The Global Vatican: An Inside Look at the Catholic Church, World Politics, and the Extraordinary Relationship between the United States and the Holy See

The Global Vatican: An Inside Look at the Catholic Church, World Politics, and the Extraordinary Relationship between the United States and the Holy See

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by Francis Rooney

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From the centuries-long prejudices against Catholics in America, to the efforts of Fascism, Communism and modern terrorist organizations to “break the cross and spill the wine,” this book brings to life the Catholic Church’s role in world history, particularly in the realm of diplomacy. Former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Francis Rooney provides a


From the centuries-long prejudices against Catholics in America, to the efforts of Fascism, Communism and modern terrorist organizations to “break the cross and spill the wine,” this book brings to life the Catholic Church’s role in world history, particularly in the realm of diplomacy. Former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Francis Rooney provides a comprehensive guide to the remarkable path the Vatican has navigated to the present day, and a first-person account of what that path looks and feels like from an American diplomat whose experience lent him the ultimate insider’s perspective. Part memoir, part historical lesson, The Global Vatican captures the braided nature of religious and political power and the complexities, battles, and future prospects for the relationship between the Holy See and the United States as both face challenges old and new.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is Rooney's account of his years (2005–08) as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, coupled with lessons in the history of the Catholic Church, particularly in relation to America. In his first, historical, section, Rooney discusses the church's impact over the course of time and its major players. One focus, for example, is the colony of Maryland's John Carroll, who became America's first Roman Catholic bishop. The author goes on to observe that "the more Catholic that America became, the greater the distance between its shores and the Holy See." Rooney next addresses how the Vatican and the United States, both considered world superpowers in different ways in the 20th century, were able to come together to achieve common aims and learn from each other. It was only in 1984 that the States formally established diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Rooney gives readers an understanding of the Holy See's significance socially, culturally, politically—and especially diplomatically—around the globe. VERDICT Geared toward readers interested in historical context and the way in which our attitudes to, and affinities with, the Catholic Church have evolved, this book offers a level of detail that positions it as special-interest material for readers studying the Vatican from a religio-diplomatic perspective.—Annette Haldeman, Dept. of Legislative Svcs., Maryland General Assembly, Annapolis
Publishers Weekly
The Internet is chock full of websites spouting conspiracy theories about the Vatican's influence on world affairs. Rooney, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, offers a true insider's view into the complex world of the Vatican and the history of its relationship with America. President Ronald Reagan established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1984, more than 200 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Rooney's brilliant historical analysis illustrates how long-held biases on both sides prevented any movement toward official ties between these two great powers prior to the late 20th century. The author also provides an exceptional historical account of the life of John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop of the United States. Most fascinating are the personal glimpses that Rooney offers into his interactions with Vatican officials and even the pope himself—always humble and respectful, but also with an eye toward the ever-present politics involved. This is a fascinating study of how political and religious powers relate, clash and, when healthy, work to help change the world for the better. (Nov.)
Rooney, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See from 2005 to 2008, has written a history of U.S.-Vatican diplomacy from the founding of this country to the present day. Given that both the U.S. and the Catholic Church have at their foundations the idea that human beings are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, it may seem odd that full diplomatic relations were first established by President Reagan in 1984. Rooney explains this by recounting the history of both anti-Catholic sentiment in this country and the church’s suspicions about a democracy born of the Enlightenment. More than a mere history, his book includes personal observations. Rooney contends that the U.S. has much to gain from a close diplomatic relationship with the Holy See. As a Catholic, he is clearly sympathetic to the church, but he argues convincingly of its importance on the world stage. Replete with espionage and historical anecdotes, Rooney’s eminently readable work warrants attention.
David M. Abshire
Francis Rooney deftly blends history with current events, erudite analysis with warm anecdotes inThe Global Vatican. His fascinating book details the incredible history of U.S.-Vatican diplomacy since America’s inception. This book serves as a reminder to the far-reaching influence of two superpowers, the United States and the Vatican. All governments are advised to take into calculation the extraordinary influence of the Vatican at a time when people power compared to state power has achieved new preeminence.
Francis Campbell
In this book Ambassador Rooney has provided a comprehensive historical context to the Holy See’s contemporary foreign policy. As the United States Ambassador at the Holy See, Francis was uniquely placed to publish this book and to capture the essence of the Holy See in international diplomacy. In an increasingly networked world the Holy See with its global spread (which touches 18% of the world’s population) warrants serious analysis. Ambassador Rooney has done that in this text and has shown how the Holy See’s interests were transformed in the 20th century from a somewhat limited European dimension to fully global perspectives. Diplomatic relations with the Holy See do not simply exist on the international legal, diplomatic or political spheres. Because of the size of the Catholic population in many countries the relationship is part domestic and this perhaps is nowhere more evident than in the United States which is now home to the world’s third largest Catholic population. For anyone interested in faith and diplomacy, religion and foreign policy or the practice of diplomacy, Ambassador Rooney’s work provides an insight into quite a unique diplomatic relationship between the US and the Holy See and also between a ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power, and is well worth the read.
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Ambassador Rooney's study of the United States' diplomatic relationship to the Vatican has given us a thoughtful and well researched analysis of a significant element in Papal Diplomacy. His style makes it easy to read, yet it contains important insights bringing new light to a fascinating part of history. Students of the Church and of American history will find this book both interesting and useful.
Voice of Reason
Rooney’s history of Vatican diplomacy is both colorful and factual...The Global Vatican is a useful and informative volume, and the extensive bibliography shows the author has read widely and deeply.
Theological Studies
Well written and readable, the book provides a solid updated bibliography enriched by a wide range of interviews that include high-level Vatican officials and church observers. Moreover, thanks to a well-designed structure, Rooney accomplishes the goal of appealing to both a general audience and experts in the field. . . .Part memoir part historical essay, the volume captures the braided nature of religious and political power and the complexities, battles, and future prospects for the relationship between the Holy See and the United States as both face challenges old and new.

