Monday, 19 Aug 2013 03:32 PM
By John Gizzi
During the past year, the Obama administration strongly considered ending diplomatic relations with the Vatican as it pondered whether it should appoint a new envoy to the Holy See, Newsmax has learned.
The recent Obama nomination and Senate confirmation on August 1 of Ken Hackett as the new U.S. Ambassador has ended internal Obama administration debate on the matter.
"I have heard the rumors and I believe them to be true," Jim Nicholson, former U.S Ambassador to the Vatican under President George W. Bush, told Newsmax. "It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Obama White House seriously discussed downgrading U.S. diplomatic relations with the Holy See, given the devalued view they clearly hold this relationship in." Special Report: Obama’s Assault on Religion — Click Here Now
"This administration does not want a strong Catholic Church, nor a strong relationship with it, as it sees the Church as an obstacle to its liberal social agenda," Nicholson said.
The Obama administration has been in conflict with the Roman Catholic Church on a host of issues ranging from Obamacare's contraceptive requirements for Catholic hospitals to the administration's strong stance in favor of abortion rights. After Obama's first ambassador, Miguel Diaz, resigned last year, President Barack Obama had difficulty identifying a nominee who would represent his administration, but at the same time would be acceptable to the Holy See, according to one source familiar with the selection.
Faced with finding such a candidate, the Obama administration considered closing its Vatican offices, and opening offices in the U.S.'s Rome embassy for a smaller office to deal with Catholic matters.
In the end, the Obama administration moved to select Hackett, whose choice has won strong applause from Catholic leaders of all political stripes.
Hackett is the retired president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), one of the Church's largest social welfare organizations supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops. Hackett, a graduate of Boston College, also served in the Peace Corps.
"I think Ken Hackett is an excellent choice," Thomas P. Melady, who was Ambassador to the Holy See under President George H.W. Bush, told Newsmax.
Melady, who is also a past president of Sacred Heart College in Connecticut, noted that prior to assuming the presidency of CRS in 1993, Hackett began his career with the group in Africa and oversaw its operations in East Africa during the Somali crisis in the late 1980s.
"The Holy See needs a good person and they've got one," Francis Rooney, George W. Bush's envoy to the Vatican, told the Catholic Standard, saying Hackett "is tremendously qualified to do the job, given his background with Catholic Relief Services."
Along with what he called "an excellent record" at CRS, Melady said that the nominee "knows the hierarchy at the Vatican well from his years [at CRS] and that is very important."
Since the U.S. extended full diplomatic recognition to the Holy See under President Ronald Reagan, U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican have always been practicing Catholics who accept the teachings of their church — even when they conflict with those of the administration in the White House.
Melady pointed out that the two ambassadors to the Vatican under Democratic President Bill Clinton — former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn and Rep. Lindy Boggs of Louisiana — were both strong abortion opponents and took stands that differed strongly with the stated policy of their party and Clinton himself.
The same was true of Diaz, President Obama's ambassador throughout his first term.
Because more than six months went from the time of Diaz's resignation and the naming of Hackett to succeed him, there were mounting rumors that the administration was having difficulty recruiting someone to represent it at the Holy See.
"As far as I know, while there was talk of many choices to be ambassador, there we