By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 5, 2009 ( – The U.S. Senate today confirmed Catholic theology professor Miguel Diaz as the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.   

Diaz is a professor of theology at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Min. and St. John's University in Collegeville, Min. 

The Hispanic Catholic fell out of favor with pro-life Catholics when he supported President Obama's nomination of former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius in March to head the HHS. Pro-life and Catholic groups across the country immediately criticized the move, pointing out Sebelius' close ties with the abortion industry, particularly through the notorious Kansas late-term abortionist George Tiller. 

In her role as governor, Sebelius vetoed every pro-life measure passed by the Kansas House and Senate, including measures to tighten cleanliness standards in state abortion clinics, and ban partial-birth abortion. Tiller himself donated thousands to Sebelius' political campaigns for several years. 

Sebelius' position on abortion was so extreme that her own bishop, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, publicly admonished her in May 2008 not to receive Communion. 

Nonetheless, Sebelius' nomination was supported by a group of 26 Catholic leaders, including Diaz and Douglas Kmiec, the Pepperdine law professor who campaigned aggressively for President Obama and argued in favor of his agenda for abortion. 

Although Diaz did not discuss abortion at his confirmation hearing, he told the Foreign Relations Committee that he would “embrace President Obama and Secretary Clinton's diplomatic vision of leading through active listening and learning from others to seek common ground,” according to a Catholic News Agency report.

The question of how to maintain a truly pro-life approach to abortion policy has come to play a central theme in the president's relations with the Vatican.

In a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI last month, Obama reportedly promised his “commitment to reduce the number of abortions,” despite a steady agenda supporting abortion-expanding policies.  Benedict, in turn, offered Obama a copy of “Dignitatis Personae” – a 2008 Vatican instruction on Catholic bioethics – which was widely interpreted as a pointed message encouraging the president to shun his anti-life policies.

See related coverage:

Pope Benedict Spoke to Obama on Right to Life, Freedom of Conscience

Obama Appoints Sebelius Supporter Miguel Diaz as United States Ambassador to Holy See