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An Inside Look at the Catholic Church, World Politics, and the Extraordinary Relationship between the United States and the Holy See



Copyright © 2013 Rowman & Littlefield
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4422-2361-5



By reputation, the United States is a Protestant country and Catholics were asserted to be unsuited for it. Yet virtually every Catholic writer or thinker who visited America since 1607 has been excited by the country's extraordinary consonance with Catholic faith.

—Michael Novak


The first question any author writing about the Vatican asks is: where to start? The Catholic Church has been around for more than two thousand very eventful years. To put the longevity of the church in perspective, consider that the United States of America is currently on its 44th president; the church is on its 265th pope. This is a sweep of time so vast and rich that no single volume could do it justice.

This volume obviously intends no such thing. We are interested here in the church primarily as a diplomatic entity, particularly in relation to the United States. The 1,800 years of Catholicism that preceded the birth of the United States will not be ignored, for no aspect of the church can be isolated from its long history. Given this project's scope, though, the distant past will be treated only briefly. And while much of what is told here will be compelling in its own right, touching upon some of the most important human events of the last few centuries, this is history with a purpose. In part, that purpose is to give American readers insight into the nature of the Holy See, its guiding principles, and its legacy of engagement in the affairs of states. One primary purpose is to answer a question that I have been asked many times since serving as ambassador: why, given the obvious congruence of our values, did it take until 1984 for the United States and Holy See to recognize each other formally? In the answer lies an understanding of this most singular relationship.

There is no better place to begin this inquiry than on the campus of my alma mater, Georgetown University. Just inside the main gates of Georgetown, rising from the circular lawn in front of Healy Hall, is a statue I have walked by hundreds, maybe thousands, of times since first stepping onto campus more than forty years ago. I'm sure that many mornings in my undergraduate years I raced by the bronze figure on my way to class with barely a glance. These days it never fails to grab my attention.

The subject of the statue, as every good Hoya knows, is John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States and Georgetown's founder.

