The debate over American diplomatic relations with the Vatican is almost as old as the Republic. It became a matter of serious concern-especially for many Protestant leaders--when Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Myron C. Taylor to be his "personal representative" to His Holiness. This concern was increased by the continuation of Taylor's mission after Roosevelt's death and the end of World War II. The White House received protesting letters from a wide variety of sources. One of the most outspoken critics of this mission was Christian Century. Resolutions urging Taylor's recall were passed by several Protestant groups. When a delegation of leading clergymen presented some of these to President Harry S. Truman, Cardinal Spellman violently denounced their action. Many--but by no means all--of those who shared with the Cardinal a desire for the continuation of the Taylor mission were Catholics. Truman promised the Protestant delegation that Taylor's office would be closed when peace was made.
Taylor's 1950 resignation produced a stream of resolutions, letters, articles, and speeches requesting that he not be replaced. There were also many voices--especially in Catholic circles--urging the appointment of a new Vatican envoy. Public opinion polls taken during this period indicated that Catholics were strongly in favor of sending another envoy to the Papal court but that Protestants tended to be indifferent--in spite of the increasing opposition coming from their denominations and their clergymen.
An overwhelming deluge of protesting letters and telegrams followed Truman's October, 1951, nomination of General Mark Clark as American ambassador to Vatican City. Protestant clergymen, organizations, and publications waged a vigorous fight against the proposal-especially on Reformation Sunday. The only major Protestant denomination in which there was substantial clerical disagreement on this issue appeared to be the Episcopal Church. Even in Jewish circles there seemed to be a tendency to oppose the Clark nomination, although some rabbis favored Vatican-American relations. Catholic leaders and publications generally approved of the President's action. Many members of Congress seemed reluctant to commit themselves on this issue. There were probably more secular newspapers that supported the appointment than there were opposing it.
The results of public opinion polls on the Clark affair suggested that the average Catholic definitely favored diplomatic relations with the Vatican, that most Protestants had apparently become convinced in a very short time that the United States should not be represented at the Papal court, and that Democrats were more favorable to the Vatican embassy idea than Republicans.
After the Clark nomination was withdrawn many Protestant leaders, publications, and organizations--along with such ·secular periodicals as Nation and New Republic--declared that no Vatican ambassador would be acceptable to them. Opposition letters continued to arrive at the offices of political leaders in Washington. On the other hand, various Catholics urged that a new nomination be submitted. A 1952 rider that would have prevented the appropriation of money for an interim appointment passed the House of Representatives with the support of Republicans and Southern Democrats but was killed in the Senate.
Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson indicated various degrees of opposition to the idea of diplomatic relations with the Vatican, although there were during their administrations periodic attempts in the press and in Congress to revive the issue. At the end of 1965 it appeared that the battle lines had changed little. Although some Catholics were professing disinterest in the subject others were still urging a renewal of relations Statements from individuals and organizations which had previously opposed relations with Vatican City-including the ecumenically-minded Christian Century--indicated that they continued to do so. Yet informed observers wondered if the ecumenical spirit had not reduced the degree of alarm with which the average Protestant viewed the possibility of sending an American ambassador to Vatican City.
Robert E. Cleveland
W. J. Airey
Master of Arts (MA)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Catholic Church -- Foreign relations -- United States; United States -- Diplomatic and consular service -- Vatican City; Vatican City -- Diplomatic and consular service -- United States
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This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Pettibone, Dennis Lynn, "American Opinion on Diplomatic Relations with the Vatican, 1945-1965" (1966). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 1050.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives