President Joe Biden has nominated former U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) to be the next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.
During the 2020 election, Donnelly served as chair of Catholics for Biden and defended Biden’s faith from attacks by conservative Catholics who oppose Biden’s pro-choice stand on abortion.
“I am truly honored to be nominated to this role by President Biden, a man of faith and a friend,” Donnelly said in a statement. “If confirmed, I look forward to working with the Holy See on a wide variety of issues, including human rights, religious freedom, immigration, climate change, peace, and poverty.”
William Donohue, president of the far-right Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, issued a statement calling Donnelly a “rogue Catholic.”
“Joe Donnelly started out as a Catholic official who was mostly in line with the policy prescriptions of the Catholic Church,” Donohue wrote. “But he ended his career in government as a foe of the Church’s moral teachings. Now he wants to represent the U.S. at the Vatican.”
If approved by the U.S. Senate, Donnelly will succeed Callista Gingrich, who was appointed to the post by President Donald Trump.
President Ronald W. Reagan established official diplomatic ties with the Vatican, which occupies 109 acres in Rome, in 1984. Since then, every U.S. ambassador has been Catholic.
Biden traveled to Rome in late October to attend a meeting of world leaders, and while there had a 90-minute audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican. After the meeting, Biden told reporters that the pope had assured him that he is a Catholic in good standing and should not hesitate to take communion. Some U.S. bishops have charged that Biden is ineligible for communion because of his stand in favor of legal abortion.