Most Americans have forgotten the name John Carroll. Also largely forgotten are the once-celebrated names of his brother, Daniel, a framer of the U.S. Constitution, and his cousin, Charles, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. You won't find much in history textbooks about this once-prominent American Catholic family. In fact, you won't find much about Catholics at all in histories of early America. Today's histories include a wider variety of people—Native Americans, African Americans, Dutch, Jews—than just Pilgrims and Puritans, but still not much about Catholics, and even less about the Carrolls. This is unfortunate. The Carrolls were not only important founding fathers of the United States; they were also—and this applies to John Carroll especially—critical early links between the new nation and the Catholic Church in Rome.

As depicted in the sculpture at Georgetown, John Carroll sits in a chair perched atop a granite pedestal. He is dressed in the flowing robe of a bishop's vestments and his expression is pensive and dignified. I have no idea if Carroll the man looked anything like Carroll the statue, but the pose is striking. Carroll's face turns slightly to his right, as if he's gazing through the buildings and trees of the campus and down the Potomac River toward swampy Washington, D.C. (The nation's capital was literally a swamp in Carroll's day.) He appears to be contemplating the future. Or maybe it's the opposite: maybe he is looking further downriver, toward the distant Chesapeake Bay, recalling the difficult past.

One of the unsettling truths about the America in which Carroll was born and lived is how inhospitable it was to Roman Catholics. The colonies were populated overwhelmingly by Protestants, and though many of them came to escape persecution in the Old World, they did not extend their hopes for religious liberty to Catholics in the New World. Massachusetts Bay Colony set the tone in 1647 when it banished, under threat of death, any "Jesuit or ecclesiastical person ordained by the authority of the pope." Virginia had a law excluding "popish recusants" (Catholics who persisted in practicing their faith) from a host of occupations and rights. Some version of this law was on the books in nearly every colony, including John Carroll's birthplace, the Province of Maryland.

Initially, Maryland was intended to be the exception to the rule. The colony was founded by a Catholic Englishman, Cecil Calvert, better known as the second Lord Baltimore. Calvert's father, George, the first Lord Baltimore, had been granted a charter by King Charles I in 1632 to form a settlement along the Potomac River. While never conceived as an exclusively Catholic enclave, Maryland was meant to be a place where Catholics might enjoy "mutual love and Amity" with Protestants, "free from persecution on account of their religion." George Calvert died shortly after receiving the charter and it was left to Cecil to organize the settlement, which he did in 1634, when the Ark and Dove landed in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, carrying Jesuit missionaries along with Catholics and Protestant settlers.

The spirit of amity held for a number of years. In 1649, the Maryland assembly took a historic step, ensuring the right of Catholics and Protestants to practice their respective religions. Maryland's "Toleration Act," limited as it was—no allowance was made for Jews or other non-Christian faiths—is widely considered a template for the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment that would be adopted by the United States 140 years later.

But Maryland did not turn out to be a happy refuge for Catholics. Five years after its passage, the Toleration Act was tossed out in a Protestant coup within the colony. Catholics soon regained control and reinstated the law, but by 1692, after the "Glorious Revolution" in England (when the Catholic King James I was replaced by the Protestant William of Orange), they had lost power again. Protestant orthodoxy became the law of the land. Talk of religious toleration did not resume for another eighty years.

The persecution of Catholics varied in degree during these years, but it was persistent. "Anti-popery" laws restricted Catholics' rights to celebrate mass publicly and to baptize their children, as well as their rights to vote or hold public office, and generally dismissed Catholics as misguided and possibly seditious aliens whose faith precluded full citizenship. Having been tempered by years of persecution, Maryland Catholics learned to accommodate their faith to reality. Some prospered financially in spite of such indignities as a double tax on their land, enacted in 1756. The Carroll family managed to become one of the largest and wealthiest landholders in all the colonies.

Rich or poor, Catholics worshipped quietly in homes or in small private chapels, a function both of the illicitness of public mass and the scarcity of churches. Most of their priests were itinerant missionaries who traveled great distances through the countryside, showing up in towns between long intervals to perform baptisms, weddings, burials, and other rites. "You must not imagine that our chapels look as yours do," one Jesuit missionary wrote home to England in 1764, "they are in great forests, some miles from any House of Hospitality.... Swamps, runs, miry holes, lost in the Night, as yet and ever will in this country attend us." Given these obstacles, it's a good bet that the man who later became the first bishop of the United States seldom met a priest as a young boy.


