Insulting the Vatican

by Henry on December 1, 2008

I’ve been puzzling over this post by Steve Bainbridge for a few days. Steve vigorously denounces a suggestion by Michael Winters that Douglas Kmiec be appointed ambassador to the Vatican, saying that such an appointment would be an insult to the church.

I take it that, as a general rule, one should not choose ambassadors whose appointment will insult the country to which they are credentialed. One would not expect Obama to appoint a known anti-Zionist as ambassador to Israel, for example. Yet, while Winters and other pro-Obama US Catholics might delight in tweaking the Holy father by appointing Kmiec as ambassador to the Vatican, it would be tantamount to sending Norman Finkelstein to Israel. Doug Kmiec chose to turn his back on a life time of support for conservative and, in particular, pro-life causes to endorse Barack Obama. … Since the election, Kmiec has further angered pro-life Catholics by, among other things, his recent love letter of praise for Edward Kennedy. … His main role in public life now seems to be giving cover to pro-abortion rights Democrats. The Vatican has made clear that a Kmiec appointment would be most unwelcome … Obama may have won the vote of a majority of America’s cafeteria Catholics. Even so, to appoint Doug Kmiec as ambassador to the Holy See would be an insult to both the Vatican and to “serious, loyal” Catholics everywhere.

Now I know that these are issues that Steve takes very seriously, and while I disagree with Steve on most everything I respect him as someone who is smart and thoughtful. But I don’t see how an appointment of Kmiec could be taken as the strong and general insult to Catholicism that Steve suggests it would be. As best as I understand it, Kmiec’s support for Barack Obama clearly falls within the limits that the Catholic church has suggested are allowable (Kmiec continues to state his opposition to abortion, while suggesting that the question of whether Obama or McCain would have been the best person to lower abortion rates was a matter of prudential judgment, and that he personally plumped for Obama as the better prudential bet).

Certainly, the Catholic church hasn’t seen fit to start excommunication proceedings against him (a priest who refused him Communion was, quite rightly in my view, forced to send him a letter of apology) or to suggest that his views are in any way anathematic. The church has, as best as I understand it, carefully sought to avoid stating that support for Obama and other pro-choice candidates is sinful, while preserving its basic position that abortion is a grave evil.

This means, as best as I understand these matters, that Kmiec is a Catholic in perfectly good standing, no better or worse in the eyes of the church than those who adopt a more conservative position on these issues (to the best of my knowledge, the general class of ‘cafeteria Catholic’ has yet to be properly defined under canon law ;) ). In principle, the appointment of Kmiec should be no more or less insulting to either the Vatican (as a state governed by the Catholic church) or to the Pope (as head of the Catholic church) than the appointment of any other Catholic. Very obviously, Kmiec’s appointment might be construed as an insult to a particular (and quite powerful) conservative faction within Catholicism – but in the absence of a formal church statement to the contrary, that faction’s opinion of Kmiec’s position is no more binding than any other opinion within Catholicism’s internal debate on these issues.

Now there certainly is a prudential issue – to the extent that the Pope is (as he likely is) highly sympathetic to the conservative faction, Kmiec’s appointment might not be politically well-judged. But that’s an entirely different question to that of whether Kmiec’s appointment would be an insult to the church, which is what I understand Steve’s position to be. By the church’s own rules, I simply don’t see any grounds for judgment that Kmiec is a better or worse Catholic than any other person, and hence I don’t see where the insult lies. But perhaps there is something I’m not getting here.

NB - to commenters who want to chime in about the general irrationality of Catholicism and religion etc etc – thanks but no thanks. Your views may or may not be correct, but they are surely entirely predictable and hence unlikely to add much conversational benefit.

{ 89 comments }

1

Peter 12.01.08 at 5:33 pm

Even most Republicans would not be acceptable to the Catholic Church’s extreme conservative wing as they generally support abortion when necessary to save the mother’s life. Orthodox Catholic doctrine does not allow for even that very limited exception.

2

MH 12.01.08 at 5:39 pm

Yes it does.

3

John Emerson 12.01.08 at 5:50 pm

Bill Donahue of the Catholic League is the obvious choice.

Data point: My father was an MD who worked partly in small town Catholic hospitals 1948-1980. They didn’t abort babies to save the mother’s life, but if the mother’s life was in danger their policy was to assume that the baby was already dead. (This wouldn’t be possible with the monitoring we have now.)

Casuistry has its good points (Cf. Toulmin, “The Abuse of Casuistry”).

4

mds 12.01.08 at 6:07 pm

So, uh, as usual, those who jumped up and down for joy over the mass slaughter of civilians are exempt from these sorts of litmus tests, despite our Iraq adventure being an unjust war by the criteria of His Holiness John Paul II? And Mr. Bainbridge keeps loving company with those who would piss on beggars unless they were on fire. I long ago grew weary of Christianists who think the actual Gospels are for bum-wiping, and their penchant for lecturing others about apostasy.

5

Harl Delos 12.01.08 at 6:08 pm

If it is an insult to the Holy See to send a pro-choice diplomat there, then it is an insult to the United States to send a pro-life diplomat here, where elective abortion is not just legal, but is considered a constitutional right.

Obviously, pigs will fly before that happens.

Diplomats are expected to reflect the sense and sensibility of their employers. They are expected to exercise diplomacy. If our diplomat cannot successfully deal with the Vatican despite his being pro-choice, then he’s not going to be of ANY use in ANY diplomatic post anywhere.

6

guez 12.01.08 at 6:18 pm

This guy is not a radical. He’s a law professor at Pepperdine and former dean and finalist for the position of Provost at The Catholic University of America (not to mention a former head of the Office of Legal Counsel under Reagan). A year ago, he was working for Mitt Romney. His sin has been to break with the fundamentalist “more Catholic than the Pope” wing of the Church.

7

Ray 12.01.08 at 6:19 pm

General irrationality of Catholicism etc etc taken as read, this is just weird.
Why does the Vatican get an ambassador? Do all countries send embassies to the Vatican? Why is it assumed that the ambassador to the Vatican must be a Catholic? Does the ambassador to Israel have to be Jewish? Only Anglicans to the UK?

