Ambassador-designate for Vatican is opposed

April 21, 1993|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

Long-standing criticism of the appointment of any U.S. ambassador to the Vatican has taken a new turn with President Clinton's nominee, Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn. Some liberal Roman Catholics are leading the opposition to Mr. Flynn because of his anti-abortion stance.

Mr. Flynn "is out of step with the Clinton administration's strong pro-choice position," said Frances Kissling, president of the Washington-based Catholics for a Free Choice, an abortion-rights group leading the charge against Mr. Flynn.

Ms. Kissling said representatives of more than 30 organizations -- both Catholic and non-denominational -- had joined her group in signing a statement asking that the president's selection of Mr. Flynn either be withdrawn or rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

They include groups of Catholics out of step with their bishops' opposition to abortion, such as the National Coalition of American Nuns, Chicago Catholic Women and Quixote Center, as well as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, National Black Women's Health Project and International Women's Health Coalition.

While opposing the nomination of Mr. Flynn, the signers did not align themselves with those major Protestant or ecumenical groups -- such as the National Council of Churches, the Southern Baptist Convention and Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- that have strongly opposed any U.S. diplomatic ties at all with the Vatican.

"For most diplomatic positions a person's views on reproductive rights would not be much of an issue," Ms. Kissling said. "But the Vatican has a history of influencing public policy globally on issues affecting women and reproductive health.

"Americans want and deserve an ambassador who represents U.S. policy to the Vatican," Ms. Kissling said. "We do not want an ambassador who represents Vatican policy to the United States. That would just continue the policy established by past administrations and would be a profound disservice to Americans and to women worldwide."

Mr. Flynn was quoted last month as saying that he "won't be silent" on the abortion issue, adding: "The President has made it very clear to me that I have that flexibility. . . . I'm strongly pro-life."

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