John Carroll was born in Upper Marlborough, Maryland, on January 8, 1735. Not much is known of Carroll's childhood. He was probably educated at home as a young boy, as were many Catholic children, since Catholic education outside the home was prohibited. At age twelve, he attended a semicovert Jesuit school at Bohemia Manor, on the upper Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. A year later, in the summer of 1748, thirteen-year-old "Jackie" said farewell to his family and sailed out of the Chesapeake, following a route across the Atlantic taken by many Maryland Catholic boys in the eighteenth century. Accompanying him was his eleven-year-old cousin, Charles, the future signer of the Declaration of Independence. Neither would see home again until they were grown men.

The Carroll cousins landed in London, then made their way across the channel and north through France to Flanders. A Jesuit school there, in the town of St. Omer, had been educating Catholic boys since the late sixteenth century. The school offered an extraordinary education for an American, deeper and more cosmopolitan than any colonial Protestant was likely to receive at the time, albeit one earned by exile from home and family. "Most of our Merylanders do very well," John's cousin Charles would write home in 1750, "and are said to be as good as any, if not the best boys in the house."

Given events on the political horizon in the late eighteenth century, the curriculum at St. Omer was notable. Along with Latin and Greek classics, students were given a steady diet of Catholic theology as interpreted by the intellectually probing Jesuits. They would have been exposed to Thomas Aquinas's writings from the thirteenth century, but also to the works of sixteenth century Jesuit thinkers such as Spaniards Francisco Suarez and Juan de Mariana and Italian Robert Bellarmine. These authors were, in their way, as rousing as John Locke on the subject of liberty. In Summa Theologica, Aquinas distinguished between just and unjust government, proposing that subjects had a right to rise up against an unjust tyrant, and even commit tyrannicide, in certain extraordinary circumstances. The Jesuit writers took this line of thought a little further, expanding the conditions for resistance against corrupt monarchs. Rulers ruled with the consent of the people, the Jesuits argued, and lost legitimacy when they lost consent. Such ideas did not sit well with Europe's monarchs and would eventually haunt the Jesuits. In the meantime, the education at St. Omer armed its students well, both intellectually and morally, for the looming battle for liberty.

* * *

John's cousin, Charles Carroll, left Europe and returned to Maryland in 1764 to take his place as his father's heir. By the early 1770s, Charles was caught up in the political fervor in the colonies. He engaged in a widely publicized debate in a Maryland newspaper, emerging as a brilliant and inspiring proponent for the cause of liberty under the pseudonym "First Citizen." Charles's entry into politics was remarkable given that he and his fellow Catholics still had no right to vote in Maryland.

John Carroll took a different route after St. Omer. He remained in France and entered a Jesuit seminary. Ordained a Jesuit priest in 1759, Carroll took his final vows in 1771. His timing could not have been worse. This was precisely the moment when Europe's Catholic monarchs, including rulers from France, Spain, Portugal, and Sicily, decided they had had enough of what they perceived to be the Jesuit's meddling and seditious behavior. On August 16, 1773, Pope Clement XIV buckled under the monarchs' demands to put the religious order out of business. Deciding that the Jesuits were more trouble to the church than they were worth, he issued a papal bull known as Dominus ac Redemptor. The Society of Jesus was thereby "suppressed."

The bull was "one of the unfairest pontifical acts in the history of the papacy," one biographer of John Carroll has written. The papal historian Eamon Duffy calls it "the papacy's most shameful hour." For John Carroll, the suppression was a devastating blow. "I am not, and perhaps never shall be, recovered from the shock of this dreadful intelligence," he wrote home to his brother, Daniel. "The greatest blessing which in my estimation I could receive from God, would be immediate death."