8

Mrs Tilton 12.01.08 at 6:27 pm

What I find interesting is that a professing Roman Catholic, of whatever faction, would be considered for the position at all. I presume that a formally secular country like the USA sends an ambassador to the Vatican in its capacity as just another sovereign state, not as seat of a religion. As such the religion (if any) of the ambassador is irrelevant. However, because the Vatican is also the seat of a religion, and the pope not merely its ruler but also head of that religion, I’d have thought it proper for a secular state to send a non-member of the religion as its representative to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

Peter @1,

No doubt Bainbridge even now preparing a post to warn us that the appointment of an ambassador who supports the death penalty or free-market liberalism is an equally grave insult to His Holiness.

MH @2,

you appear to have got your religions mixed up. With its doctrine of pikuach nefesh and its concept of “the pursuer”, it’s orthodox Jewish doctrine that allows abortion in that limited exceptional case. Roman Catholic teaching is different, and wonderfully subtle. Abortion, that is, the act of killing the foetus, is always forbidden, even to save the mother’s life. But if in certain narrow circumstances, e.g., surgical intervention in the event of an ectopic pregnancy[FN1], the permissible act of saving the mother just happens to result in the foetus’s death, well, that doesn’t mean the church has permitted abortion! (This reasoning might strike you as jesuitical, but as Bainbridge would doubtless inform you, it was invented by a Dominican.)

[FN1] Very narrow. Until well into the 20th century, Roman Catholic medical ethics forbade doctors to remove the child before the fallopian tube had actually burst.

9

Jon H 12.01.08 at 6:29 pm

Does this mean it would be an even bigger insult if Obama himself met with the Pope?

10

CJColucci 12.01.08 at 6:38 pm

Mrs. Tilton:
I made a similar suggestion on Prof. Bainbridge’s site. If (and I have no idea whether this is true) the Vatican would object to someone who is, in its view, a “bad” Catholic as an ambassador, it wouldn’t make much sense to send one. So send an Episcopalian. The Vatican may be within its rights to object to a “bad” Catholic as an ambassador, but it has no business complaining about a non-Catholic as an ambassador.

11

John M. 12.01.08 at 7:15 pm

“NB – to commenters who want to chime in about the general irrationality of Catholicism and religion etc etc – thanks but no thanks”

No fair Henry – if we are going to argue about the impact or merits of any candidate for Ambassador to the Vatican, surely fictional characters have to be included? Put another way, as pro-life sentiments only make sense in the presence of belief you ring fence the argument to the benefit of the Church as within the religion, the Pope alone gets to decide as to what is acceptable or not, which is the whole point of being the Pope. I’d like to be the Pope…

12

Chuchundra 12.01.08 at 7:21 pm

Bainbridge’s argument is ridiculous on its face. If Kmiec is unacceptable to the Holy See simply because he supported Obama for president, that means that to avoid insult, Obama must name as ambassador someone who opposed his election. In other words, for Obama to appoint an actual supporter of his to this post would be a terrible insult to the Vatican.

13

Picador 12.01.08 at 7:24 pm

Sorry, but… what’s the problem with appointing Norman Finkelstein ambassador to Israel?

By Bainbridge’s logic, I suppose we need to send a Communist who supports harvesting organs from political prisoners as our ambassador to the PRC. An ambassador who shows anything less than enthusiastic support for the policies of the other country is apparently an “insult”.

14

Henry 12.01.08 at 7:28 pm

John – I didn’t know you read CT. But what I’m interested here is whether this makes sense _within the context of Catholicism._ I’d prefer this not to be a slagging match over whether or not Catholicism and religion are bogus since this is a pretty well rehearsed debate on the internets, and one that is likely to gravitate swiftly to the usual trench warfare. I imagine most CT readers tend towards the irreligious (perhaps I’m wrong) and am asking those who do to carry out a thought experiment – if you were to think as someone who has internalized these rules, would this position make sense? And _contra_ MDS, Steve Bainbridge isn’t a right wing hack – for example his Catholicism leads him to adopt non-typically-conservative positions on e.g. union recognition – and his positions, whether you agree with them or not, are usually well argued and intellectually coherent.

15

Bill Gardner 12.01.08 at 7:37 pm

The reasoning reported by Mrs. Tilton @ #8 and by John Emerson @ #3 is called the principle of double effect.

16

MH 12.01.08 at 8:00 pm

Mrs. Tilton,
You are of course correct. Its just like religion class. “Do I have to know the whole thing for the test?”

17

Joe 12.01.08 at 8:01 pm

Clearly the Church is pro-life (or anti-choice–choose your own descriptor), but doesn’t it also stand for a host of other values? I can’t think of a way to get to Bainbridge’s position without the unstated (maybe–it’s not entirely clear from his post) premise that abortion outranks all other issues. Indeed, he might even have to go so far as to claim that abortion outranks the sum of all other issues, not just each individually.

And then because you also need to get around the fact that Kmiec personally opposes abortion and has argued that Obama was the better choice on consequentialist grounds even with respect to abortion, Bainbridge might also need to make the case that the Church is offended by those who share its values but are consequentialists rather than deontologists.

18

mpowell 12.01.08 at 8:32 pm

14: I understand your view of Bainbridge, but doesn’t his position on issues like these really call into question this view?

But I think Bainbridge’s response would be fairly straightforward, wouldn’t it? If the Vatican has already made it clear that Kmiec’s appointment would be quite unwelcome, wouldn’t it really be an insult to appoint him? I understand that you’re trying to hold the Church to a standard of regarding all Catholic’s in good standing in the same light, but I am not really sure why you think this standard is appropriate. First of all, I think it is very reasonable for the Church to distinguish between members who are doing a good job of advancing the stated goals of the Church versus members who are not doing such a good job, but are still acting in good faith and have not done anything to ruin their standing in the Church. Secondly, if the Church decides that Kmiec’s prudential judgment is not very good, couldn’t they reach this conclusion pretty easily? I am not convinced that on the terms Bainbridge defines he isn’t right.

I think the real response is that if the Church is going to be pissed off with any Catholic that support Democrats, they can’t really complain if a Democrat makes his ambassadorial appointment an insult.

19

MarkUp 12.01.08 at 8:36 pm

Couldn’t we send him anyways, armed with a [say $10k] indulgence which should solve the not good enough clause; oh and then to make sure it is revenue neutral, hand Him a tax bill. What if the next choice happens to be Catholic and agree with the Cincinnati Circuit Court of Appeals allowing the abused to sue the Vatican

”if thine eye offend thee… ”

20

politicalfootball 12.01.08 at 8:47 pm

Kmiec’s sin (so to speak) is apostasy – which is recognized pretty universally as an offense distinct from mere opposition to a doctrine.

