Friday, April 25, 2014

The awkward case of the papal nuncio and the ambassador's same-sex spouse

It began with a slap in the face for the U.S. envoy and his husband, courtesy of the Vatican, but things seem to be working out now.

From left to right: U.S. Ambassador James "Wally" Brewster, Dominican President Danilo Medina, First Lady Cándida Montilla and Bob Satawake, husband of the U.S. envoy. It took some doing, but the Vatican finally seemed to get things right.
You might have thought that diplomats were put into this world in order to resolve diplomatic dilemmas diplomatically – and so, perhaps, they were.
Some of them, anyway.
Consider, for example, the awkward case of the papal nuncio, the U.S. ambassador, and the U.S. ambassador’s same-sex spouse.
The location: Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic.
The time frame: between January and March of this year.
The problem: very awkward – so awkward that a solution required the combined efforts of the entire international diplomatic corps accredited to the Caribbean country.
According to a report this week by, an online Dominican news site, the trouble first surfaced this past January when the papal nuncio – basically, the ambassador of the Vatican – decided to host a cocktail reception in honour of Dominican President Danilo Medina.
His Excellency Jude Thaddeus Okolo invited all of the ambassadors accredited in the land, along with their husbands or wives – with just one exception.
No invitation was extended to Bob Satawake, who is the same-sex husband of U.S. Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster.
The rumour mill works no less effectively in the Dominican Republic than anywhere else – possibly, somewhat better – and so the exclusion quickly became a matter of common knowledge.
U.K. Ambassador Steven M. Fisher promptly denounced the arrangement as “unjustifiable” and declined to attend the party. Many of his counterparts from other countries took the same position, and the reception had to be canceled.
(The Dominican website does not specify what position, if any, was taken by Canadian ambassador, Georges Boissé.)

Several weeks passed, and an uneasy tension prevailed along the corridors of diplomacy in la República Dominicana .
Come March, the dilemma erupted again.
This time, Okolo was obliged to invite all the other ambassadors over to his embassy for yet another party, an annual duty imposed upon whichever envoy is dean of the diplomatic corps. That position is currently held by none other than the papal nuncio.
In an apparent effort to smooth things over in advance, the nuncio sent a letter to the Argentine ambassador, Noemí María Gómez, who is secretary of the diplomatic corps in the Dominican Republic. In it, the Vatican’s envoy explained that the salons of the embassy of the Catholic church are not available for activities that involve the “consorts” of other ambassadors – obviously a reference to the U.S. representative and his spouse.
The nuncio asked his Argentine counterpart to make some “discreet” inquiries in order to gauge the diplomatic corps’ response to this approach.
Well, it must have been a pretty negative response, because the party went ahead on March 24, and everybody was there, including the President, the First Lady, and Bob Satawake, too.
If only all life’s problems could work out so well. 

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