Joe Donnelly Confirmed as US Ambassador to the Holy See

A Catholic, Donnelly received both an undergraduate and a law degree from Notre Dame.

Joe Donnelly, official portrait, 2013.
Joe Donnelly, official portrait, 2013. (photo: United States Senate / Historical Office)

WASHINGTON —  In a voice vote on Thursday the U.S. Senate confirmed Joe Donnelly as ambassador to the Holy See. The former senator for Indiana was nominated for the post by president Joe Biden in October 2021. 

The Jan. 20 vote made Donnelly the twelfth U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

Donnelly “is a person of deep Catholic faith and commitment to public service, and I am confident that he will serve in this important new role with vision and integrity,” Father John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, commented. Donnelly received degrees from the university, and later taught there. 

“It comes as no surprise that there was broad bipartisan support for his confirmation, as he has proven throughout his career that he is committed to building relationships and working across divisions,” Father Jenkins continued.

A Catholic, Donnelly received both an undergraduate and a law degree from Notre Dame. 

He served in the U.S. Senate from 2013 to 2019.

He had represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District from 2007 to 2013, during which time he voted against funding embryonic stem cell research and was a strong foe of abortion funding in the Affordable Care Act. He was one of the last House Democratic holdouts who abandoned their opposition and voted for the bill on its final passage in 2010, as President Obama promised the bill would not fund abortion. The U.S. bishops’ conference remained opposed to the law, in large part due to concerns about its funding of abortion coverage.

In the Senate he reversed his position against federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions.

Donnelly has recently been a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld law firm in Washington, D.C. He has served as chairman of the board at the New York-based Soufan Center, a non-profit think tank whose work on global security and foreign policy focuses on counter-terrorism, violent extremism, and armed conflict.

He is an advisor to multiple corporations, and the White House noted that his honors include the U.S. Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

While in Congress, Donnelly was known as a pro-labor, pro-life moderate Democrat, who changed his position on marriage. In 2013 he announced his support for redefining marriage, saying it was “the right thing to do,” as Politico reported.

He supported some pro-life policies over the years, including restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks and banning taxpayer-funded abortion.

Pro-life groups were split on Donnelly in his failed 2018 re-election campaign. Democrats for Life of America supported his re-election, but Susan B. Anthony List opposed his candidacy, saying he “claims to be pro-life, but he has a history of betrayal on important pro-life votes.” His vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court surfaced as a topic in his re-election effort, along with the issue of abortion, which his opponent Mike Braun repeatedly raised in a 2018 debate.

Callista Gingrich served as ambassador to the Holy See under president Donald Trump. Since Biden’s inauguration, Patrick Connell has been serving as chargé d'affaires ad interim at the U.S. embassy to the Holy See.