No, The U.S. Isn’t Closing Its Vatican Embassy

A State Department announcement about consolidation of diplomatic posts in Rome has led to the latest round of Obama Derangement Syndrome.

St Peters Basilica

The latest benign government announcement that has turned into an outrage on the right started earlier this week when the State Department announced a consolidation of U.S. diplomatic posts in Rome that includes the Embassy to Italy and the Embassy to Vatican City:

The United States will move its freestanding Vatican embassy into a larger government compound that includes the U.S. Embassy to Italy, a shift that has drawn criticism from former U.S. envoys.

Security and cost savings were behind the move, as the State Department estimates it will save $1.4 million a year by moving from the current building.

It will not downsize any embassy personnel, a State Department official told reporters Monday (Nov. 25). At the time, the official did not have total budget information of both embassies at hand. The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See has seven U.S. diplomatic personnel, and the U.S. Embassy to Italy has 63 diplomatic personnel.

The relocated embassy will be 0.1 miles closer to the Vatican, putting the distance at about 1.9 miles between the two.

Former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson called the move a “massive downgrade” in U.S.-Vatican ties, turning the Vatican embassy “into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy,” in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter.

Former U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican — Francis Rooney, Mary Ann Glendon, Raymond Flynn, Thomas Melady — also objected.

In the past, the Vatican has insisted that countries maintain embassies to the Holy S ee and to Rome in separate locations, but it hasn’t protested the U.S. relocation. The State Department official said that while the embassies will be located on the same compound, the Vatican embassy will have separate entrances.

Not surprisingly, the comments from these former Ambassadors has caused many on the right to rise up and insist that the Obama Administration has somehow insulted the Vatican and, indeed, every Roman Catholic in the world. For example, here’s how Breitbart’s “news” people covered it in a story that was eventually picked up by The Washington Times:

The Obama administration has decided to shut down the free-standing American embassy to the Holy See. The offices for the Ambassador to the Vatican will be moved onto the grounds of the larger American embassy to Italy, in a separate building.


It looks to some as though the Obama administration is trying to diminish and discredit the Vatican’s role in the world because it’s  pro-life, pro-family, and pro-religious freedom values  is at odds with the Regime’s pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage stance.

But the current U.S. Ambassador Ken Hackett said, ”I see no diminishing in the importance of the relationship at all.”

Not surprisingly, there’s similar negative reaction from many Catholic news sources here in the United States, including the National Catholic Reporter, and Catholic Vote.Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush got into the act in a tweet that went like this:

And, the National Republican Senatorial Committee couldn’t help but use the announcement to try to gain political advantage:

webpage set up by the National Republican Senatorial Committee contains the ominous headline, “Obama Closes Vatican Embassy.”

“The media is reporting that President Obama plans to close the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican,” the page reads. “This is just the latest anti-religion pursuit of this Administration, a slap in the face to Catholic-Americans around the country that weakens America’s position as a global leader.”

The interesting thing about all of this, of course, is that while conservatives here in the United States spent several days before Thanksgiving Day discussing how this was a slap in the face to the Catholic Church and Catholic Americans, the Vatican itself doesn’t actually seem to mind:

Addressing the growing controversy in Rome, the State Department arranged a briefing for reporters on Monday with an unnamed senior official who said the purpose for the move was to save money and increase security.

A spokesman for the Vatican said the move was well within the Holy See’s requirements for embassies and that relations with the United States are far from strained.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest who works with the Vatican’s press office, said the Vatican requires foreign embassies to the Holy See be separate from the country’s mission to Italy, have a separate address and have a separate entrance.

Both Rosica and the senior State Department official said the proposed U.S. move satisfies those requirements.

Rosica also praised Ken Hackett, the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, telling CNN that “at this critical time in history, he brings eminent credentials to represent the United States to the Vatican.”

He added there “a very good feeling right now” between the two countries.

Another Vatican official, not authorized to speak on the record about diplomatic relations, told CNN the Holy See understands security concerns are an issue for some countries and this move is “an exception, not the ideal, but not the end of the world.”

The State Department contends the move from a free-standing building to a more secure compound that currently includes the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations is a must following attacks on other American embassies.

The State Department official dismissed complaints that the move was hurting the U.S. relationship with the Vatican, telling reporters the embassy to the Holy See will be much closer to the Vatican and there will be “no reduction in diplomatic staff. There’s no reduction in ambassadors, there’s no reduction in mission.”

