Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Obama to Vatican: "Buenos Diaz"

Building on the report below, it's happened.

After 8pm tonight, the White House announced a slate of President Obama's intended nominees for several high-profile posts.

Among the group, Miguel Diaz -- a systematic theologian and Rahner specialist currently on the faculty of Benedictine-run St John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota -- was revealed as the President's choice to become the US ambassador to the Holy See.

Pending his approval by the (Catholic-chaired) Senate Foreign Relations Committee and confirmation by the full body, the 45 year-old Havana-born scholar who rose from humble roots in Miami would become the first Latino to hold the post as Hispanics continue their ascent as the majority bloc of the nation's 65 million Catholics.

In an interview with Catholic News Service at Obama's inauguration, Diaz said he was looking forward "to moving beyond the politics of fear to the politics of hope." He said Obama was "committed to working" with people who defend "life in the womb" and deeply respects people who hold positions he does not agree with.

"Wherever we can, we should advance life at all stages," Diaz said.

Reached at his home Wednesday, Diaz read a brief statement expressing gratitude for the opportunity and saying, "I wish to be a diplomatic bridge between our nation and the Holy See, and if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, I will continue the work of my predecessors and build on 25 years of excellent relations with the Holy See."

He declined to answer questions about his positions on issues, saying it would be inappropriate before his confirmation hearing....

The son of a waiter and a data-entry operator, Diaz was the first person in his family to attend college. He taught religious studies and theology at Barry University, the University of Dayton and Notre Dame. From 2001 to 2003, he was academic dean at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Diaz is fluent in English, Spanish and Italian. He is past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States, and a father of four.

According to public records, Diaz donated $1,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint committee of Obama and the Democratic National Committee. He served on the Obama campaign's Catholic advisory board.

The Diaz nomination is the West Wing's second prominent nod to Latino Catholics in as many days: yesterday, the President nominated Federal Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice David Souter.

While the SCOTUS pick's practice of the faith is somewhat unclear, pending confirmation the 1972 valedictorian of the Bronx's Cardinal Spellman High School would become the first Hispanic ever to sit on the high court and, seemingly, the current top bench's sixth Catholic among its nine justices.

As a whole, Hispanics broke 2-to-1 for the winner at November's presidential election.

At America, Michael Sean Winters -- a generally positive ad intra voice on the administration, but also a notable critic of Obama's "Domesday" speech at Notre Dame -- welcomes the pick... albeit with a caveat:
Of course, Mr. Diaz is not being sent to Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He is going to represent our country. His choice was unexpected, certainly, but the selection shows that the Obama team, which has so far had an uneven relationship with Catholic concerns, was not going to waste this appointment on a fundraiser and reduce the ambassadorship to a sinecure. Mr. Diaz is a serious Catholic, he has served as Academic Dean of the seminary in Boynton Beach, and a professor at several Catholic universities....

I think appointing a theologian is a bit of a risk. The Obama team has tended to rely on the Leftie Catholic choir, which is not always the best judge of hierarchic or Vatican sensibilities. That choir also tends to bring its baggage in the form of a track record of support for liberal concerns in areas such as ecclesiology or the ordination of women, which raise red flags in Rome and at the USCCB....

Still, I am sure the Vatican will be pleased that President Obama has selected a man of substance and of faith as its ambassador. He was not my candidate but he is a fine choice.

PHOTO: St John's University