If Joe Lieberman were a Republican who behaved essentially identically, he wouldn’t be particularly despised by Democrats, and he’d probably be welcomed into the Democratic caucus if he sought to join.

21

John Emerson 12.01.08 at 9:18 pm

Mrs. Tilton @ 6:27: Regardless of formal doctrine, I am able to testify that the actual practice was tilted strongly toward saving the mother.

22

mds 12.01.08 at 9:27 pm

And contra MDS, Steve Bainbridge isn’t a right wing hack

Contra contra Mr. Farrell, Professor Bainbridge is a member of the Federalist Society. Which is not exactly renowned as a sewing circle of well-meaning moderates seeking good-faith dialogue. And forgive me if I find his addition to the slew of “Conservatism can never fail, only be failed” articles about President Bush to be any more convincing than the others. Yes, the 2006 midterms turned out the way they did because the Republican Party didn’t destroy enough of the general welfare, and still left women with some bodily autonomy at the federal level. Eloquently and consistently argued, with no hackitude at all. Just like the linked screed about Mr. Kmiec.

23

Jimmy Doyle 12.01.08 at 9:29 pm

Mrs Tilton:

There is nothing “jesuitical” about the doctrine of double effect. It can be given a compelling rationale, in that denial of it seems to lead either to consequentialism or insane versions of absolutism (according to which eg no killing of any kind is ever licit). For a different (Kantian) rationale, see Warren Quinn, “Actions, Intentions, and Consequences: The Doctrine of Double Effect”. Philosophy and Public Affairs 18, 4 (Fall 1989).

If you are implying that the doctrine was invented by Aquinas, this is false.

John M:

“pro-life sentiments only make sense in the presence of belief”

This certainly contradicts the self-understanding of pro-life Catholics, who believe that abortion is wrong because it is the intentional killing of an innocent human being, which is contrary to natural law, so that its wrongness can be understood completely independently of the Catholic faith, and of Christian revelation generally. If you are right such Catholics are massively in error not only about the relevant matters of ethics and religion, which may be, but also about the content and grounds of their own erroneous beliefs, which seems less plausible. That is, even if the secular rationale for their view is fallacious, it doesn’t look to be literally nonsense.

24

Henry 12.01.08 at 9:38 pm

mds – if you can point to anywhere where I even hinted that SB was a ‘well meaning moderate,’ I’d like to see it. He’s a self-professed conservative, albeit one with some quirks which stem in part from his interpretation of Catholic social thought. You seem to be confusing ‘hack’ with ‘person whom I strongly disagree with’ – a not unusual confusion, but if you can show me where SB has been obviously dishonest or hypocritical in making a claim, I’d like to see it. Otherwise I would prefer to reserve the term ‘hack’ for those who deserve it on both right and left.

25

novakant 12.01.08 at 9:46 pm

Well, I think this pope deserves no less than Christopher Hitchens in a permanent state of intoxication as ambassador.

26

Righteous Bubba 12.01.08 at 9:56 pm

Christopher Hitchens in a permanent state of intoxication

Soooo… Christopher Hitchens. Awfully funny idea.

27

Chuchundra 12.01.08 at 10:13 pm

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=14437

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.”

According to this unamed, anonymous official, it’s more important to the Supreme Pontiff to placate the hard, right-wing of American Catholicism because they feel snubbed by one of their own than deal properly with the incoming President and his administration.

Lindy Boggs was ambassador to the Holy See when Clinton was President. Yes, she’s pro-life, butother than that she’s about as partisan a Democrat as they come.

28

MarkUp 12.01.08 at 10:33 pm

Hitchens isn’t a real ‘Merican… of faith. Ted Haggard however is back in the saddle and will soon be seeking a new position.

29

James Wimberley 12.01.08 at 10:37 pm

The current British Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Campbell, is the first Catholic to be appointed to the position since 1534.
I agree with CJColucci and others: the norm would surely be to send a non-Catholic to the Holy See, a gentile to Israel, Jeremy Clarkson to Antarctica, etc.

30

Gene O'Grady 12.01.08 at 11:10 pm

Although I am no longer Catholic (couldn’t cope with the Portland Archdiocese’s dishonest and dishonorable responses to their sexual abuse history), I did have ten+ years very active in the Church in adult and secondary religious education and as a sacristan. That meant I worked very closely with something like forty priests (and even a couple of bishops), and had many confidential, as well as official conversations with them. In that time I never heard one of them, wherever he (unfortunately not she) may have stood on various spectra, use the phrase “Cafeteria Catholic.” Is my experience untypical in that regard, or is it just enough instance of the tendencies of John Paul II Catholics not being shared by those who are actually doing the work?

31

Steve Bainbridge 12.01.08 at 11:24 pm

Henry: Thanks for your thoughtful critique. I have updated my post to respond.

The gist of my argument is that offering up someone whose high profile views are known to be uncongenial to one’s host is a form of diplomatic insult.

I am prepared, however, to adopt as a substitute the words “imprudent” and “impudent.”

32

MarkUp 12.01.08 at 11:33 pm

Phrasing dependent, the majority of this country supports a similar view. Would it not be a bigger insult, more impudent if you like, to send someone who does not represent that ‘base’ and possibly could be indicative of a ‘lie’?

33

Liam 12.01.08 at 11:39 pm

I have not read all the responses so forgive me if I am repeating a point. In the past few months the Holy See has refused to accept the credentials of two ambassadors. The Argentine appointee Iabarne, was refused because he was divorced (and presumably remarried outside the church) the French appointee, Kuhn-Delforge was rejected because he is openly homosexual.
Would the Holy See refuse to accept the credentials of a US ambassador? That is the question that needs to be asked. Perhaps it is time to appoint a minor Department of State diplomat to the Holy See rather than a full ambassador. Would any expert care to comment?

34

Anderson 12.01.08 at 11:40 pm

Contra contra Mr. Farrell, Professor Bainbridge is a member of the Federalist Society.

Hate to startle anyone, but not every member of that society is a “right-wing hack.” Really.

35

Mrs Tilton 12.02.08 at 12:06 am

Jimmy @23,

There is nothing “jesuitical” about the doctrine of double effect

Well, I will admit that there was a bit of a joking element to my comment, the joke hinging on the distinction between “jesuitical” and “Jesuitical”. But at a more serious level, if you are wondering whether I believe there is something fundamentally self-serving, intellectually dishonest and morally repugnant about the doctrine of double effect as advanced by (among some others) the RC church, then you are right.

