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James Martin, S.J.May 27, 2009

The newly nominated U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel H. Diaz, a superb choice: a Latino Catholic (a recognition of the enormous influence of Latinos in the U.S. church), a professor of theology with terrific credentials (St. Thomas, Notre Dame, Collegeville) and a Rahner scholar to boot.  (At least he and the Holy Father can have some lively Rahner-von Balthasar discussions.)  The choice is also refreshing: the nomination is clearly going to a talented and faithful Catholic (like Mary Ann Glendon), rather than a straight political appointee, and it is also going to someone who clearly understands not only the Vatican but also Catholic theology at the highest levels.  Professor Diaz has also taught at a regional seminary, which means he's been vetted by at least a few bishops. 

Here's the link to the announcement from St. John's College in Collegeville, Minn.  An excerpt: “Professor Miguel Diaz is a skilled Trinitarian theologian who is passionate both as a teacher and a scholar,” said Abbot John Klassen, OSB, of Saint John’s Abbey. “He is a strong proponent of the necessity of the Church to become deeply and broadly multi-cultural, to recognize and appreciate the role that culture plays in a living faith. Born in Havana, Cuba, he is a leading Hispanic theologian in United States.

And from AP Eric Gorski has the story.  "Diaz was far from the most visible — or controversial — Catholic to campaign for Obama. Douglas Kmiec, a Catholic law professor and former Reagan administration lawyer, was targeted by conservative Catholics and denied Communion by one priest for his support for Obama.  Kmiec, who was mentioned as a possible Vatican envoy, applauded the choice of Diaz on Wednesday, calling him "a gifted theologian and a natural teacher. And his love for the faith is unquestioned."  Cathleen Kaveny, a Notre Dame law and theology professor who also served on the Obama campaign's Catholic advisory committee, said it was significant Obama chose a theologian and a representative of one of the fastest growing demographics in the U.S. church, Hispanics.  "He is not a big donor, he's not a big politician," she said. "He's someone very knowledgeable about the Catholic tradition and Catholic theology. What you see is President Obama taking seriously not just Catholicism as a political force but as an intellectual force."

And the official White House announcement:

Miguel H. Díaz, Nominee for Ambassador to the Holy See
Dr. Miguel Díaz is a Professor of Theology at St. John's University and the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota. He is the co-editor of the book "From the Heart of Our People: Explorations in Catholic Systematic Theology" and author of "On Being Human: U.S. Hispanic and Rahnerian Perspectives", named "Best Book of the Year" by the Hispanic Theological Initiative at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Díaz taught Religious Studies and Theology at Barry University, the University of Dayton and the University of Notre Dame. From 2001 to 2003, he taught and served as Academic Dean at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida. He is a Board Member of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) and Past President of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS). Dr. Díaz holds a B.A. from St. Thomas University and a M.A. and PhD in Theology from the University of Notre Dame.

James Martin, SJ





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13 years 2 months ago
Diaz supported the nomination of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is pro-abortion but claims to be a Catholic. Diaz was among 26 Catholics who signed a statement praising Sebelius as "a woman of deep faith".  Funny, isn't it, that we can't know who is a 'real' Catholic, but we can know when someone is a person of "deep faith", whatever that's supposed to mean. Acutally, I'll tell you what it means.  It's meant, in this context, to invoke our emotions and to add a layer of protection against the just criticisms of folks who claim to be Catholic and yet support things Catholics cannot support, such as abortion.  Because they are of "deep faith", the story goes, this is the trump card protecting their Catholicism against vicious judgmental types who look at objective actions in light of Church teaching and refuse to permit the ongoing scandal of Catholics who have chosen Obama as their Savior over Jesus Christ. 
13 years 2 months ago

Goodness, Patrick, you can sure read a lot into a nomination! Is there nothing that pleases you about such a thoughtful choice?

