Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Washington's Woman at the Vatican

(Hat tip: Custos Fidei)

From TIME:
... Moving from a Harvard Law School lecture hall to the U.S. Embassy at the Vatican might seem to require a major leap of faith. But [U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann] Glendon, considered one of the top American Catholic thinkers of her generation, has long been at home along the banks of both the Charles and Tiber Rivers. Officially installed on Feb. 29 as the new American Ambassador to the Holy See, she is a longtime Harvard Law professor, author and international expert on human rights and legal theory. But her resume also includes stints as a visiting lecturer at the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome and three years as the President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the first woman to hold such a prestigious academic post at the Vatican.

President Bush's choice of the 69-year-old registered independent as his top envoy at Catholic Church headquarters — following a pair of prominent Republican fundraisers in the post — is a clear nod to the cerebral leanings of the man in charge of the Holy See. Pope Benedict XVI's nearly three-year reign has been marked by his intellectual explorations and probing writings about how a timeless faith intersects with contemporary life.

During an exclusive interview with TIME, at her embassy office overlooking Rome's ancient Circus Maximus, Glendon said she hopes to offer lucid analysis for Foggy Bottom about just how the deep thoughts of the "Professor Pontiff" might influence public policy. One example was Benedict's provocative 2006 discourse about religion and violence in Regensberg, Germany, which initially angered many Muslims, but has also helped recast the worldwide "Clash of Civilizations" debate. "One of his central preoccupations has always been about reconciling faith and reason," Glendon said of the Pope. "He wants to know how religions can come to terms with the enlightenment."

However, Glendon's first major piece of business requires the nuts-and-bolts diplomacy. On April 15, Benedict sets off on his first papal trip to the United States, a six-day visit to Washington D.C. and New York City that will include stops at the White House, Ground Zero, the United Nations and an open-air mass at Yankee Stadium.

While arranging the itinerary will be complex enough, there is also the matter of dealing with the Pontiff's philosophical fascination with America. Glendon said the Pope is "intrigued" by the U.S. model for managing the Church-State divide, which contrasts with the contemporary European tendency to avoid public professions of faith. "We are a nation that has traditionally valued the role of faith in sustaining the democratic experiment," she said. "Culture comes before politics... and religion is at the heart of culture." Though the Vatican was staunchly opposed to the war in Iraq, Glendon arrives largely after the fact, as both sides are focused on rebuilding the fractured country. She says that the German Pope and American President, who visited the Vatican last year, "seem to have formed a good friendly relationship."

(emphasis added)

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Pope Encourages Americans to Defend Life, Traditional Marriage and Family

Harvard Professor is Bush's Pick as Vatican Ambassador

President Bush Poised to Appoint Mary Ann Glendon as U.S. Ambassador to Vatican

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