The absurdity of this entire controversy is quite apparent once you examine the actual facts here. First of all, while it is true that the move will mean that the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican will not be within the territorial grounds of Vatican City, it’s also true that the current U.S. Embassy to the Vatican is also not located within the grounds of the Vatican. Of course, none of the approximately 80 nations that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See have embassies on the grounds of the Vatican. This is largely because of the fact that the small size of the Vatican’s territory makes locating anything resembling a functioning diplomatic outpost within those boundaries impractical at best. Moreover, the contemplated move would actually put the Embassy to the Holy See closer to the Vatican geographically than it currently is by more than a mile. Second, as noted there’s not going to be any reduction in embassy staff or the rank of the diplomat that will be considered the head of the mission. Finally, as noted above, the Vatican has stated publicly that it has no problem with the consolidation decision that the United States is making here.

The only group that seems offended by what is obviously just an innocuous administrative decision by the State Department that is animated by both a desire to save money and security concerns are people on the American right who have spent the past four and three quarter years being perpetually offended by anything this Administration does. It’s really gotten quite tiresome, and it’s also gotten to the point where, when they do raise legitimate concerns about Administration policy in either the foreign or domestic sphere, they just end up sounding like shrill, biased partisans with nothing of substance to say.

FILED UNDER: Religion, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Not surprisingly, there’s similar negative reaction from many Catholic news sources here in the United States, including the National Catholic Reporter, and Catholic Vote.Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush got into the act in a tweet that went like this:

    Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.
    — Jeb Bush (@JebBush) November 27, 2013

    The funny thing is that decision to move the embassy was made during the Bush administration, so he’s actually criticizing his own brother.

  2. nitpicker says:

    Two other things that make this a ridiculous complaint: the plans for the move began under Bush and, after the move, the embassy to the Vatican will actually be closer to the Vatican itself.

  3. steve says:

    Your last sentence is important. Having family and friends on the far right, even by today’s standards, I get a constant stream of emails about supposed affronts and conspiracies. I now tend to mostly ignore them. There might be some real complaints in there somewhere, but it hardly seems with the effort to look for them.


  4. Heisenberg says:

    This reminds me of the whole Churchill bust nonsense, in which Obama had somehow “insulted” England but nobody in England cared.

  5. John Peabody says:

    Good points. I may have to comment on other posts on this topic today…just to let people read a few tiresome-what are they called? oh yeah…’facts’— beyond the headlines….gotta make the rounds….sigh… it’s hard to defend conservatism when people go crazy like this.

  6. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    You mean no one believes the boy who keeps crying WOLF?

  7. beth says:

    Hey, leave JEB! alone. He’s running for president soon and he’s got a lot of wingnut catching up to do.

    FYI, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Israel have all also consolidated their embassies.

  8. PJ says:

    Ireland? Why do Irish Catholics hate the Vatican?

    Also, I thought the current Pope was super liberal, Sarah Palin has said that. So, why are the deranged right not happy about Obama punishing the super liberal Pope?

  9. walt moffett says:

    Agree that this has become tiresome, however, when you’re staring at the screen needing a post (and ad clicks) winding the outrage crank works anywhere.

    goddess forbid a post about say, paltry TANF benefits or the quiet take of the US arms business by Europeans.

  10. BIll says:

    @beth: No Jeb Bush is not running for President. This Floridian has been shooting down that GOP fantasy(and the one that has him running for the Senate) for almost a decade.

  11. al-Ameda says:

    This is another non-story that causes conservatives to turn red and drool out of the side of their faces. And that, as they say, is not necessarily a bad thing.

  12. Pinky says:

    You guys are suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome Derangement Syndrome. You’re quicker to jump on stories that the Right would theoretically complain about than the Right jumps on them to complain about.

    I see no mention of this story on Drudge, NRO, Ace of Spades, or PJ Media. Two stories on Breitbart: one from three days ago (208 comments), another from yesterday (0 comments). One story on Hot Air with 8 comments. Can’t say that that’s trending strong. Among the voices in this article are Ray Flynn, the Democratic former mayor of Boston, and the National Catholic Reporter, which runs about as leftward as The Nation.

    Will this story go into the mental files of angry right-wingers? Maybe. Will it go into the mental files of left-wingers who are angry every time right-wingers complain? You tell me.

  13. Pinky says:

    That’s your standard for “…many on the right to rise up and insist that the Obama Administration has somehow insulted the Vatican and, indeed, every Roman Catholic in the world”? A story that died in 24 hours, if it stayed afloat that long? You really need to recalibrate.

  14. Pinky says:

    Huffpo’s article “Jeb Bush Perpetuates Myth That Obama Is Closing The Vatican Embassy” has 1373 comments. Do you sense a problem in proportion here? That the Left is overreacting more than the Right on this one?

  15. anjin-san says:

    @ Pinky

    the Left is overreacting more than the Right on this one?

    Maybe we are just sick of the endless river of lies from the right.