13 years 2 months ago
A Rahner scholar. That's great. There are so very few of them on seminary faculties now and so, so little class reading from Rahner. I still know very little about Diaz. It would be good to see him interviewed on Charlie Rose so we could get to know how he engages others in conversation-a key ability for a diplomat. That would really be helpful. Thanks for the posting. More entensive than the White House blurb most people-me included-had read to date.
13 years 2 months ago
DaveP, Indeed there is: it wasn't Douglas Kmiec.
13 years 2 months ago
Is not praise for the nomination of Prof. Diaz because he is Hispanic somewhat racist? Like Judge Sotomayor, does race [I am uncertain if Hispanidad is a race] make a difference in the qualities and abilities?
13 years 2 months ago
I simply don't understand how this Catholic article claims Diaz is "a superb choice." Not only is he suspect for his applause from Doug Kmeic and his monetary support to the "Obama Victory Fund," Diaz  was among 26 Catholic leaders and scholars who signed a statement supporting  the nomination of pro-abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services Secretary.  He is also a member of the dissenting group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. His Theological interest seems to be specific to "Liberation Theology" - teachings Pope Benedict has strongly opposed.  Here's more on his work:   “[Diaz’] works include “On Being Human: U.S. Hispanic and Rahnerian Perspectives” (Orbis Books, 2001); Co-Editor of “From the Heart of Our People: Explorations in Catholic Systematic Theology” (Orbis Books, 1999;) and author of numerous articles and book chapters inspired in the Latino and Black liberation theology, such as the forthcoming “The Life-Giving Reality of God from Black, Latin-American, and U.S. Hispanic Theological Perspectives,” “Otherness in Black Catholic and Latino/a Catholic Theologies and the Otherness of God,” and “Outside the Survival of Community there is no Salvation,” in Building Bridges, Doing Justice: Constructing a Latino/a Ecumenical Theology (Orbis Press, 2009.)” [CNA]  
13 years 2 months ago
Patrick, his endorsement of Sebelius cause means he knows the difference between being pro-abortion and pro-choice - which is a difference between a theological position and a legal one.  In other words, he is honest.  We should prize that in the Church, even if the Bishops don't like it when we speak truth to power.
13 years 2 months ago
Michael, I am afraid that your so-called distinction between pro-choice and pro-abortion is merely one of marketing rather than one of  theological vs. legal viewpoints.  Being pro-choice is not a ''legal'' position, it's a political one; it's one which is literally grafted onto the Democratic party.  The fact that a Catholic liberation theologian such as Prof. Diaz should be pro-choice means that he must have somehow reconciled abortion within his Liberation Theology framework. That really comes as no surprise since Liberation Theology is itself a tying of political activism to the Catholic Faith.  Pope Benedict has been an opponent of of the more radical aspects of LT for as long as it has been around. Personally I am not familiar with Diaz's views.  He could and very well may be very acceptable as a theologian ambassador to our Pope.  But, given that he supports Obama, it is likely that he is a pro-choice Catholic, and as such his version of LT is probably such that he links the ''denial of abortions to poor women'' as another means by which the rich capitalist can expoit the lower classes and keep them in bondage. As a Catholic myself, I find that kind of position to be an abominable rationalization.  William McGurn, former Bush speech writer, in one of the best objections to this kind of thinking, addressed Notre Dame about one month ago and said: ''The unborn belong to no political party ... no human right is safe when their right to life is denied ... and we will accept no calculus of justice that seeks to trade that right to life for any other.'' If Diaz's brand of Liberation Theology proposes just such a  ''calculus of justice'', I can only hope that his proximity to our Pope will change his heart.
13 years 2 months ago
Miguel Díaz, Ph.D., Active Member and a Past President of The Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS) is President Obama’s nominee for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. As a theologian and educator, Díaz embodies in his scholarship and commitments a profound respect for human dignity and a passion for justice. A Catholic layman, Díaz and his family are devoted participants in the life of the Church. As a professional association of Hispanic theologians we are encouraged by President Obama’s historic nomination of a Latino Catholic to this office. This nomination affirms the important contribution that Hispanics are making as part of the fabric of our nation and our Church. The Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS) is a professional organization of Catholic theologians and scholars of religion providing a theological voice for the lived faith of U.S. Hispanics. For more information about ACHTUS go to [url=http://achtus.org/]http://achtus.org/[/url] To learn more about Latin@ theologies go to the Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology at http://latinotheology.org/
13 years 2 months ago
Liberation Theology is a very specific melding of Christianity and Marxism, sometimes including the marxist penchant for direct action.  It is both condemned and rare. The difference between promoting abortion as a valid birth control option without moral consequence (pro-abortion) and believing that state prohibition of abortion is not advisable - or even that repealing Roe on jurisdictional grounds - thus gutting civil rights law - is a bit more distinct than you are willing to acknowledge.  Not making the decision is partisan, since it allows one to demonize ones political enemies.
13 years 2 months ago
Michael, I think we who are Pro-life know that The Truth regarding the Sanctity of every Human Life  from the beginning is absolute and not relative.
13 years 2 months ago
The metaphysical Truth is one thing, the best use of the Constitution and laws is another thing entirely.  Nancy, I submit to you that there is much about the latter that you do not wish to look at and that this damages your ability and the ability of your movement to act in service to the former.  Piety and holiness won't win the legal argument.  In fact, it was this kind of public piety that our Lord cautioned against when he counseled praying alone in a dark room.

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