According to Massimo Franco, author of “Parallel Empires,” a recently published book on U.S.-Vatican relations, the Obama administration has put forward three candidates for consideration but each of them have been deemed insufficiently pro-life by the Vatican.
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.
Franco says the administration is now looking for a professional diplomat rather than a political appointee because finding an authentically pro-life candidate within the Democratic Party is proving impossible. The task is further hampered by the administration’s desire to reward individuals who gave donations to Obama’s campaign.
Since the U.S. opened formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican 25 years ago under President Reagan, all ambassadors have been political appointees and pro-life Catholics of varying degrees, even under the Clinton administration.
However, in view of the absence of qualified Catholic candidates, insiders say another option could be for the administration to choose a non-Catholic pro-life candidate rather than a Catholic whose record on pro-life issues is at odds with Church teaching.
“There may be room for such an appointment and it could be a good choice,” said Franco, “but at the moment I can’t imagine it happening.”
The post of U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See has been vacant since Jan. 19, when Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon left the position. Commentators say that unless an appointment is made by mid-April, the Obama administration could face the embarrassing possibility of having no ambassador in place when the president visits Italy in July for the G8 summit. That would make any encounter between Pope Benedict XVI and President Obama not impossible but unlikely.