  16. Pinky says:

    @anjin-san: Maybe you’d be less upset if you’d look at what Republicans are actually saying, rather than at the bluster of stories about what they willmight be saying. (Again, I find myself using verb tenses that don’t exist. This is the kind of “Republicans aren’t talking about it but in the future they might be because this is the kind of thing they do…because I read it online” thing that involves mental gymnastics beyond my powers.) Of course there are a couple of idiots who will latch onto a story like this. But save your anger for the distorted stories that actually do pick up steam. The rest are just confirmation bias games, on both sides.

  17. rudderpedals says:

    Battlefield preparation for this year’s War on Christmas?

  18. giantslor says:

    @Pinky: Good to see you admit that Jeb Bush is an idiot.

  19. Pinky says:

    @giantslor: More like, whoever’s running his Twitter account is an opportunist and/or lousy researcher, but yeah.

  20. anjin-san says:

    @ Pinky

    The rest are just confirmation bias games, on both sides.

    Sorry, I don’t think there are any variations of “both sides do it” that Doug has not already covered…

  21. al-Ameda says:


    You guys are suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome Derangement Syndrome. You’re quicker to jump on stories that the Right would theoretically complain about than the Right jumps on them to complain about.

    Don’t blame us, blame Jeb Bush.

    Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.
    — Jeb Bush (@JebBush) November 27, 2013

  22. edmondo says:

    There’s no way they will close the Vatican Embassy. It’s Obama’s trump card to get Nancy Pelosi out of the Democratic Leadership.,,,say about December 2014.

  23. Pinky says:

    @anjin-san: So you’re saying that both sides don’t have party-line parrots? Or neither side does? Because between Breitbart and Huffpo there are 1,581 reasons to think that both sides do.

  24. anjin-san says:

    @ Pinky

    Compare the popularity of Fox to that of MSNBC and get back to us…

  25. Pinky says:

    @anjin-san: Nice. I’m rubber and you’re glue. But still, in this case, I’m not seeing any great conservative outcry, and so far the liberal outcry about the conservative outcry looks to be in the lead.

  26. anjin-san says:

    @ Pinky

    Your gift for seeing what you want to see was noted shortly after your arrival here.

  27. Pinky says:

    @anjin-san: Which part am I wrong about? The 1373 on Huffpo or the 208 on Breitbart?

  28. Pinky says:

    Or the fact that no one on the right on this site is supporting this story, and a bunch of people on the left are complaining about the people on the right supporting this story?

  29. anjin-san says:

    @ Pinky

    Hope you are not always this dull. Adios.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    Actually one of the trolls…can’t remember which one…made the Vatican claim here on another thread the other day.
    It’s really just another of the incessant lies from that side of the aisle.
    Death Panels and all that.

  31. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: I would have though that with the light shining on “you can keep your plan”, “you can keep your doctors”, “the average American family will pay $2500 less”, and the rest, that there would be a moment of self-examination by the parrots on the left. I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, they ate the poop about Guantanamo, and that must have been rough. And they handled his anti-gay marriage stand patiently.

    But it hasn’t happened. No embarrassment. Not even “I guess both sides lie”. And that’s crazy. I mean, it isn’t like the right-wing parrots have to push an embassy story, or that thing about the jobs report that OTB predicted was going to be a big right-wing talking point. The right-wing hacks don’t have to dig past the front page to find something to embarrass the President.

    It’s all about the narrative, I guess. The left has committed to “the right always lies”, so they can’t even acknowledge when their own side’s lie-to-truth ratio gets ugly. But narratives fall apart. Like I always say, keep your powder dry. Make sure you’ve got all your arguments prepared all the time, because battles you thought you already won can start all over. You guys are facing a narrative crisis, and reinforcing the “the right always lies” narrative with each other isn’t going to do you any good. Prepare to get back in the game. Right now, a failed VP candidate’s “death panel” distortion isn’t going to capture anyone’s imagination. The sitting president’s “you can keep your plan” distortion is. And saying that the right always lies makes your side look foolish.

  32. C. Clavin says:

    Whenever you are faced with the ugly truth…this isn’t the first time now, is it…you fail the self-examination test…completely.
    Nice projection, though.

  33. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: You know, I was just teasing Anjin-san with “I’m rubber and you’re glue”. I never expected anyone to use that actual argument.

  34. Lenoxus says:

    It’s funny how conservatives/Republicans used to worry about Democratic/liberal association with the Catholic Menace and whatnot…

  35. A Brady says:

    @steve: The difference here was that this was reported on the NRSC site as factual information. So, this was not done on some looney-toon WND or Caller website. It was on the National Republican Senatorial Committee webpage! This makes it considerable worse for the GOP.