If you are implying that the doctrine was invented by Aquinas, this is false.

Oh rilly? ‘Cos I don’t find any support for the notion in, y’know, scripture. I defer to your undoubtedly superior familiarity with mediaeval RC trivia, so if you can show that, say, Albertus Magnus put that particular bug into Thomas’s head, fair play to you and I’d even be mildly interested. But Thomas was to my knowledge the first to articulate the notion. (Oh, and if your position is anything like “Thomas didn’t invent it because it was invented by the Almighty Himself”, then we don’t really have anything to talk to each other about, and I wish you all the best.)

abortion is wrong because it is … contrary to natural law, so that its wrongness can be understood completely independently of the Catholic faith

Question-begging nonsense of the very first water; congratulations. What the “natural law” is, I’ve always observed, is meaningless when divorced from some exponent of the RC faith expounding on what the RC church demands we all believe. Unless of course it is some non-RC exponent of natural law demanding that we assent to something or other because the natural law would have us assent to it, but then of course that version of the NL would, if and to the extent it differs from the RC version, be a counterfeit.

I feel that is very wise never to lose sight of why the naturalistic fallacy is, y’know, fallacious. YMV, obviously. But in the spirit of friendship, I would advise you not to put too much stock, when instructing the rest of us how we must behave, in “nature”. Were you actually to learn much about what is “natural”, you’d find it doesn’t provide the support for your beliefs that you imagine it to do; rather the opposite, in fact.

36

PG 12.02.08 at 12:20 am

“The gist of my argument is that offering up someone whose high profile views are known to be uncongenial to one’s host is a form of diplomatic insult.”

So we never could make a known feminist the ambassador to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait? Or is the Holy See the only American ally that must have a diplomat whose views are congenial to its own?

There’s such a ridiculously huge difference between sending a diplomat who thinks the nation shouldn’t exist at all (the anti-Zionist to Israel) and sending a diplomat who isn’t in perfect accord with the host nation (Kmiec at the Holy See, the feminist in many Arab countries) that I’m surprised to see the former analogy being made at all. It would be *insulting* — or “impudent,” if Prof. Bainbridge prefers — to send a professed atheist as ambassador to the Holy See.

In his update, Bainbridge offers a more plausible analogy — a historical example of a Catholic whose “views on the key theological issues of the day were known to be uncongenial (at best) to the Pope” — but this still fails because so far as I know, Kmiec’s “views on the key theological issues of the day” are not out of line with Pope Benedict’s, unless I missed the papal anti-endorsement of Obama. The fact that when a mere Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict stated that abortion and euthanasia outweighed issues like capital punishment and war, does not constitute sufficient distance from Kmiec’s views as to make Kmiec an “impudent” choice. For one thing, in direct opposition to the example of Sarkozy’s proffered homosexual, Kmiec has been obnoxiously opposed to same-sex marriage.

He is deemed a bad Catholic by Bainbridge et al. only because he weighs the probabilities differently: Bainbridge thinks that prohibition is the best way to stop abortion; Kmiec thinks prohibition is unlikely to come about and unlikely to work, and therefore a “safe, legal and rare” policy coupled with strong social services may work better.

Moreover, Bainbridge doesn’t address the excommunication issue. If Kmiec has gone so far outside the pale, why not formalize that he no longer is welcome in the Church? (I mean that metaphorically; my understanding is that even the excommunicated may hear Mass.)

37

PG 12.02.08 at 12:58 am

“There’s such a ridiculously huge difference between sending a diplomat who thinks the nation shouldn’t exist at all (the anti-Zionist to Israel)…”

Incidentally, this is roughly what Bush did in appointing John “there is no such thing as the United Nations” Bolton as ambassador to the UN. Was Prof. Bainbridge troubled by that piece of “impudence”?

38

Mrs Tilton 12.02.08 at 1:05 am

Steve Bainbridge @31,

thanks for the link to your update. For the record, though you’re clearly smart I’m not as confident as Henry is that you’re (effectively) thoughtful; but if nothing else I am confident you’re not a hack. Having read your post about the suggested appointment of Kmiec as ambassador, though, I do think your thoughts on this topic as wrongheaded as I’ve found much of what you write about corporate and securities law (topics of rather more interest to me, frankly, than the finer points of Roman Catholic doctrine).

But since I think you are merely wrong rather than bad or dishonest — since I think we are aiming at the same goal even though we may disagree as to how to get there and even as to what that goal is — I should tell you what it is about your remarks that I think unhelpful (and it’s not the banal fact that I disagree with them).

You’ll have inferred that I do not believe true the claims your church makes about itself (or for that matter about many other things) and indeed that, as a general matter, I hold that institution in low regard. I believe very strongly that the specific religious teachings of your church (like those of any other religious body) have no legitimate role in the public life of any polity of free citizens. (You will likely disagree.) But I believe just as strongly that the private religious beliefs of a citizen, whatever they might be, must not be made a barrier to the citizen’s participation in public life. (Here at least, I trust, we are in agreement.)

In the spirit of that famous if apocryphal quotation from Voltaire, then, I will tell you that I would round quite ferociously on any bigot who argued that your remarks about Kmiec’s possible ambassadorship show that you and your co-religionists are unfit for participation in the civic life of a free republic; but I must tell you that your remarks do offer such bigots convenient ammunition. Your argument against Kmiec might possibly have merit from a narrowly and specifically RC doctrinal perspective (though there will be people as convinced of the truth of your church’s teachings as you are who would disagree, Kmiec himself presumably among them). But your argument has no merit whatever from an American perspective.

39

Rented Mule 12.02.08 at 1:33 am

Didn’t Bainbridge used to be on the Crooked Timber blogroll?

40

Michael Drake 12.02.08 at 3:17 am

“I know that these are issues that Steve takes very seriously.”

What signaled his seriousness to you — was it the spurious analogies or the easy hyperbole?

41

roy belmont 12.02.08 at 4:02 am

Suite à l’établissement de relations diplomatiques entre le Vatican et le Botswana au début du mois de novembre, les Bushmen du Kalahari ont exhorté le Pape à leur apporter son soutien dans leur lutte pour retourner sur leurs terres.

