There are a bunch of reports flying around the internet that Obama wants to appoint Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to the Vatican, and the Vatican is rejecting her because of her stand in favor of abortion.
Vatican sources told Il Giornale that their support for abortion disqualified Ms Kennedy and other Roman Catholics President Barack Obama had been seeking to appoint. UK Telegraph Updated 11 Apr
Or maybe not.
A Vatican spokesman dismissed reports that the Holy See has rejected several candidates for U.S. ambassador to the Vatican because of their support for legal abortion.
"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. Catholic News Servce (CNS) 9 Apr
So what gives?
First, let's be clear that the Vatican - or any other state - has the right to reject a proposed ambassador, or later on to declare the ambassador - or any other diplomat - persona non grata and demand that he or she leave the country. But this is usually for some personal reason; the receiving country somehow finds this person offensive or unsuitable.
But what the Vatican is doing, if the reports are true, is refusing to accept someone whose policies they object to, even though those policies are the ones officially held by the country she represents.
Abortion, even if under siege, is legal in the United States. The new President of the United States campaigned on a platform of continuing legalized abortion, and once in office, acted to remove abortion and family planning restrictions that Bush had put in place.
Now, an ambassador does not act on his or her own, and is not appointed so that he or she can carry out whatever policies and advocate whatever views he or she happens to favor. The job of an ambassador is to represent the President of the United States and to be a forceful advocate for the policies and positions of the President. A pro-choice president is going to expect, and rightly so, that his ambassadors will represent his pro-choice position.
So the Vatican is not going to be able to dictate that only an ambassador who agrees with it will be acceptable. As one wag put it, does this mean that China "can insist that only someone sympathetic to dictatorships be named as the US ambassador there?" Of course not.
Obama won the election, and he gets to pick the people he wants to represent him overseas. That's what winning means. The Vatican knows this; they've been heavy players in the diplomatic world since it was flat.
The Vatican has not been in the habit of vetting the personal beliefs or ideas of candidates before accepting them as ambassadors, [Vatican sources] said. CNS
On top of which, the description of the rejection - Obama floated three names, including Kennedy's, and the Vatican reject them all - in contrary to the way the process actually works. Quoting the Catholic News Service story again, where they asked Thomas Melady, a former (Republican) ambassador to the Holy See:
[N]ames of potential nominees are proffered to governments in utmost secrecy. That secrecy is part of a protocol dating back centuries, which is generally strictly observed, said Melady, now a senior diplomat in residence at the Institute of World Peace in Washington.
The typical response to such proffers is no more than an indication that the person suggested "is agreeable" or that there is "no objection" ....
and that the only time the Vatican has objected is when the ambassador's private life has not been in keeping with Catholic morality. There has been no indication that Obama has changed this protocol for this or any other ambassadorial appointment.
(A contrary report says that the Vatican requires ambassadors to the Holy See to be anti-abortion:
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. Newsmax 2 Apr
but this same story says the Vatican has already rejected three proposed ambassadors, so its veracity is suspect.)
So what we seem to be looking at here is a preemptive campaign by the anti-abortion folks to force Obama to name one of their own to "represent" him in Rome. And to generally stir up Catholics against the Democrats.
The Telegraph reports that Caroline Kennedy has been turned down as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, as a result of her pro-abortion views. ...
In any case, it's a clear message that the Vatican is taking a harder line with pro-abortion "Catholic" politicians like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. It remains to be seen if this will gain significant traction with the Catholic electorate by 2010/2012. Conservatives for Palin 11 Apr
Reaction to Caroline Kennedy’s potential appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican continued to sour yesterday as one conservative Catholic group called the possible nomination "a calculated insult to the Holy See." ...
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Raymond L. Flynn told the Herald on Wednesday the strong pro-choice stance taken by JFK’s daughter is "problematic," and giving her the Vatican appointment would be "a mistake." Boston Herald 12 Apr
"The chatter on the streets this week is that at least three nominees have been shot down by the Vatican," [Bill] Donohue [President and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights] said. "I mean, the Obama administration is smart enough at least not to say we’ve chosen Caroline Kennedy, and then just let the boys in the Vatican find out by reading the New York Times. They’re vetting a few. The reports are that three have been shot down already. One would expect that the reason for it is that [the Vatican] wants someone who is pro-life. I would bet my last dollar that the Vatican would take a pro-life Protestant or Jew before they’d take a pro-abortion Catholic. After all, being an ambassador to the Vatican doesn’t mean you must be Catholic: it means that you must be someone who is not anathema to their way of thinking. If they can’t find another Ray Flynn, that says something about the Democratic Party." ... Human Events (HQ of the Conservative Undergound) 10 Apr
Donahue also said that Obama's pro-choice position reflected a general disdain for Catholics and Catholic values:
Anyone who would take the Catholic vote with such a cavalier attitude, it’s bound to come back and haunt them."
Obama has ticked off conservative Catholics by appointing Kathleen Sibelius to be HHS secretary (and conservatives are even more ticked off that the two Kansas senators, especially Brownback, who is Catholic, are not opposing her). And then there is the whole Notre Dame business:
The Notre Dame administration knew it was entering a political minefield. But the intensity of the reaction in the week since Obama accepted demonstrates the depths to which Catholics are divided about how Catholic individuals and institutions should engage politics in a pluralistic society.
Adding to the rancor, the Obama invite comes after an election that frustrated the Catholic right and featured prominent Catholic voices making a case for Obama. Early moves by the Obama White House — such as lifting restrictions on overseas family planning groups that perform abortions and on stem cell research that destroys embryos — have prompted some U.S. bishops to challenge the new administration. AP via Google 28 Mar
The bishop of Ft. Wayne, Notre Dame's diocese, is boycotting the commencement, but Notre Dame has shown no signs of backing down.
Also noted is a dKos diary from earlier today: Declining CAtholic Support for Obama:
In the 2008 election, Barack Obama carried 54% of Catholic votes. Now his support is down 14 points among Roman Catholics, according to data cited by conservative writer David Gerson.
We are, I suggest, looking at a complex act in play. Conservative Catholics, having failed to get Sibelius blocked, even by a conservative Catholic senator, having failed to get Notre Dame to rescind its invitation to Obama, having totally failed to get anywhere with the Obama administration, have now created a false report that Obama tried to appoint a pro-choice Catholic as ambassador to the Vatican in order to (1) further rile conservative Catholics to oppose Obama, and (2) to get the Vatican to take a more active role in opposing Obama within the United States.
So far, the Vatican, however unhappy it is with Obama, is not cooperating. Nor does the White House look to be taking the bait, either.
The White House refused to comment. UK Telegraph