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Book Lecture: The Global Vatican with Amb. Francis Rooney

Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 5:00pm - 6:30pm

You are cordially invited to a book lecture for

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

Amb. Francis Rooney 
Former US Ambassador to the Holy See

Friday, November 22
Reception 5:00 PM
Lecture 5:30 PM
Reception 6:00 PM 

The Institute of World Politics
1521 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

Please RSVP to

The Global VaticanAbout the book

During a period of immense change and challenge for the United States, the Catholic Church, and the world, Francis Rooney served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, the governing body of the Catholic Church, under George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008.  His new book captures the interwoven 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.

In THE GLOBAL VATICAN (Rowman & Littlefield, November 2013), Ambassador Francis Rooney provides an unprecedented inside look at the Catholic Church, its role in world politics and diplomacy, and the extraordinary relationship between the United States and the Holy See.  He argues that U.S. foreign policy has much to gain from its relationship with the Holy See, and vice versa.  No institution on earth has both the international stature and the global reach of the Holy See-the “soft power” of moral influence and authority to promote religious freedom, human liberties, and related values that Americans and our allies uphold worldwide.

The timing of Francis Rooney’s assignment to the Holy See came at a momentous period for both America and the Catholic Church.  America was four years out from 9/11 and locked in difficult wars in two countries, including a conflict in Iraq-of which the Holy See had strongly and vocally disapproved.  The Bush Administration was making progress in bringing democracy, freedom, and stability to Iraq and Afghanistan, but it was difficult on both fronts.  And the Catholic Church had its own challenges-the first of these facing Pope Benedict XVI was succeeding the beloved Pope John Paul II.  A decline of active participation and growing secularization in much of the Western world threatened the Church at the same time that the abuse scandal continued to expand.  Still, the Church remained a powerful moral voice in the world, and Rooney worked with the Holy See to achieve as much diplomatic alignment as possible on crucial issues.

As Francis Rooney argues, the United States and the Holy See remain two of the most significant institutions in world history, one a beacon of democracy and progress, the other a sanctum of faith and allegiance to timeless principles.  Despite these differences between the first modern democracy and the longest surviving Western monarchy, Rooney maintains that both were founded on the idea that “human persons” possess inalienable natural rights granted by God.  This had been a revolutionary concept when the Catholic Church embraced it 2,000 years ago, and was equally revolutionary when the Declaration of Independence stated it 1,800 years later.

Given our mutual respect for human rights, it seems obvious that America and the Catholic Church would be natural friends and collaborators in world affairs.  But this wasn’t the case for nearly 200 years of American history.  As THE GLOBAL VATICAN demonstrates, both the United States and the Holy See had to overcome deeply held convictions and perceptions-entrenched anti-Catholicism on the part of Americans; antidemocratic, monarchical reflexes on the part of the Holy See.  President Reagan established full diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1984 because, among other reasons, he realized that he could have no better partner than Pope John Paul II in the fight against communism-and he was right.  Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Holy See has continued to play a crucial role as a diplomatic force while maintaining formal relations with 179 countries-a number surpassed only by the United States.

The Church is one of the leading advocates and providers for the poor in the world, fights against the scourge of human trafficking, and advances the cause of human dignity and rights more than any other organization in the world.  The Holy See also plays a significant role in pursuing diplomatic solutions to international predicaments, whether, for example, promoting peace between Israel and Palestine, helping end the civil war in Lebanon, or helping to secure the release of nearly one hundred political prisoners from Cuba in 2010.

Francis Rooney contends in THE GLOBAL VATICAN that American values and foreign policy goals can be advanced in many parts of the world, including the Middle East, China, Latin America, Cuba, and Africa, through closer diplomatic ties with the Holy See.  He notes that the past few years have seen cordial but cooling relations as President Obama has visited the Vatican just once since taking office, and the Obama Administration has demonstrated little more than a perfunctory interest in the Holy See’s diplomatic role in the world.  This is a regrettable lost opportunity.

The power and influence of the Holy See is often underestimated.  A benevolent monarchy tucked into a corner of a modern democracy, the Holy See is at once a universally recognized sovereign-representing more than a billion people (one seventh of the world’s population)-and the civil government of the smallest nation-state on earth.  It has no military and only a negligible economy, but it has greater reach and influence than most nations.  It’s not simply the number or variety of people that the Holy See represents that gives it relevance; it’s also the moral influence of the Church, which is still considerable despite secularization and scandals. 

As THE GLOBAL VATICAN illustrates, the Holy See advocates powerfully for morality in the lives of both Catholics and non-Catholics, and in both individuals and nations.  One may disagree with some of the Church’s positions and yet still recognize the value-the real and practical value-of its insistence that “right” should precede “might” in world affairs.  At its core, the Catholic Church is a powerful and unique source of noncoercive “soft power” on the world stage-it moves people to do the right thing by appealing to ideals and shared values, rather than to fear and brute force.

There are limits to the Church’s ability to influence the actions of societies and nations, of course, because it cannot force its will with economic or military leverage.  But it is precisely in these failings that its greatness lies-the Church appeals above and beyond might, money, or political power to a deeper recognition in human beings of what is good and right.  Ultimately, the Church has power through its consistent defense of enduring principles-it stands for the same thing every day, and in every place. 

As the author and historian Hilaire Belloc put it, “the Church is a perpetually defeated thing that always outlives her conquerors.”  And Francis Rooney proves that there is much good still to come from the Church, especially in areas where the Holy See and the United States find themselves in alignment.

About the author

Francis Rooney served as United States Ambassador to the Holy See under George W. Bush from 2005-2008.  He is Chief Executive Officer of Rooney Holdings, Inc.

In his new book, THE GLOBAL VATICAN, Ambassador Rooney provides an unprecedented inside look at the Catholic Church, its role in world politics and diplomacy, and the extraordinary relationship between the United States and the Holy See.

Ambassador Rooney serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Panama Canal Authority, a member of the Council of American Ambassadors, and a Trustee of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.  He is a graduate of Georgetown University and Georgetown University Law Center.  He also has Honorary Degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Dallas.