42

Jimmy Doyle 12.02.08 at 4:06 am

Mrs Tilton:

My remarks about natural law etc concerned what pro-life Catholics actually believe and I explicitly acknowledged the possibility that these beliefs may be “massively in error” (my words), so your sneering ‘congratulations’ and ‘friendly’ advice are entirely beside the point.

43

LFC 12.02.08 at 4:21 am

Liam @33 suggests that perhaps the U.S. should send someone other than a full ambassador to the Vatican. I think that would be a mistake. Iirc, in the modern era the U.S. has had an ambassador to the Vatican (as opposed to an envoy, I forget the technical designation) only since sometime in the 1980s. There’s no point going back to the pre-80s situation. As far as I’m aware, the Holy See is a sovereign state under international law. Send an ambassador. I don’t care if it’s Kmiec or someone else, and I don’t care if the Pope doesn’t like him and finds his appointment “impudent.” That’s just too bad.

44

novakant 12.02.08 at 4:29 am

The gist of my argument is that offering up someone whose high profile views are known to be uncongenial to one’s host is a form of diplomatic insult.

Shall we go through the pope’s high profile views past and present then and spell out the reasons why being congenial to them is considered morally unacceptable by many, many decent and otherwise tolerant people – or would that be considered a violation of the oh so important etiquette?

In order to avoid the ugly back and forth that Henry seems to be afraid of, let me cut this short and just point to the pope’s most infuriating breach of commonly accepted ethics, namely his role in covering up the child abuse perpetrated by catholic priests.

45

Otto Pohl 12.02.08 at 4:45 am

I do not know about the Vatican. But, I am all for appointing Norman Finkelstein to be the US ambassador to Israel.

46

Chris 12.02.08 at 5:36 am

I’m sure we’ve had lots of non-Hindu ambassadors to India. Why is the Vatican different, other than having a much smaller population and economy and being in general far less important to our national security and interests?

I see no compelling reason to have a Catholic of any sort, let alone one in good standing.

Likewise, I don’t think our ambassador to Israel should necessarily be a Jew, let alone that the Israeli government should be allowed to dictate his/her specific sect of Judaism or opinions on particular theological and/or political questions.

I also don’t think an atheist ambassador would be any more “insulting” than a Jew, Muslim or any other non-Christian – even an outspoken critic of religion like PZ Myers (who is in any case clearly unsuited to a job in the field of diplomacy!) could hardly exceed the violent outrages religions commit against one another at the drop of a luxuriously ornate hat. One of the major problems of modern diplomacy is how to get everyone to live together in spite of that sort of incitement to hatred.

47

reason 12.02.08 at 9:07 am

I don’t see any reason for adding to Mrs Tilton’s excellent posts, but as Mr. Bainbridge has visited us here, maybe he should clarify what he thinks an ambassador is for exactly.

48

nick s 12.02.08 at 9:10 am

I’m sure we’ve had lots of non-Hindu ambassadors to India. Why is the Vatican different, other than having a much smaller population and economy and being in general far less important to our national security and interests?

The easy answer would be to say that the Indian head of state isn’t a religious patriarch. The response would be that the Vatican is a state, not a denomination. But the Holy See to which ambassadors are accredited is not coterminous with the Vatican City, and has more in common with, say, the UN permanent representative. Frankly, though, you have a point: you don’t necessarily need to be a member of the organisation as long as you don’t wish it to be reduced by ten storeys.

On the Kmiec issue, the question to Steve Bainbridge is this: should it be a choice between a ‘bad Catholic’ and an ‘arsehole Catholic’? Because there are plenty of ‘serious, loyal’ arseholes that presumably he and the Holy See would find acceptable, given that the entire Catholic establishment in the US, lay and clergy, appears to have more than its fair share.

My suspicion, though, is that the Vatican is doing a little politicking of its own, and modulating its voice to match the arseholery of the K/Columbs, C/Leagues and other nasty third-gen reactionaries that represent the senile Politburo of the American RC franchise. If Kmiec were nominated, and Obama made it fairly clear that denying the placet would be taken personally, you’d not hear a peep from them.

49

John M. 12.02.08 at 9:19 am

Hi Henry,

Been reading for years – CT is one the few places on the web that I still visit for non-work purposes. I very, very rarely comment anywhere on the web because of exactly what you were trying to avoid in your post.

So, to answer your question, is not the choice of ambassador a reflection of your opinion of the country\ institution to which they will be assigned? This may give offense either deliberately or not. In many cases, offense may be taken whether or not it is reasonable to do so. I think the Pope will not take offense in this case because it would be unreasonable & he will correctly understand that no offense was intended (being Pope he’s compassionate, wise and forgiving).

A similar situation to sending John Bolton to the UN I should think, except that was fully intended.

50

ajay 12.02.08 at 12:25 pm

The easy answer would be to say that the Indian head of state isn’t a religious patriarch.

The British head of state is, though. (Well, matriarch, I suppose.) Would it be insulting to send a non-Anglican to the Court of St James?
Would it, to go completely over the top, have been insulting to send a non-Muslim to the Sublime Porte, a non-Confucian to the Forbidden City, a non-Buddhist to Lhasa or a non-Shintoist to the (pre-1945) Imperial Court? In the last case, the head of state wasn’t just a religious patriarch but actually a god.

I admit that sending an ambassador who thinks his host doesn’t deserve to exist is a deliberate insult; but surely there’s a lot of room for difference before you get to that point.

I think the general point is that a US ambassador is surely meant to represent the US to his host, not vice versa, and as such they’re always going to have views that differ from their hosts: on the general awesomeness of the USA compared to other countries, apart from anything else.

51

Dave 12.02.08 at 12:40 pm

Beats me how the US ever managed to get a man into Moscow. Unless McCarthy was on to something all along…

52

Matt Gabriele 12.02.08 at 1:53 pm

Is it just me, or does it seem that recently there’s been a spate of people — without mitres on their heads — pronouncing on what is and/ or isn’t within “the Church?”

53

SamChevre 12.02.08 at 2:39 pm

I’m chiming in to agree with a couple commenters above.

First, in diplomacy, the rules are pretty much “if I say it’s an insult, it’s an insult.” So if the host county thinks “sending so-and-so is a deliberate insult”, it’s an insult–whether there’s any reason, sane or otherwise, for them to think that is fairly irrelevent.

Second, I would suspect that a non-Catholic would be a perfectly acceptable ambassador to the Vatican; renegades are always much worse-regarded than others. Sending Kmiec to the Vatican may be regarded, not like sending a non-Jewish ambassador to Israel, but like sending a Messianic Jew.

