In a surprising move, President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday evening that Miguel H. Diaz, Ph.D., a 45 year old lay Liberation theologian born in Havana (Cuba) is his pick to become the United States Ambassador to the Holy See.
An associate professor of theology at St. John's University and the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota, Diaz, a strong Obama supporter and father of four, earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Thomas University in Miami, Fla., and his master’s and doctorate in theology from the University of Notre Dame at Notre Dame, Ind.
He taught previously at Barry University, Miami Shores, Fla.; St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, Boynton Beach, Fla.; University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio; and the University of Notre Dame. He also served as the academic dean at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary and is fluent in Italian, Spanish and French.
Diaz serves on the board of the Catholic Theological Society of America, is past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States, and is a past member of the steering committee of the Karl Rahner Society.
He is also a theological consultant to the Catholic Association of Teachers of Homiletics and was appointed to the task force overseeing the review and revisions of the accrediting standards for the Association of Theological Schools.
Diaz is author of the book "On Being Human: U.S. Hispanic and Rahnerian Perspectives" (Orbis Books, 2001); Co-Editor of "From the Heart of Our People: Explorations in Catholic Systematic Theology" (Orbis Books, 1999;) and author of numerous articles and book chapters inspired in the Latino and Black liberation theology, such as the forthcoming “The Life-Giving Reality of God from Black, Latin-American, and U.S. Hispanic Theological Perspectives,” “Otherness in Black Catholic and Latino/a Catholic Theologies and the Otherness of God,” and “Outside the Survival of Community there is no Salvation,” in Building Bridges, Doing Justice: Constructing a Latino/a Ecumenical Theology (Orbis Press, 2009.)
Diaz is currently working on two future books: "Cuban-American Catholics" (Paulist Press) and “Migrating Across Theological Borders: The Essentials of Theology from U.S. Hispanic Theological Perspectives" (Orbis Books.)
His body of work, which includes some controvesial positions on “inclusivity,” has gained him significant praise from the Catholic left, and his nomination was immediately hailed by pro-Obama Catholics such as “Catholics United” and “Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good,” as well as Prof. Douglas Kmiec.
Diaz's election seems to be the first return that Catholics who have unconditionally supported Obama's policies and appointments have received for their investment in the ticket. Diaz, in fact, is listed as a member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, although he explains his relationship with the pro-Obama group founded by Democratic activist Alexia Kelley as “a response to an invitation to become a theological advisor.”
In a brief statement, Diaz said that “I wish to be a diplomatic bridge between our nation and the Holy See, and if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, I will continue the work of my predecessors and build on 25 years of excellent relations with the Holy See.”
Miguel Diaz served in 2008 on the Obama campaign’s Catholic advisory board. Also in 2008, he donated $1,000 to the Obama Victory Fund.
Although he claims to be a “defender of life in all of it stages,” Diaz was among 26 Catholic leaders and scholars who signed a statement supporting the nomination of staunch pro abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services Secretary.
“The College of Saint Benedict is enormously proud that Miguel has been nominated by President Obama for this important post,” said MaryAnn Baenninger, president of the College of Saint Benedict. “Miguel is a highly-respected theologian and scholar, and an excellent teacher. Most importantly, he has a deep commitment to Catholic social justice and to inclusiveness in the Catholic Church. He truly lives a life of faith. He is the ideal candidate for this post.”He and his wife, Dr. Marian K. Diaz, are the founders of "Companions on a Journey" at the College of Saint Benedict, an organization aimed at promoting the involvement of young Catholics in public life and social justice activities.