But God had other plans for John Carroll. In 1774, hoping to escape the despair that Europe had come to represent to him, he boarded one of the last passenger ships to leave England for the Chesapeake Bay before the Revolutionary War.


We have to imagine how difficult his homecoming must have been for John Carroll. He was forty years old, well into middle age, and had been away for twenty-seven years. His religious family, the Jesuits, had been condemned and outlawed by the pope. His father had passed away a few years earlier. His mother, whom he had not seen since he was twelve, failed to recognize him when he first returned. And while much had changed in Maryland in the years that he'd been gone, the colony still refused to grant him and his fellow Catholics the right to practice their religion as they pleased. Practically a stranger in a strange land, Carroll moved in with his mother at Rock Creek, Maryland, where he built a small wooden chapel to serve local Catholics, and began a peripatetic ministry to more distant Marylanders and Virginians.

Meanwhile, the winds of revolution were sweeping across the colonies. The Boston Tea Party occurred a year before Carroll's return, in December 1773. By 1774, delegates of the colonies, spurred by the Intolerable Acts (a series of laws passed by Parliament after the turmoil in Boston), were meeting in Philadelphia to discuss tactics against Britain. The first shots were fired in Lexington and Concord in the spring of 1775, and Bunker Hill came two months later.

The American Revolution was initially a mixed blessing for Roman Catholics living in the colonies. On the positive side, all the talk of liberty raised the promise of new freedoms, including freedom of religion. One auspicious sign: Charles Carroll, though still unable to vote, attended the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774. The fact that Marylanders were apparently putting their faith in a Catholic was a step in the right direction.

But along with anti-British sentiment came, ironically, a new wave of anti-Catholicism. This was generated mainly by the Quebec Act, passed by Parliament in the summer of 1774. The Quebec Act (usually lumped among the Intolerable Acts) was a blatant attempt by the British Parliament to seek support from the Canadian provinces. Recognizing that much of settled Canada was still French-speaking and very much Catholic, as it had been under French dominion, the British offered the Canadians the right and freedom to practice their faith, provided they profess allegiance to King George. The act also included a provision to hand over frontier territory to Quebec's Catholics; land that many Americans believed was rightfully theirs (and which would eventually become part of the United States).

The response to the Quebec Act in the colonies was outrage. Anti-British rhetoric now blended with long simmering fears of "popery." In October 1774, the Continental Congress, in an address written by John Jay—later the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court—issued dire warnings of a conspiracy between the English monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church. Citing the church's propensity for "impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion," Jay insinuated that the pope intended to help Britain enslave Americans.

Jay was hardly alone among the Founders in promoting anti-Catholicism. Even so fair-minded a man as John Adams scorned Catholics as "poor wretches fingering their beads," as he wrote home to his wife, Abigail, after attending a mass in Philadelphia the same October that John Jay issued his address. In the immediate wake of the Quebec Act, Adams encouraged Protestant preachers to use their pulpits to inflame feeling against the Catholic Church. His Boston cousin, the rabble-rousing Sam Adams, went even further, denouncing popery as "the greatest of evils to be feared."

But then, quite abruptly, the attitudes of the Americans began to shift. One important indication of the new direction was an order issued by George Washington to the Continental army on November 5, 1775, in anticipation of an annual holiday known as Pope's Day. Marking a Catholic plot to blow up the House of Parliament in 1605, the holiday—called Guy Fawkes Day in England, after its most infamous conspirator—was traditionally celebrated in America by burning the pope in effigy. General Washington condemned "that ridiculous and childish custom," as he put it, "so monstrous as not to be suffered or excused."

Washington was moved by his real sense of decency, but he was also being pragmatic. Just a year after the Quebec Act, the patriots had come to realize that they needed the French Canadians on their side. Burning popes in effigy was not going to win friends in Quebec.

Excerpted from THE GLOBAL VATICAN by FRANCIS ROONEY. Copyright © 2013 Rowman & Littlefield. Excerpted by permission of ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHERS, INC..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Francis Rooney was the United States ambassador to the Holy See from 2005 to 2008. He is the CEO of Rooney Holdings.

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