54

Frank 12.02.08 at 3:09 pm

Given the level of interference in the last election fr0m the Catholic Church and, specifically, the demonization of the President Elect, President Elect Obama should end diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

55

Mrs Tilton 12.02.08 at 3:40 pm

Sam @52,

if the host county thinks “sending so-and-so is a deliberate insult”, it’s an insult

Steve Bainbridge thinks it’s an insult. I might be wrong about this, but I don’t think Bainbridge has authority to speak infallibly, or indeed at all, for the host country in question.

[R]enegades are always much worse-regarded than others. Sending Kmiec to the Vatican may be regarded … like sending a Messianic Jew

I’m sure Kmiec will be excited to learn that he is a “renegade”. My own impression had been that he is a devout Roman Catholic, but I defer to your superior knowledge and and am grateful to learn that he is to be classed alongside Voltaire and Martin Luther.

You are saying what Bainbridge said more pithily than he managed to do, but the argument is as ludicrous when you make it as when he does. Or let us be a bit more nuanced. From a Roman Catholic perspective, the argument isn’t necessarily ludicrous (though as I understand it, nor does it reflect the binding official teaching of that church). From an American perspective (or indeed, the perspective of any secular state), it is ludicrous, and offensive to boot. As someone noted upthread, what Bainbridge is in effect demanding is that the presidential administration of the USA send to the Vatican as its offical representative somebody who opposes that administration. It is only Bainbridge that is demanding this, of course, not the Holy See; but in the unlikely event that the Holy See did demand it, the correct response would be to invite it to piss up a rope.

A tangent. I’d hope it unnecessary to say so expressly, but to be certain I shall do so: I’m not casting any sort of “dual loyalty” aspersion here. A Roman Catholic can as easily be a fitting citizen of a secular democracy as can someone of another, or of no, religion. I don’t even think Bainbridge himself, despite the argument he is making, really wants to subjugate the USA to the papacy — what we got here is a failure to compartmentalise. (Yet another reason why, though I agree that Bainbridge is no hack, I find it hard to see how Henry formed the impression that Bainbridge is especially thoughtful.) Indeed, you’re repeating the argument, yet SFAIK you are not RC. So I’m not saying that catholics, or even Bainbridge particularly, make bad citizens. I am, however, pointing out that his argument is not only unreasonable, it is, in secular civic terms, full of fail.

56

John 12.02.08 at 3:41 pm

I’m not sure I understand in what sense Kmiec is a heretic. He supported Obama – but the Vatican did not endorse McCain, and, indeed, the American bishops have denounced priests for denying communion to Obama supporters.

If Kmiec is an apostate, he is an apostate to the Republican Party, not to the Catholic faith. And I don’t understand why the Vatican would want to tie its interests so closely to the Republican Party as to argue that opposing the Republican Party is akin to abandoning the faith.

Clinton appointed people who supported him as his ambassadors to the Vatican. Is Bainbridge claiming that Obama cannot do the same?

57

Mrs Tilton 12.02.08 at 3:41 pm

Me, above,

Sam @52,

Odd. That’s where you were when I started typing…

58

Ginger Yellow 12.02.08 at 4:07 pm

First of all, I think it is very reasonable for the Church to distinguish between members who are doing a good job of advancing the stated goals of the Church versus members who are not doing such a good job, but are still acting in good faith and have not done anything to ruin their standing in the Church.

But, in the context of who should be the American ambassador to the Vatican, why should we or the Church care whether or not they’re doing a good job of advancing the stated goals of the Church? The ambassador’s job is to advance the stated goals of the country he represents.

59

Ray 12.02.08 at 4:16 pm

Obviously, the only non-insulting thing to do here, is appoint a bishop as ambassador. Or get down on one knee and beg a cardinal to do your country this great honour…

60

lemuel pitkin 12.02.08 at 4:20 pm

Odd. That’s where you were when I started typing…

It’s the moderation queue — when comments get approved, they are placed where they would have been if they weren’t moderated, moving later conments up. It used to happen the other way too, when comments were deleted, but that problem has been solved by doing other, more entertaining things to unwanted comments instead of deleting.

If referring to previous comments by number becomes as common here as at places like Unfogged, the Authorities might want to consider placing moving comments from the moderation queue to the end of the thread, instead of to their original spot. (Or they could be given numbers like 52.1 or 52a, leaving later numbers unchanged.)

61

SamChevre 12.02.08 at 4:33 pm

Just a couple clarifications.

I’m not Roman Catholic.

I don’t know what the official opinion of the Vatican on Kmiec is; I’m engaging, as asked, in an “assuming these facts” thought-experiment.

I’m arguing that if there’s a problem with Kmiec, assuming the stated facts, it is not that he is not sufficiently pro-life; it’s that he’s Catholic AND not pro-life. A non-Catholic would be held to a much lower standard, as is the case in all groups. So Hillary Clinton, or Harry Reid, or Jeremiah Wright, would be acceptable ambassadors.

62

dsquared 12.02.08 at 4:54 pm

In context I’d note that, although as far as I’m aware, no anti-Zionist has been appointed Ambassador to Israel, the USA has appointed several Ambassadors to the Court of St James who were public supporters of the claims of the Republic of Ireland on part of the territory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The sky did not fall in.

63

22state 12.02.08 at 5:03 pm

Doug Kmiec is as right wing as they come – he freely and openly distained the Pope’s declaration that the Iraq war did not fulfill the “just war” doctrine of the Catholic Church. He opposes abortion and contraception- for any reason – including life of the mother and fertility treatments. He adopts the peculiar American theology of being pro-death penalty because the criminal has given up his right to life. And, it’s not clear to me that he wouldn’t replace the Constitution with Dominionist laws if given a chance.

It is quite a statement about the views of Conservatives and Republicans that when choosing between two candidates that BOTH have views that are not supported by the Church (see, for example: McCain and divorce; McCain and war; McCain and family living wage; McCain and unions; McCain and IVF treatment; McCain and death penalty; McCain and immigration …. you get the point) it is more important which label you pick than what policies you pick. From both a theological and consequential standpoint, Obama’s views and policies are arguably more in line with traditional Catholic teaching on family, on the economy, on being your brother’s keeper, and on faith than McCain’s – except on the issue of what is permitted with regard to female fertility. And look at Catholic churches and schools – show me the 4-10 kid families…… Obviously, even pious pew sitters don’t agree with the Church on that issue.

