VATICAN CITY — Never let an on-the-record denial get in the way of a good story.
That seems to be the philosophy behind the continued publication of rumors that the Vatican has rejected the names of three potential U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See, including Caroline Kennedy, because of the candidates’ position on legal abortion.
Last week, we ran a story quoting the Vatican’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, who dismissed those reports by saying: “No proposals about the new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See have reached the Vatican, and therefore it is not true that they have been rejected. The rumors circulating about this topic are not reliable.”
But that rather categorical statement didn’t stop media in Europe and bloggers in the United States from repeating the story over the Easter weekend. “Pope says nope to Ambassador Kennedy” was a typical headline in a British tabloid.
Today Father Lombardi issued another denial, this one to Agence France Presse, saying specifically about the Kennedy report: “There has not been any proposal regarding the new United States ambassador to the Holy See, and it is therefore untrue that she was rejected.”
Other Vatican sources — people who know — have told me the reports are unfounded. And based on conversations I’ve had, their initial bewilderment seems to be turning to irritation as the stories continue to circulate.
THURSDAY UPDATE: The BBC now quotes a “senior White House official” as saying the Obama administration had “not floated any names with the Vatican.”