In a November 23, blog entry for the Jesuit’s America Magazine, Michael Sean Winters argued that law professor Douglas Kmiec would be the “perfect person” to represent the Obama Administration as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.
The Holy See is unconvinced. Furthermore, it is not even amused by the suggestion. According to the Catholic News Agency:
An official from the Vatican’s Secretary of State department has reacted to the recent suggestion that Pepperdine professor Douglas Kmiec should become the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican by saying, “it will never happen.”
Prof. Kmiec is a former pro-life Republican who endorsed pro-choice Barack Obama in the 2008 election. And for that, said the Vatican official, who insisted upon strict anonymity:
…prominent American Catholics at the Vatican – such as Cardinal James Francis Stafford or Archbishop Raymond Burke – look at Kmiec as a “traitor,” and “their opinion will certainly count heavily.”
But most importantly, the official said, is that the Holy See will not risk alienating vital U.S. Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus or the American branch of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, “whose role in the life of the universal Church is decisive, and who have already expressed publicly their disappointment with Kmiec’s role in the recent elections.”
Winters should not be surprised by the reaction from Rome. No sooner had Obama made the announcement that Joe Biden would be his running mate that Brian Burch, the head of Fidelis, a Catholic advocacy organization, went on the record:
“Barack Obama has re-opened a wound among American Catholics by picking a pro-abortion Catholic politician. The American bishops have made clear that Catholic political leaders must defend the dignity of every human person, including the unborn. Sadly, Joe Biden’s tenure in the United States Senate has been marked by steadfast support for legal abortion.”
Indeed, American bishops began immediately denouncing Biden as well as any politicians “who describe themselves as Catholic” and who refuse to “act accordingly,” and the number of the bishops’ voices would grow to no fewer than fifty-five.
The criticism didn’t only come from bishops in the U.S. From Rome on October 1 came the stern words of Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican’s Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, attacking the Democratic Party in general as “a party of death” and more specifically, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi for misrepresenting Church teaching on abortion. The Archbishop said that the two:
“…while presenting themselves as good Catholics, have presented Church doctrine on abortion in a false and tendentious way.”
With such denunciations having the weight of the Holy See behind them, did Summers actually believe that there was any chance that Rome would consider Kmiec an acceptable ambassador?
The official who talked to CNA also had harsh words for the shot Winters took at conservative American Catholics:
“Those who the article refers so disrespectfully as ‘extremists on the right,’ or ‘the far right political fringe,’ are the serious, loyal Catholics [the Vatican] precisely takes into account, because they are the ones who are there when the Church needs them,” the official also explained.
Obama may find that in the interest of maintaining good relations with Rome, it is probably best to leave the current U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon, at her post. She was only appointed in February of this year, and the president-elect is already starting, in the eyes of the Vatican, from below ground level in the graveyard. If he is half as bright as his supporters say he is, Obama will call a halt to the digging.