Who will Joe Biden send to Rome? 8 top contenders for U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican
As Joseph R. Biden Jr., the second Catholic president in U.S. history, continues to serve in his administration, a number of prominent executive and ambassadorial candidates will appear before the Senate. The position of United States Ambassador to the Holy See is a particularly attractive position for American Catholics.
Since 1984, the United States and the Holy See have maintained formal diplomatic relations, building on a long history of relations dating back to the Washington administration. Mr Biden, who keeps a photo of himself and Pope Francis on a table behind his desk in the Oval Office, is likely to consider several factors in his decision, including the priorities Mr Biden would seek to highlight with the Holy See, the expertise and familiarity with the church of the candidates and the message Mr. Biden wants to send to American Catholics.
[Explainer: The (complicated) history of U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican]
If a precedent is any indicator, whoever Biden appoints as the 12th U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See is likely to be a practicing Catholic who has been directly employed by the church or has volunteered for its organizations. In addition, the ambassador is likely to be an open supporter of the president.
So who is he going to be? A quick survey of the American Catholic scene evokes a number of potential pioneers.
1. Elizabeth Frawley Bagley is an American lawyer who has held diplomatic positions in the Clinton and Obama administrations. A graduate of Regis College and Georgetown University Law School, Ms. Bagley served as U.S. Ambassador to Portugal (1994-97), Special Representative for Global Partnerships (2009-10) and Special Advisor for Secretary’s initiatives (2014-2017)).
If a precedent is any indicator, whoever Biden names is likely to be a practicing Catholic who has worked or volunteered with the Catholic Church – and who is an open supporter of the president.
Ms Bagley, a prominent supporter of the Democratic Party, sits on the board of directors of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the American Ireland Fund, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the National Park Foundation. Ms Bagley participated in the Catholics for Biden outreach initiative during the 2020 campaign.
2. Felice Gorordo is CEO of eMerge Americas. A native of Miami, Mr. Gorordo is a graduate of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and Georgetown University. During the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Gorordo served as Assistant to US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and later Special Assistant to Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Colonel Emilio T. Gonzalez.
Mr. Gorordo also worked in the US State Department and was appointed a member of the White House by President Obama. Mr. Gorordo has also been heavily involved in US-Cuban relations, accompanying Secretary of State John Kerry on the reopening of the US Embassy in Havana, as well as Pope Francis on his apostolic visit to Cuba. in 2015. Mr. Gorordo also served on the National Cancer Initiative Moonshot of Biden, then vice president, and was a member of the Catholics for Biden.
3. Alexia Kelley is the President and CEO of Fadica (Foundations and donors interested in Catholic activities). A graduate of Haverford College and Harvard Divinity School, Ms. Kelley served for 10 years in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She was also deputy director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the White House during the Obama administration. She previously worked for Environmental Resources Trust, a non-profit organization that focuses on market-based solutions for promoting renewable energy and mitigating climate change.
[Related: Can Joe Biden work with the bishops? The White House director for faith partnerships thinks so.]
4. Dan Lipinski served as the United States Representative for Illinois’ Third Congressional District from 2005 to 2021. Mr. Lipinski was considered one of the most socially conservative Democrats in Congress and was a vocal opponent of abortion and embryonic stem cell research. He holds a doctorate from Duke University in political science and has previously taught at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Tennessee. A devout Catholic, Mr. Lipinski represented a district considered a hotbed for the “Reagan Democrats”.
5. Martin O’Malley was the 61st Governor of Maryland and the 47th Mayor of Baltimore. Mr. O’Malley attended Gonzaga College High School, the Catholic University of America and the University of Maryland School of Law. Mr O’Malley, a former presidential candidate, has also served as chairman of the Association of Democratic Governors. Now in private practice, Mr. O’Malley was Jerome Lyle Rappaport’s first visiting professor at Boston College Law School and was a Catholic supporter for Biden.
6. Kerry Robinson is the global ambassador for the Leadership Roundtable, which promotes best practices for the church and its institutions in the areas of management, finance, communications and human resources. (Editor’s note: Ms Robinson wrote for America.A graduate of Georgetown University and Yale Divinity School, Ms. Robinson served as Director of Development for the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University and founding CEO of the Leadership Roundtable. Ms. Robinson is a director of the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities and a member of Fadica. Ms. Robinson is a recognized author in the areas of church management, empowering female voices within the Catholic Church, and philanthropy.
7. Stephen Schneck is the executive director of the Franciscan Action Network. Mr. Schneck is a graduate of Rockhurst University and Notre Dame University. Previously Associate Professor and Director of the Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, Mr. Schneck currently serves on the board of directors of Sojourners, the Catholic Mobilizing Network and the Catholic Climate Covenant. In addition to his academic work and activism, Mr. Schneck served as National Catholics Co-Chair for Obama in 2012 and was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2015. Mr. Schneck argued President Biden as Catholics co-chair for Biden.
8. Carolyn Woo served as President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services from 2012 to 2016. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Ms. Woo immigrated to the United States in 1972 to attend Purdue University, where she received her BA, master’s and doctorate. Ms. Woo served as Associate Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Purdue University, then became Dean of the Mendoza School of Business at the University of Notre Dame from 1997 to 2011.
[Watch: Carolyn Woo on what Joe Biden has to offer Catholic voters]
Ms. Woo helped launch the Principles for Responsible Management Education for the United Nations Global Compact and served on the board of the Aileron Foundation; Catholic University of America; Archdiocese of Baltimore Independent Child Abuse Review Committee; Migration & Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and the USCCB International Policy Committee. Ms. Woo was also a member of the Biden Catholics.
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