64

Ginger Yellow 12.02.08 at 5:07 pm

In context I’d note that, although as far as I’m aware, no anti-Zionist has been appointed Ambassador to Israel, the USA has appointed several Ambassadors to the Court of St James who were public supporters of the claims of the Republic of Ireland on part of the territory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Not only that, but many of them supported independence for the Colonies, the insolent rogues.

65

harry b 12.02.08 at 5:30 pm

#62: not to mention Obama’s personal behaviour being more in line with traditional Catholic teaching than McCain’s.

66

Scott de B. 12.02.08 at 5:31 pm

Since Article VI of the Constitution explicitly prohibits any religious test as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States., it seems to me that’s game, set, and match. Granted, it might be difficult to prove in court that that was the reason Kmiec was passed over, but it should be clear that the argument Bainbridge is making directly violated the Constitution.

67

Preachy Preach 12.02.08 at 5:39 pm

d2> And at the risk of a Godwin’s law violation, one (allegedly) of the opinion that Germany couldn’t win the war fast enough…

68

dsquared 12.02.08 at 6:00 pm

65: yes, but that wasn’t necessarily out of line with the views of Edward VIII while the Northern Ireland thing probably would have been.

69

John Costello 12.02.08 at 6:03 pm

I am against the idea of sending a Catholic as ambassador to the Vatican, and especially a devout one. The question of dual loyalty has to be raised. The United States pursues (or ought to pursue) in international affairs policies that are directly opposed to the teachings of the Church — non-abstinence-only anti-AIDS education in Africa, to take an example — and an ambassador’s loyalty has to be unquestionably on the side of their country in those affairs.

When use of contraception is considered by the Church to be a mortal sin (that is, one that can damn you to hell for eternity), a devout Catholic will always be on the side of the Church when it comes to policies involving abstinence and birth control. If sending a non-devout Catholic would be an insult, best not to send a Catholic at all.

70

Mrs Tilton 12.02.08 at 6:38 pm

Sam @(for the moment)60,

it’s that he’s Catholic AND not pro-life

That’s not true, though. Kmiec is, as several have noted, very strongly anti-choice. It’s just that (like the majority of American RCs, even quite religious ones) he does not believe that the abortion issue trumps every single other issue that might possibly inform a catholic’s choice in casting a vote.[FN1] I don’t think even the Vatican expects that of its flock, for all that Bainbridge apparently does.

[FN1] Perhaps memory is deceiving me, but I thought I’d read somewhere that, in addition to his other stated reasons for supporting Obama, Kmiec also thinks that an Obama government would actually be more effective at reducing the number of abortions performed than a McCain government would have been. But we can ignore that for the purposes of this thread, as it only makes the case for an Obama vote easier for conscientious RCs. Even if Kmiec doesn’t believe that, I have (pace Bainbridge) seen no evidence that RC doctrine demands that American catholics make their voting decisions solely on the basis of which candidate proposes more thoroughly to restrict women’s reproductive freedom. And if Kmiec does believe that (regardless of whether or not the belief is correct), then it’s really hard to see what Bainbridge’s point is, or even that he has one. In that latter case, Bainbridge really would be condemning Kmiec for being insufficiently Republican rather than insufficiently Roman.

71

BobN 12.02.08 at 7:36 pm

There’s a reason there were no Catholics appointed before the current Ambassador. A Catholic as ambassador to the Holy See could well face a moral dilemma, what with the possibility of divided loyalties. John Kennedy’s approach to politics vis-a-vis religion created the circumstances under which Bush could appoint a Catholic. Bush’s approach to politics vis-a-vis religion have created circumstances under which we should return to the previous arrangement.

And there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the Vatican’s rejection of the French appointee, Kuhn-Delforge. He wasn’t rejected just because he is openly homosexual. It’s just that the Vatican was worried about all the tension, angst, remorse, and regret the example of an out, proud gay man would cause in the ranks.

72

Barry 12.02.08 at 8:27 pm

Yes, heads exploding as we walked around would be quite a mess.

73

PG 12.02.08 at 9:30 pm

BobN,

Your history of ambassadors seems to be wrong. Several prior ambassadors to the Holy See — including Clinton’s — have been pro-life Catholics. There doesn’t seem to have been a problem of divided loyalties.

74

James Wimberley 12.02.08 at 9:51 pm

lemuel pitkin @59: my solution would be to assign numbers to the comments as they come in, whether held for moderation, deleted, or deemed by the Authorities to be too deep for mortal understanding. So the numbering sequence of the published comments would have mysterious and exciting gaps, but no published comment would ever have its allotted Number altered and would be spared the stress of existential anxiety.

Quaere: how many comments (posted or deleted) can dance on the head of a pin? Presumably it’s aleph-null infinity. Unless, to follow lemuel’s dark suspicions, the Authorities are torturing comments by mapping them onto the real line continuum.

75

22state 12.02.08 at 9:59 pm

#64 – I agree, but he and Michelle only have 2 children. So, for Conservatives and Republicans, all of the rest of his morality is irrelevant.

For Conservatives and Republicans, it is all about what you preach. Preach small government – but implement the largest increases in government in history (Regan and Bush II), it’s all OK. Preach liberty – and implement the most far-reaching government spying on innocent Americans (just because you can), cool. Preach fiscal responsibility – throw bales of cash out the door to any crook that is passing by – so what? Just as long as you preach, you don’t need to practice. After all, Newt has had 3 wives and no children, but he’s acceptable to the “base” because he spouts the right piety.

76

c.l. ball 12.02.08 at 10:38 pm

An ambassador is sent to support US policies; Baimbridge seems opposed to Obama’s pro-abortion positions, and any US ambassador will have to back Obama-as-president regardless of personal reservations. Any ambassador would seem to be an insult by Bainbridge’s quasi-logic.

As D2 points out, the US has appointed ambassadors to the UK who have contradicted strongly held UK positions. Ronald Reagan appointed a black ambassador to South Africa during the apartheid era; this hardly pleased the South African government. Smith Hempstone, H.W. Bush’s ambassador to Kenya, was practically at war with Moi.

77

Mike 12.02.08 at 11:32 pm

This all becomes clear if you examine the language Bainbridge uses to describe Kmeic:

Doug Kmiec chose to turn his back on a life time of support for conservative and, in particular, pro-life causes to endorse Barack Obama.

i.e. Kmeic is a traitor.

