Ambassador to the Vatican: Who is Miguel Diaz?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

In the 25 years since the United States established formal diplomatic ties with the Vatican, Miguel H. Diaz represents the first time a Catholic academic expert (and Hispanic) has been selected to be U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. A theologian and scholar, and campaign advisor to President Barack Obama, Diaz is considered a pro-life Democrat who has come to the political aid of other Catholics selected to join the Obama administration.

Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1963, Diaz and his family immigrated to Spain before settling in Miami, FL, in 1972. His father worked as a waiter and his mother as a seamstress, along with doing data entry work. Diaz was the first member of his family to attend college, graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1988 from St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, FL. He went to graduate school and received his master’s (1992) and doctorate (2000) from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Diaz taught religious studies and theology at Barry University in Miami Shores, FL, and also was an instructor at the University of Dayton in Ohio, and Notre Dame. From 2001 to 2003, he taught and served as academic dean at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, FL.
In 2004, Diaz became an associate professor of theology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, both in Collegeville, MN, where he worked until now. His academic interests, in addition to his focus on the Trinity, include theological anthropology and Latino/Latina theologies.
Diaz has served as a consultant to Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He is a board member of the Catholic Theological Society of America and former president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (2006-2007). His associations include being a member of the Karl Rahner Society (KRS) and a board member of the KRS steering committee.
Diaz served as a member of Obama’s Catholic advisory team during the campaign and was a regular campaign spokesman for the Democratic candidate, particularly in the Spanish-language press. He also donated $1,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint committee of Obama and the Democratic National Committee, according to
Fluent in Italian, Spanish and French, Diaz was chosen as ambassador after rumors swirled about Washington that the Vatican had rejected several potential nominees, including Caroline Kennedy, because of their support for abortion.
Diaz’s nomination was praised by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, who called Diaz “an excellent choice because he knows very well the United States and because of his background in the Catholic Church.”
Diaz does not come without some controversy. He supported the nomination of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic whose abortion rights record angered conservative Catholics. Diaz was among 26 Catholic leaders and scholars who signed a statement hailing Sebelius as “a woman of deep faith” and citing her record on immigration, education, health care and reducing abortion rates in Kansas.
While not a radical by any means, Diaz’s writings are said to reflect a fondness for Latin American liberation theology and include references to figures such as Gustavo Gutíerrez and Ignacio Ellacuría. One media analysis of Diaz’s nomination wrote that it was not accurate to characterize the ambassador as a “Cuban liberation theologian,” which one news source did.
His wife, Marian, holds a Doctor of Ministry Degree and is an adjunct instructor at St. Benedict and St. John’s. They have four children.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Miguel Diaz Profile (St. John’s University)
Catholic Theologian Miguel Diaz Nominated for Vatican Ambassador (by Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service)
With Diaz Nomination, Obama Passes Major Catholic Test (by John L. Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter)
This Latino IS Catholic (by Amy Sullivan, Time)
Vatican City (AllGov)


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