One of the clever things about the Catholic church has been it's ablity to maintain its status as a political force and a tiny state, and have some effect as a kind of diplomatic go-between and agenda setter.Think of the Vatican as the internationl equivalent of D.C. "Congresswoman" Eleanor Holmes Norton, say. The U.S. has an ambassador there, always a Roman Catholic, which as an aside seems to present a conflict of interests, and now people are musing about who Obama will appoint to the position.

Doug Kmiec, the Catholic conservative who supported Obama and made various pro-life arguments in favor of him during the campaign, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the role. I imagine Kmiec would be a fine Ambassador, though we have no idea if he'd be picked for the slot or if he is really interested in moving to Italy -- excuse me, the Vatican State -- for a few years. But conservative Catholics believe this would be an insult to the Pope, since though Kmiec is pro-life, he supports pro-choice Obama because he believes the president-elect will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and thus abortions through progressive social policies.

Well, this is a ridiculous idea. Henry Farrell explains why. I would add two notes: One, what these critics really want is for Obama to appoint someone who didn't support him, which is highly unlikely. Second, we are way behind the French on insulting the Vatican; President Sarkozy, with what I'm going to refer to as typical Gallic brio, recently tried to appoint first a divorced man and then an openly gay man to the post, both of whom were rejected by the Papal See. Dear Catholic conservatives, considering that you see Obama as a gateway to hell, you should be so lucky to have Kmiec appointed as Vatican ambassador, considering what someone who really wants to insult the Church could do.

-- Tim Fernholz

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