But the president has a symbolic gesture coming up that could patch up or further unnerve the U.S.-Vatican relationship. He has to appoint an ambassador to the Holy See, a position that has been left unfilled since the election. This appointment, as the National Catholic Register explains, is “a test for the kind of relations the administration wishes to have with the Catholic Church in President Obama’s second term.” And that test has no easy answer for an administration that supports abortion rights and contraception.

“This is a particularly awkward position for the Obama administration to fill,” says Maureen Ferguson, a senior policy analyst with the Catholic Association, an advocacy group. It would seem “quite undiplomatic,” she says, to send an ambassador whose views are offensive to the Vatican.

But the job isn’t to act as a political prop; it is to be the United States’ representative working with the Vatican on foreign policy initiatives.