Friday, 2 October 2009

Times: More at home here than at the Vatican [Prof. Kmiec - New Ambassador to the USA]

Thursday, 1st October 2009 by Rev. Philip Joseph Gambin, Msida

When US President Barack Obama was casting around for an ambassador to send to the Vatican, the name of Douglas Kmiec came up. So did the names of a couple of other American Catholics, including Caroline Kennedy. But none got the job. Why? Because Rome wouldn't have them.
Italian journalist Massimo Franco reported that papal advisers told Mr Obama's aides privately that all three failed to meet the Vatican's most basic qualification on the abortion issue. The eventual appointee to the Holy See was Miguel Diaz, a Catholic theologian from Minnesota.

Malta got Prof. Kmiec.

So why didn't he get the No. 1 job in Rome?

Ms Kennedy is pro-abortion, so that was clear enough.

An official of the Vatican Secretariat of State said the Holy See had always set a very simple standard: the person should not be in opposition to the fundamental teachings of the Church "that belong to our common shared humanity".

The official added: "We could not accept someone who is in favour of abortion, or (human) cloning or same-sex unions equated to marriage. He (Kmiec) nailed the last nail in the coffin with his disappointing position on embryonic stem cell research".

Now, who is Prof. Kmiec? He is an American legal scholar and author, currently professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University after previous appointments at Notre Dame University and the Catholic University of America.

A former adviser to Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, he caused a stir last year when he endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for President in spite of Mr Obama's strongly pro-abortion position. As a result, he was denied Communion at a Mass in California by a priest who was later told by Cardinal Roger Mahony to apologise.

So what is Prof. Kmiec?

Well, he said he supported Mr Obama because of the need to find "common ground" on such topics as abortion and supported Mr Obama's controversial appearance at Notre Dame University's commencement ceremony in May. He has described Mr Obama as "sounding more Catholic than most Catholics I know".

At a Church forum, Prof. Kmiec last year said the question of when a baby acquires human rights was "above his pay grade", in other words, a question he couldn't answer.

More recently, in May this year, Prof. Kmiec proposed that legal marriage should be abolished so as to "accommodate" the homosexual movement. This directly contradicts Catholic teaching. In 2005, before becoming Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger denounced any such proposal as "gravely unjust".

Prof. Kmiec is one of an unusual number of Catholics with whom President Obama has surrounded himself; all of whom could be described as "liberal" Catholics and holding similar positions on key issues as Prof. Kmiec.

In the United States, this has sharpened the divide between Catholics who hold faithfully to the teaching of the Church and those who can manage to say openly that they support such matters as abortion, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research and the like and still proclaim themselves Catholics.

The recent public funeral for Teddy Kennedy highlighted this division. It also brought to light how, in 1964, a group of dissenting Catholic theologians persuaded Senator Kennedy that a Catholic politician could say: "I personally oppose abortion, but..."

It was this manipulation of this deep-seated divide in the American Catholic community that enabled Mr Obama to win a majority of the Catholic vote and the Presidency. One of the instruments of this manipulation has been Prof. Kmiec.

In view of the emerging divide among Catholics - and even the hierarchy - in Malta over the issue of legalised divorce, perhaps Ambassador Kmiec may find himself more at home in Valletta than he would have in the Vatican.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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