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Relations with the Vatican

February 12, 1947

Report Outline
Status of United States-Vatican Relations
Relations with the Vatican Prior to World War II
Leading Questions in Present Controversy

Status of United States-Vatican Relations

Protestant Opposition to Taylor Mission

Opposition of Protestant groups to the mission of Myron C. Taylor as personal representative of the President of the United States at the Vatican has grown steadily since the end of the war and threatens to increase in vehemence as work on the peace treaties nears completion. Leaders of every large Protestant denomination have urged President Truman to terminate the mission, originally established by President Roosevelt in 1940, on the ground that the war emergency, which was its original justification, has ceased to exist.

The President told representatives of some 30 Protestant bodies who called on him at the White House, June 5, 1946, that the mission was still to be regarded as temporary, but he set no definite date for its recall. Methodist Bishop Oxnam, president of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, who headed the delegation, interpreted the President's statement as meaning that the mission would “certainly terminate with the signing of the peace treaties.” At a press conference ten days later, however, Truman stated that the mission would be withdrawn from Rome only when its task was completed, and he defined that task as aiding in the reestablishment of world peace.

The chief basis for Protestant opposition to the Vatican mission is the conviction that any kind of diplomatic relations with the Church of Rome is contrary to the fundamental American principle of separation of church and state. The State Department has repeatedly declared that the Taylor mission in no way implies diplomatic recognition of the Vatican by the Washington government. Taylor is officially a personal agent of the President with the rank, but not the powers, of an ambassador. Protestant critics say this is “subterfuge,” and that the arrangement constitutes diplomatic recognition in all but name.

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