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Meditation 757
Envoys to the Vatican

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It was widely reported this week that the Vatican had rejected three potential nominees as US envoy to the Vatican. The reason for the rejection of the three individuals was that each of them, all Catholics, had publicly opposed Church dogma; including supporting stem cell research, support for a woman's right to abortion, and stating that Catholics could disobey their bishops' directions to vote only for anti-abortion candidates in elections.

The Vatican has responded with a statement that it has not formally rejected anyone, because no candidate has been officially proposed. I agree that is probably a true statement, but one deliberately intended to mislead. It is standard diplomatic practice to suggest candidates informally first so as to avoid the problem of official rejection.

Why should the Vatican insist that an envoy from the United States toe the official Vatican line? Obviously, envoys from the Vatican to the United States can reasonably be expected to be totally subservient to Catholic dogma. But why should the Vatican expect that should apply in the other direction? Why should it even expect that an envoy sent to it should even be a Catholic, lapsed or not?

What is an envoy? According to the Encarta Dictionary, an envoy is an official representative; someone acting on behalf of a national government. An envoy sent by the United States (or any other country) to the Vatican is there to act on behalf of the government that sent him or her. Personal views are irrelevant.

In any event the rejection of Catholic dogma by a Catholic is not an issue of international diplomacy. This is a religious issue which the Catholic Church has procedures to handle. But the Vatican, to the extent it pretends to be a country, in approving an envoy sent by another country should only be concerned with the ability of the individual to act as a diplomat.

Several European governments, including France, have essentially said screw it, and have chosen not to fill the position. They won't play the Vatican's game of sending only Catholic sycophants. After all, it's not really necessary to send an envoy the the Vatican. "They're not even a real country anyway."

President Obama could well consider doing the same. Advise the Vatican that if they won't accept his nominee, the position will go unfilled. And perhaps tell the Papal Nuncio to pack his bags and go home.