Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Papal diplomacy II

Here we looked at the article in The Economist that called on the Holy See to shed its sovereignty and become one large NGO (non-governmental organization) along the lines of the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders.

At the time, I really didn't feel like going through and talking about it, but I asked a couple of questions for readers to think about. They were:

But would that be the best method of getting across the Catholic message in an institutional way? Aside from the historical and traditional points surrounding the Papal States, Vatican City and the juridical status of the Holy See, diplomatic status does have its benefits for the Pope's nuncios.

Now, the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Mamberti, has responded in the Italian bishops' newspaper Avvenire. His reply to The Economist's piece has been translated and quoted by Sandro Magister at www.chiesa for our edification.

The archbishop:

“This is certainly not an acceptable invitation! It may have arisen from an imprecise understanding of the Holy See’s position in the international community: a position that can be traced back to the beginning of the international community itself, and has been reinforced above all since the end of the nineteenth century.

“With the disappearance of the Papal States, it has, in fact, become increasingly more clear that the Holy See’s international juridical personality is independent of the criterion of territorial sovereignty. This situation is accepted tranquilly by the international community both on the bilateral level – I recall that there are almost 180 countries that maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See – and on the multilateral level, as shown in particular by the UN general assembly resolution 58/314 of 2004, which expanded the range and prerogatives of the Holy See’s action as a permanent observer at the UN.

“Behind the invitation to reduce itself to a non-governmental organization, apart from a lack of understanding of the Holy See’s juridical status, there is probably also a reductionist vision of its mission, which is not sectarian or linked to special interests, but is universal and inclusive of all the dimensions of man and humanity.

“This is why the Holy See’s activity within the international community is often a ‘sign of contradiction’, because it does not cease to raise its voice in defense of the dignity of each person and of the sacredness of all human life, above all the most vulnerable, and in defense of the family founded upon marriage between one man and one woman. It does not cease to assert the fundamental right to religious freedom, and to promote relations among individuals and peoples founded upon justice and solidarity.

“In carrying out its international role, the Holy See is always at the service of the comprehensive salvation of man, according to Christ’s commandment. It comes as no surprise that there are some who seek to diminish the resonance of its voice!”

Magister goes on with various facts and figures and he makes the argument that this move is meant to silence the Holy See. It can be all for peace in Burundi, but on the topics of abortion or euthanasia, it ought to be silent and so on. Magister notes though that the Holy See has relations with almost two-hundred states and they in the form of the General Assembly of the UN have only strengthened the Holy See's position in that body.


indignus said...

I think The Economist's comment is premised on an overly restrictive (positivist-statist) view of legal sovereignty, which assumes that the international community is essentially made up of territorial states ordered to secular ends, and that any other kind of entity is, at best, an aberration. In fact, it is made up of human beings accidentally organized into states; and this isn't even absolute, as witness the many practical exceptions to the Montevideo standard.

Theologically, The Economist's proposal is likewise based on an error: that a religious entity is soiled, and its moral claims weakened, by any association with political power. Whatever its sociological merits, this view demands the morally absurd: that the Church champion justice but refuse to have any ability to achieve it, remaining to the end "a moaning voice among the reeds" even at the risk that the injustice continue. Why such political angelism is still so prevalent defies explanation, when Our Lord Himself hobnobbed with both the despised powerful and the despised weak to save both, and reserved his woes to those who, be they great or small, remained self-righteous.

Will Cubbedge said...

I would add that there was no discussion of exactly how the Holy See came to be a country with diplomats and hardly any territory.

How for 1000 years Popes ruled much of central Italy, to have it stolen by the Kingdom of Italy while the world twiddled its thumbs.

The Vatican is, simply, the last of the Papal States, and the Pope's personal political sovereignty in the Vatican City has not been contested in any serious way since Charles the Great was crowned.

It is vile for the secular press to suggest that the Pope have no state because hardly anyone lives there. It is irrelevent.


Louis E. said...

Surprised Vaticanwatcher has had nothing to say about the new consistory yet...but anyway...
Anyway,I recently picked up Malachi Martin's THE FINAL CONCLAVE at a library book sale this month,amused by its myopia.It came out in 1978 and is a mix of news-analysis of 1970s Vatican-watching followed by a fictitious drama of the conclave on the death of Paul VI (after talking about real cardinals for a hundred pages,his conclave has a cast of invented ones).
Among real cardinals,he never mentions Luciani at all,and mentions Wojtyla without calling him papabile...he mentions that Ratzinger was in the 1977 consistory,but says of its members that Gantin and Benelli are the two who may one day be Pope.
Implicit in his analysis and voiced by the fictitious cardinals of his conclave is a need to deal with the real world by being prepared for Communists coming to power in Western Europe.
At the climax of the fictitious conclave (OK,I skipped ahead) an African cardinal (perhaps modelled on Gantin,or Martin's imaginary vision of him) brings the cardinals to their feet,slowly getting the cheers of all,by daring them to undertake a program under the new Pope of (that's why this is here) renouncing the sovereignty of the Vatican,abandoning all diplomatic missions,and handing all the Church's assets over to an interdenominational lay trust,pledging that Churchmen will never again control Church assets.
His title is chosen in the belief that afterward Popes would be chosen by some form of popular election...but I think that if it had happened it would have been a recipe for schism and institutional suicide.

Jacob said...

The Shoes of the Fisherman! ;)

Vatican Watcher has not exactly recovered his spark after the absence of last spring, but he continues watching from the sidelines as always...