Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins) to the Secretary of State


Subject: Resignation of Myron C. Taylor,1 and future relations with the Holy See.

Mr. Myron C. Taylor’s resignation and termination of his mission confront the United States with three alternative courses of future action:

Appointment by the President of another personal representative to His Holiness;
Establishment of normal diplomatic relations with the Holy See;
Permitting all ties with the Vatican to lapse.

A fourth possibility, which has on occasion been suggested, is that the relations of the United States with the Holy See could adequately be handled through the Embassy to the Italian Republic in Rome. The Vatican has consistently refused to accept such an arrangement by any country, on the ground that it would constitute violation of the principle of separation of Church and State as embodied in the Lateral [Lateran] Treaties of 1929.

Decision among these three courses of action must take into account both foreign and domestic factors. The Department is competent to discuss only the former.

Insofar as foreign relations considerations are concerned, the Department believes that the second course, resumption of normal diplomatic relations, is desirable. Should other factors dictate adoption of the first course, however, it is not believed that the United States would lose any advantage which it has enjoyed in the field of foreign relations through Mr. Taylor’s representation.

Formal relations with the Holy See were terminated in accordance with an Appropriation Act of June 30, 1868. The Legal Adviser of [Page 1791] the Department considers that the Act of 1868 was repealed by the revised statutes.

1. Appointment by the President of another personal representative of His Holiness.

Appointment of another personal representative of the President would enable the President to maintain a personal contact with the Pope, in matters of particular concern to them as individuals, each a Chief of State and each the leader of a large number of people. In the Department’s experience, the arrangement now terminated has not, however, provided adequately for maintaining full consultation and liaison between this Government and the Holy See in matters in which the foreign interests of the United States are deeply involved. Recent experience has shown that the Vatican exerts great influence on other Catholic nations of the world in support of its own interests, with the result that those nations in some instances pursue courses in opposition to our own. In such instances it has been most difficult to bring about a change of attitude through diplomatic pressure on the countries concerned, and virtually impossible to take the matter up directly with the Vatican. It is recognized that a personal representation in the future might be so arranged as to avoid this difficulty.

2. Establishment of normal diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

Establishment of normal diplomatic relations and thus of a continuous channel for conveying the American viewpoint and American policies to the Holy See would be of some assistance in securing the influence of the Holy See on 300,000,000 Catholics throughout the world in support of our objectives, and, to some extent, on the thirty-eight governments who now maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

Such continuous exchange would also, given the influence of the Holy See with the other American republics, contribute toward Western Hemisphere solidarity.

It is well known that the Holy See is vigorously engaged in the growing fight against Communism, and direct relations would assist in coordinating efforts to combat it, particularly in the ideological field.

Continuous diplomatic relations would further give us an opportunity to supplement our own sources of information throughout the world, since the Vatican Secretariat of State is undoubtedly one of the best informed in the world.

The Department of State believes that the Vatican would welcome the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States at [Page 1792] this time. This point would have to be ascertained authentically prior to any public official discussion of the matter in this country.

3. Severance of all ties with the Vatican.

The complete termination of any relationship between the United States and the Holy See would deprive us of the advantages noted in respect of (1) or (2) above. It might, furthermore, be misunderstood by or misinterpreted to many millions of Catholics in countries now suffering under totalitarian oppression, who look to the temporal leadership of the United States as well as to the spiritual leadership of the Catholic Church for hope and inspiration. It would be difficult to explain to them that termination of the relationship implies no lessening of the interests of the United States in their eventually regaining freedom, especially in view of the content and tone of the published exchange of letters between the President and Mr. Taylor on the latter’s retirement.

While establishment of normal diplomatic relations would be preferable from the foreign policy point of view, the foreign considerations are probably less important than the avoidance of religious controversy in the United States and the President may well wish to base his decision primarily on domestic considerations.

  1. Myron C. Taylor, Special Representative to the Holy See since 1939, had resigned on January 18, and on the same day President Truman had accepted his resignation. For the texts of his letter of resignation and President Truman’s acceptance, see Department of State Bulletin, January 30, 1950, pp. 181–183.