John L. Allen Jr., the go-to guy in journalism for insights about the Vatican, has an interesting article in the National Catholic Reporter about the Obama administration’s vexed attempt to name a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican now that the post is vacant. Allen writes:
“Obama's choice for a replacement is being closely watched in Rome, according to one senior Vatican diplomat, because it signals what kind of relationship Obama wants to have during his second term. Filling the slot tends to be a special headache for Democratic presidents because they have to find somebody who can pass muster both with their party and with the Vatican. The custom that it has to be a Catholic complicates things further, because it's not just a candidate's policy positions that might cause problems, but his or her internal standing in the church.”
The choice is complicated by the administration’s fraught relationship with the U.S. Catholic hierarchy, which has accused Obama of waging a war against religious freedom. Conservative Catholics are already carping about some potential candidates, including Nicholas Cafardi, the former dean of the Duquesne University Law School in Pittsburgh and a distinguished canon lawyer.
The Cardinal Newman Society, a right-wing group named after a famously liberal clergyman, noted disapprovingly on its website that Cafardi had “accused some bishops of vexing and oppressing people, electioneering and lobbying, and attempting to take away people’s constitutional rights.” (Cafardi had written an article criticizing an Illinois bishop who had compared the “extreme secularist agenda” of President Obama with the anti-Catholic programs of, among others, Hitler and Stalin. Cafardi called this “electioneering” and pointed out that churches can lose their tax-exempt status by taking sides in elections.)