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."
On November 23, America Magazine published a blog entry from Michael Sean Winters describing Professor Douglas Kmiec, the former Republican pro-lifer who became Obama’s top Catholic apologist during the presidential campaign, as "the perfect candidate" to become U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
In his piece, Winters argues that Kmiec is the perfect candidate because "He is a lifelong pro-life legal scholar who served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Departments of both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was Dean of the Catholic University Law School and now teaches law at Pepperdine. His published works evidence a find (sic) legal mind and thorough familiarity with the natural law tradition that has been the dominant lens for Catholic social thought. Kmiec would be well known to prominent American churchmen in the Eternal City and a jewel in the crown of the intellectual milieu that surrounds the Holy See."
Winters also argues that "Kmiec’s pro-life credentials, despite some carping from the far right political fringe, are impeccable. Indeed, given that the American bishops have chosen opposition to FOCA as their greeting to the new president, Kmiec gives the bishops some satisfaction since he testified against the measure at its inception in the 1980s."
CNA presented Winters' arguments to an official of the Secretary of State, who offered his reaction on a strict condition of anonymity. His answer at Kmiec’s chances of becoming an Ambassador: "It will never happen."
The official noted that 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."
The official also explained that the Vatican is "obviously interested in having a good relationship with the greatest power in the world," but such relationships usually flow "through different parallel channels and not only the Embassy."
"Despite the importance of a good relationship with the U.S.," the official explained to CNA, "the Secretary of State privileges the relationship with nations with which it has concordats," that is to say, international agreements that provide some recognition and support to the public presence of the Catholic Church, such as state support for religious education.
"If the office [the Vatican's Secretary of State] withholds the 'placet' –the official acceptance—from the appointees from Argentina and France, it could easily do the same [to Kmiec]" because "[we] would not risk alienating many U.S. Catholic organizations."
The Secretary of State official was referring to the recent Vatican decisions to deny the ‘placet’ to a French Ambassador to the Vatican because he was openly homosexual and to an Argentinean because he was divorced and remarried.
"Of course Mr. Kmiec is in neither of those situations, but for the Secretary of State it is far more important to maintain a good relationship with, say, Mr. Anderson (the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus,) who is an active member of several Vatican dicasteries, than to please Mr. Kmiec and his friends in the new administration."
"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.
Finally, regarding Winters’ claim that "Kmiec could do for the Democratic administration what (Mary Ann) Glendon has done for its predecessor," the official told CNA: "to be charitable, I will just say that I seriously doubt it."