Kmiec’s paean to Kennedy thus tells us a lot about just how far off the reservation Kmiec has now wandered. His main role in public life now seems to be giving cover to pro-abortion rights Democrats.

i.e. One facet of Kmeic’s treason is trying to disguise how evil Teddy Kennedy is.

In my view, however, there is a difference between simply voting for a pro-choice candidate and being a highly public supporter of that candidate. Kmiec went so far as to write a book trying to persuade pro-life Catholics that it was okay to vote for Obama. In doing so, I believe he gave Obama significant political cover.

i.e. Another facet of Kmeic’s treason is trying to disguise how evil Obama is.

It’s difficult not to consider someone who argues from these postulates to be a right-wing hack.

78

Walt 12.02.08 at 11:35 pm

I would go one step further, and recommend that any time a message is deleted, it should be replaced with the words “This comment deemed by the Authorities to be too deep for mortal understanding.”

79

KO 12.03.08 at 5:00 am

I am a practicing Catholic, but I see no reason why the Ambassador to the Vatican needs to be a Catholic. I also see no reason why it can’t be Doug Kmiec, or anyone else that President-Elect Obama chooses to send. The American Ambassador to the Vatican isn’t going to his diplomatic post to represent the views of the host country; he or she is going there to represent the views of the United States of America. This is true whether we’re talking about the Vatican or any other country. As for Mr. Bainbridge’s comment on “cafeteria Catholics”, I wonder why it is always a certain type of Catholic who represents the rest of us (i.e. those who don’t agree with them on everything) as “cafeteria Catholics”. Pope John Paul II vigorously opposed the Iraq war (actually, both of them); I could just as easily label American Catholics who supported the war as “cafeteria Catholics” if I chose to, but I don’t.

80

Frank 12.03.08 at 7:15 am

BobN,
Change “gay” to “Jew” and the Vatican to the Third Reich. It’s all the more apropos since the Vatican is once again attempting to stop a UN resolution to recognize some rudimentary rights for gays and lesbians such as not being subject to ritual murder for their sexuality as they are in Muslim countries.

Our current Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, who is an expert on human rights and the Vatican is utterly silent on the matter. It’s as though we’ve appointed a Nazi ambassador to Germany.

81

Mordaunt 12.03.08 at 1:57 pm

This is from paragraph 73 of Evangelium Vitae:

“In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.”

Kmiec isn’t an elected official, but AFAICS, his position pretty much matches this. It’s hardly an insult to the Vatican to appoint an ambassador whose conduct can be defended with reference to the teaching of a Pope who I am sure Bainbridge regards as ‘Pope John Paul the Great’.

But, as it happens the whole controversy is bogus. The job of the US ambassador to the Vatican is to defend the interests of the US, not to conform to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Now that means that you don’t want to wind up the Pope excessively, so Jack Chick or Sinead O’Connor are probably out. But there is no rule that says that an envoy to the Vatican has to buy into the whole bill of goods. The point of diplomacy is that you talk to people who you disagree with about stuff.

82

reason 12.03.08 at 2:01 pm

I find the position of “serious loyal” Catholic who despise “Cafeteria” Catholics quite strange when you know what “Catholic” means. Catholicism as a sekt seems self-contradictory to me.

83

ajay 12.03.08 at 2:18 pm

The point of diplomacy is that you talk to people who you disagree with about stuff.

Depends. A popular view in recent years has been that diplomacy is telling people you agree with to do stuff. People you disagree with are to be DESTROYED.

84

Grand Moff Texan 12.03.08 at 3:26 pm

Obama may have won the vote of a majority of America’s cafeteria Catholics.

Otherwise known as “the majority of America’s Catholics,” according to Pope John Paul II.
.

85

reagankid 12.05.08 at 4:05 am

Well, suffice it to say that Barack Obama showing oblivious tendencies in any appointment to a religious body isn’t all that shocking. Though the mainstream media determinedly did not dig too deeply into his relationship with Jeremiah Wright, our new President-Elect has not shown himself too friendly to established religious bodies. Yes, the liberal illuminati might counter that he did meet with some evangelical leaders towards the beginning of the summer. But he lost a lot of points in his Saddleback conversation – the word “paygrade” now has a new dimension of meaning. Perhaps appointing an appropriate ambassador to the Vatican is also above his paygrade.

86

reason 12.05.08 at 9:06 am

… any appointment to a religious body …

He wasn’t making an appointment to a religious body – he was appointing an ambassador to represent the USA. And the rest of your comment is just smart allec snark. Have you got anything serious to add to the conversation?

87

wj 12.05.08 at 7:23 pm

reason misses the profundity of reagankid’s Spinozist esotericism. Obama is oblivious in matters pertaining to religious bodies, and this is related, somehow, to his relationship with Jeremiah Wright, who was during the time of their friendship the *head* of a religious body. This is interesting. But, further, the “liberal illuminati”–from whom, at the surface level of his discourse, regankid struggles to distance himself–will claim that Obama made overtures during the summer to *another* religious body, Saddleback Church. The subtlety of reagankid’s prose should not distract us from the truth that his writing portrays a multiplicity of religious “bodies” each of which is in conflict with all the rest, and none of which can easily be brought into accord. Thus, reagankid is pointing us to the inherent historico-conceptual conflict between the concept of reasoned diplomacy (which he does not even mention, but smuggles in with his closing use of the word “ambassador”) and sectarian religious belief.

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PG 12.05.08 at 10:56 pm

wj,

reagankid was referring to *established* religious bodies. The United Church of Christ in which the Rev. Wright was a minister was created in a merger in 1957, and like other Protestant churches is much younger than the Roman Catholic Church, which traces its origins to Peter.

Of course, as a Hindu I find Christianity, Islam, etc. all to be upstarts, although Judaism may have a decent claim to being a respectable religion, with more than a mere two millenia under its belt.

89

sg 12.06.08 at 6:47 pm

I find Bainbridge’s use of the word “impudent” interesting. Given the relative temporal power of the Vatican and the US, the idea that appointing the wrong ambassador would be “impudent” seems to hinge on the possibility that the Vatican has some other position of superiority over the US against which the appointment would offend. This makes me wonder whether in fact Bainbridge considers his true allegiance to lie with a power other than his own nation. Is this what “Dominionist” means?

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