a truly superhuman talent for spin and rationalization.
    One’s conscience and self-respect would have to be mothballed for the duration. Once that person is
    found — someone with competence but without the disqualifications of a conscience or an obvious pro-
    abortion history — mark my words that viper will go far in the party.

  48. Bill in Texas says:

    AIR, the Democratic Party requires all candidates to sign a pledge that they will completely support the Party’s platform. No sign, no money from the party, and no support (in fact, in the primaries the Party will run a candidate against the non-signee). So it’s going to be tough to find a Democrat who has run for or held office in the last 20 (?) years who hasn’t signed that pledge.

    In fairness, I believe the Republican Party has a similar policy. It’s just that their platform is more in line with our Catholic faith on the matters of abortion and gay marriage.

    The Obama administration’s next move might be to propose someone who is pro-life and also pro-gay marriage. Heads up.

    Also, you have to remember that President Obama is a life-long member of the Church of Christ. I don’t know how that denomination is in the north, but in the South they’re definitely an anti-Catholic group. I have to think that this plays a part in his hardness of heart.

  49. Paladin says:

    irishgirl wrote:

    Why not just keep the present ambassador, Mary Ann Glendon?

    Y’know… I’d not thought of that! There could be some social leverage in having someone point out to President (*shudder*) Obama that, if she’s good enough to share a stage at Notre Dame with him, she’s good enough to keep her current job under his administration…

  50. Patrick says:

    Nat Hentoff, long time and well know liberal, contributor to the “Village Voice” for many years, up until recently, and as well, a noted jazz critic, who also happens to be anti-abortion and anti-death penalty.

    He was getting set to support enthusiastically the Obama candidacy for Pres., but backed off that position based on Mr. O’s abortion stance.

    Still, Hentoff, about Pope Benedict’s age might, represent the best that Obama can come up with, and he might not be so unpalatable to the left, as he might be dismissed as a “crazy old man” re his abortion ideas.

  51. Liam says:

    Um, Ambassador Glendon is no longer ambassador. She resigned, after being less than a year in office. Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of presidents, and resign when administrations change.

  52. It might be helpful if US administrations, both Republican and Democrat, appointed professional diplomats as ambassadors instead of political/financial supporters, even if, occasionally, one of the latter turns out to be good at the job.

    Not one of the US ambassadors to the Vatican has had any training for the job.

  53. Joe says:

    There is something else to pray for. I will pray that the Holy Father does not meet with Obama.

    I don’t want Obama or any of his entourage to set foot in Vatican City. Ever.

  54. rcesq says:

    Although it would be most desirable to have a faithful to the Magisterium practicing Catholic as Ambassador to the Holy See, part of me wants to believe that maybe sending a dissenter would be good for that person’s soul. Pope Benedict can have a powerful influence as Newt Gingrich’s conversion shows, and photo op with the President aside, I have no doubt that the formidable former university professor will take Obama’s shallow measure in two seconds and be able to tell him exactly what’s what, which might be good for all of us.

  55. Joe wrote:

    “There is something else to pray for. I will pray that the Holy Father does not meet with Obama. I don’t want Obama or any of his entourage to set foot in Vatican City. Ever.”

    Remember that underneath the office and the nonsense there is a man with an immortal soul created by God and the object of His infinite love and mercy. Pope Benedict, I’m sure, is conscious of the fact that he is not only meeting with someone who is ideologically on the opposite end of the spectrum regarding many fundamental issues, but also with a baptized Christian in need of repentance and mercy. To refuse to meet with him is to fail to demonstrate the charity demanded by the Gospel.

    Rather, I pray that Obama is deeply moved by the mercy of God to recognize that many Caesars stood where he stands and that they are all now ashes and dust. A sense of history and mortality often leads one to understand the limitations of this life and to think on the Last Things.

  56. Ed the Roman says:

    The President is so taken with himself that he thinks he can bring anybody around to anything. It’s the basis of his plan to improve our foreign relations.

  57. cuaguy says:

    Can I volunteer for the position? I may even be able to have enough pull to get His Holiness on Z Chat!

  58. Martin T. says:

    I don’t want to sound impertinent but does the Holy See make the same requirements of the pro-abort EU, of Isreal?

    How would the Holy See handle an openly Gay, pro-life ambassador?

    Yet again I’m grateful I only have to answer for me and my family but even these sort of decisions from the Holy See informs my own decisions.

  59. irishgirl says:

    Ambassador Glendon resigned? Oh, shoot…another idea down the drain…

    Hey Fr. Z-how about you? Or Fr. Longnecker? Maybe Fr. Ricksteig [Orthometer]?

    I can dream , can’t I?

  60. Steve says:

    Why not Sen Casey? He claims to be prolife, and it would give a real prolifer the chance to win his Senate seat.

  61. Martin T. says:


    Thanks. Now I understand better.

Comments are closed.